So George Calombaris may not know about the calculation of penalty rates for his waitstaff, but he does know how to run a good quality restaurant. PM24, Hellenic Republic, The Press Club and now St Katherine’s all get my whole-hearted recommendation.
St Katherine’s showcases mid-priced, relaxed, high quality region-influenced food and I think this Greek/Turkish/Middle Eastern hybrid is Melbourne-style dining at its best.
Although you can’t really tell the ethnic influences from fairly plain the street front, the large downstairs dining area is light and bright, with subtle Ottomon accents in the patterned stencilled window panes, the painted tableware and the use of empty food cans emblazoned in foreign languages to house each table’s cutlery and napkins.
On Monday to Fridays, St Katherine’s offers what is possibly one of Melbourne’s best value lunch deals – a 2 course ‘Xpress’ lunch shared between the table for $19.50 a head.
What is on the lunch menu changes regularly but it will involve dishes roasted on the Turkish grill, rotisserie and baked in the wood-fired oven.
First course is the St Katherine’s “bento style” lunch meze, a theatrical stage laying out flat ramekins of various meze – on our visit salty marinated feta, house made hommus with chunks of roasted almonds dotted on top (I’m stealing that idea for my next dinner party) and baby carrots mixed with yoghurt, cardamom, caraway and honey. The dips were delicious smeared on bread though I was less enamoured of the carrots, mainly because the dressing reminded me the smell of ladies handcream.
The platform also contained the pide of the day – ours was spiced lamb mixed with tomato, garlic, parsley and freshened with a squeeze of lemon juice – and on stage left, slices of warm fennel seed bread presented inside a lucky-dip style St Katherine’s paper bag.
Already quite full we were pleasantly surprised by the generous servings of the second courses – platters of slow roasted free range chicken, the juicy shreds of meat tossed amongst herbs and salad leaves, seared salmon fillets grilled over coal with a simple marinade of fennel seeds and lemon and a sweet rice pilaf of dill, apricot, carrot and toasted pumpkin seeds. The salmon was the most memorable – perfectly seared, a zesty crust and so well matched with the nuttiness of the pilaf.
After two courses you will definitely be full but we couldn’t resist the temptation of dessert – a peanut butter parfait with chocolate sorbet, baklava crumbs and orange blossom foam ($14.90). The dessert takes a sophisticated approach to what are essentially childhood dessert flavours of chocolate and peanut butter and it works. To my surprise, the sweetness of the foam enhanced rather than overwhelmed the other sweet flavours – that hint of fragrant citrus lifted what would otherwise have been very rich chocolate and nut mouthfuls.
The service was impeccable throughout the lunch – the waitstaff were smiling and friendly, were happy to keep picking up dropped toys and seemed well-used to dealing with ladies who lunch to families with kids. They all seemed to really love the fun of the place!
Based in Kew, St Katherine’s may be what you’d consider a local suburban restaurant but my interstate guests and I were all impressed with the the wholesome, appetising food splashed with some fun elements, the high quality of the service and the attention to detail in the decor. Less than $25 a head for a filling and delicious lunch. Kew residents are very lucky!
St Katherine’s, 26 Cotham Rd, Kew +61 3 9207 7477
Mon – Fri: 12pm – 4pm, 5.30pm – 11pm
Weekends 11.30am till late
View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map