Grounds of Arcadia dazzles with robust Greek flavours, a cracking drinks list and a picturesque venue to boot.
Located in the charming gardens of The Hellenic Museum is Melburnian architect Sean Godsell’s MPavillion, a gracious gift to the City of Melbourne. A gift which keeps on giving, it seems, with its latest reinvention as the venue for Grounds of Arcadia, a sumptuous dining establishment offering a memorable Greek dining experience.
Once through the glass entrance, a charming art piece catches one’s eye – a riot of luminescent hues, vibrant flowers and vegetation set atop a round table. The Persephone’s Table is a seductive piece of contemporary artwork paying tribute to the Greek goddess of springtime, a fitting centrepiece to the restaurant’s ethos of utilising seasonal produce in creating culinary masterpieces.
The restaurant is the culmination of efforts between husband and wife duo Manny and Alki Gerassimou (Philhellene, Kalamahi) and The Hellenic Museum’s owner John Tatoulis. Driven by a shared passion of Greek food and culture, the trio envisioned the establishment as a celebration of Hellenic culture. While the restaurant has only been open to the public since July, the venue has been solidly booked out since the start of the year for private functions and intimate celebrations. The indoor space seats 150 diners while the al fresco area seats up to 220 individuals. At a pinch, the space comfortably accommodates 470 guests for a cocktail party setting. Hosts looking for frills to add a panache to the proceedings (grazing table, ice-cream van, live band) need only state their intentions, for which the restaurant’s general manager is more than happy to accommodate.
The food program is curated by head chef Safat Hossain, a culinary maestro who has worked in acclaimed venues across Sydney (Manta, Pilu) and Melbourne (NGV). The menu is minimalist and thoughtful, with the chef’s preference for quality over quantity apparent in the single pager (two, if you’re counting the express lunch menu reasonably priced at $29 for a dip, a main, a dessert and a glass of Greek wine). There are staples such as house-made spanakopita (spinach, beet leaves and feta pie), roasted items from the grill (chicken, lamb, snapper), a collection of Greek salads and two classic desserts.
The drinks menu champions Greek winemakers, brewers and distillers. Take your pick of imported wines featuring exotic Mediterranean grape varietals such as Strofilia, Kotsifali, Xinomavro, Limniona, or go for the thirst-quenching Greek beers such as the eponymous Mythos and Fix. For guests who are feeling adventurous, have a go at the inspired cocktails (such as the refreshing Arcadian Spritz) crafted with Greek liquors.
Image: Theopetra Estate Limniona
To start off your meal, you can hardly go wrong with the pan seared haloumi. Thick slices of haloumi cheese are seared to dazzling golden brown, served up with heirloom tomatoes, drizzled over with extra virgin olive oil and microherbs, and accompanied with rich honeyed figs and raisins dip.
The char-grilled cauliflower and broccoli florets salad is beautifully plated, layered with halved cherry tomatoes, earthy pine nuts, glazed raisins, thyme-infused goat cheese, studded with pomegranate seeds, and simply dressed with freshly squeezed lemon and extra virgin olive oil.
Of the choice for mains, the slow roasted lamb loin comes highly recommended. The lamb loin is grilled skin-on, rubbed simply with a thyme spice mix and basted in its own juices to fall-off-the-bone perfection. Squeeze a generous drizzle of balsamic-glazed lemon half and tuck in. Paired with a fresh garden salad of heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, red onions and goat cheese.
For dessert, diners have a choice of baclava and galaktoboureko, both made fresh daily and both truly excellent. We opted for the galaktoboureko – a sensuous dessert with velvety custard filling, wrapped by ethereal layers of golden fillo pastry, drizzled over with scented syrup and crowned with a playful chocolate-cinnamon candied orange wheel.
Grounds of Arcadia
280 William Street, Melbourne City
T: (+61) 396 421 889
Prices $$ (fair)
Cuisine Authentic Greek
Verdict Good Greek food is meant to be shared, do (definitely) bring the whole family (and good friends).