Sunday, 24 August 2014

Kefi Greek Tavern and Kefi Souvlaki & Pizza Bar, Kingsgrove

You might remember the Greek restaurant, Xanthi, which was one of the restaurants that fell victim to the "Westfield fine dining curse" this year along with Cara & Co, Spiedo, Becasse and Quarter Twenty One. The good news is that Xanthi chef, David Tsirekas, has picked himself up and has swapped fine dining for casual food. Kefi Greek Tavern opened on Tuesday this week serving classic Greek comfort food and next door to the tavern is Kefi Souvlaki & Pizza Bar, which has been opened for a couple of months, serving everyone's favourite Greek street food, gyro. 

I made the trip to Kingsgrove yesterday with my wife to have lunch at the Tavern for one reason, to be reunited with a longtime favourite dessert of mine, Tsirekas's signature caramel baklava ice cream!

The dining room and view of the open kitchen
David Tsirekas has teamed up with Kefi's business partners Steve Sentas and Con Tsoutsouras, who have poured in a cool $1.5 million to makeover the Kingsgrove site. The dining room has a nice, relaxed ambience with a view of the tavern's open kitchen, where you will see David and his team roasting massive hunks of meat and toasting up soft, fluffy pita breads. A perfect setting for a big meat feast with some cold beers, but not when you are dining with a vegatarian. Maybe next time!  

BBQ Haloumi ($16.50)
Slices of haloumi cheese were barbequed and imprinted with beautiful marks from the char grill. Both my wife and I love the meaty texture of haloumi; it was cooked well here with no hint of rubbery texture that you sometimes find. There was a wonderful balance of sweet and savoury from the cheese, olive paste, honey peppered figs, tomato and mint. These ingredients are also sold as a gryo at the souvlaki bar next door, which makes for a tasty take-away option ($8.50).

Twice cooked pork belly ($22)
David Tsirekas has become famous for his pork belly dishes over the years, with pork belly baklava being one of his signatures from his Perama days. Pork belly baklava is not on the menu at the Tavern (there is a pork belly baklava available at the Souvlaki Bar for $9.50), instead there is a twice cooked pork belly

The pork belly was slow cooked in a spice mix and beer til tender and cooked on a kontosouvli grill. You won't find ultra-crispy crackling here, but the pork belly is soft with its fat melted into the flesh and falling apart with a pull of a fork. The pork belly was served with apple puree and a vinegary sauce that helps cut through the richness and fattiness of the pork belly. There were also a few crunchy pork crackling chips placed on top.    

Horta ($8)
We also ordered a horta, side of wilted wild greens with a garlic, dill and lemon olive oil marinade.

The dessert menu at Kefi contains some classic Greek favourites like patsavoura (North Greek style baklava), loukoumathes (Greek doughnuts), bougatsa (filo pastry filled with custard), rizogalo (rice pudding). These were all incredibly tempting but I settled on patsavoura and the signature caramel baklava ice cream. I will need to return to try the other desserts.

Patsavoura ($10.50)
Patsavoura means 'wet mop' in Greek, referring to the fact filo pastry has been  bunched up, soaking up the syrup like a wet mop. This baklava was incredibly moreish and I was surprised by how nicely balanced the sweetness was. I didn't find this to be sickly sweet at all. And the baklava was topped with a decadent dollop of clotted cream.

Caramel baklava ice cream ($12.50)
And the moment has arrived where I was reunited with the famous caramel baklava ice cream. It has changed a bit since Xanthi, the rich caramel fudge layer between the ice cream has gone and has replaced with a pale caramel sauce drizzled over top. There's also a dusting of cinnamon powder which wasn't in the original.  This one is less sweet than the original, but the combination of vanilla ice cream, chopped pistachio nuts and caramel is still there and as satisfying as ever. Sometimes the best things in life are the most simple I reckon.

I've also visited the Souvlaki Bar next door a couple of times before in separate visits and here's some of the items I have tried: 

Lamb gyro ($7.50)
The first thing I gotta say is that I love the pita bread at Kefi. They are like a soft, fluffy blanket hugging its fillings. This gyro is the lamb one; the meat was nice and smoky and the gyro was filled with a salad of tomato, onion and parsley and served with a tzatziki and a delicious mustard mayonnaise sauce. And there were chips too of course! It just wouldn't be a proper gyro otherwise.

Pita bread ($1.50 each)
And you can order the pita breads on there own for $1.50 each. I would happily snack on these all day! 

Loukoumathes ($6)
Loukoumathes are Greek style ball doughnuts soaked in a spiced sugar syrup and served with mixed crushed nuts and dusted cinnamon powder. These were very delicious and addictive. Once you have one you will want another one, and next thing I realised that we had finished the entire box!

It's great seeing David Tsirekas back in the kitchen and I would like to wish him all the success at this venue. The food at Kefi Tavern is simple but most importantly, delicious. Of course I enjoy fine dining too, but both my wife and I often find the good casual eateries more rewarding and we left with a feeling of satisfaction and happiness after this meal.
But having a vegetarian wife makes it difficult to sample more than a couple of items on Greek menus (nothing against you!). I feel like I have only just scratched the surface of the great menu at Kefi Tavern so I will need to round up some of my meat loving friends for a return visit soon. There's a $45 banquet menu (great value) and a kokoretsi skewer (lamb hearts, sweetbreads, liver, kidney lung wrapped in caul fat and intestines), which has my name written all over it!

Kefi Greek Tavern
Address: 1/231 Kingsgrove Rd, Kingsgrove, NSW 2208
Contact no: 02 9554 4442

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