by Katey Baddeley 24 October 2012
High windows, streams of natural light, stark white walls dotted with vibrant splashes of ultramarine blue, voices dripping with hospitable Greek accents, geometric architectural motifs and the unmistakable, seductive scent of quality Mediterranean cooking. Giving my wistful imagination full reign, I too could have sworn I was lounging in Santorini. Sadly not the case – but fortunately, I was at the next best thing within the confines of Australia’s capital territory – O’Stratos Greek Taverna on Lonsdale Street Braddon.
If a restaurant in Canberra city can have me drawing comparisons abroad to exquisite santorini, it’s already made it to my “must recommend” list. Centrally located with friendly staff, tranquil atmosphere and deep passion for quality cuisine driving the kitchen – I’d barely sat at my window-side table and was completely sold. It’s also well worth mentioning O’Stratos are now open Monday nights right through until the end of summer, so if you’re looking to cure that unavoidable dose of Monday-itis with something vastly more desirable than burying your head in the sand or reaching for Cadbury comfort, I’ve sourced the perfect remedy.
A piping hot basket of golden garlic bread made its way swiftly to the table. Needless to say I was once again impressed – rarely does the appetizing institution of garlic bread, in its varying manifestations, arrive at the table slicked and steaming with heat. I’d confidently say it usually arrives somewhere between luke-warm and why-did-you-bother stone cold. Crisp, rustic and dripping with a flavour profile only intensified by higher temperature, I would have been quite content to sit in my corner with the bread basket all night. Well, until the mains arrived anyway.
The first thing I dived into was the combination souvlaki. Three skewers of chicken, lamb and prawn nuzzle snugly into a fluffy mound of rice and seasonal vegetables, in servings generous to share around with satisfied enjoyment. The impaled prawns were were laced with citrus flavours and emanated that fresh seafood texture – crisp and creamy without feeling like you’re gumming on a teething ring. The chicken skewer displayed its char-grilled stripes with honour and still dripped with juices as it was prised from eagerly off the plate. The lamb skewer was something I took more than my fare share of, with the cultured tang and lightly spiced flavours of a Moorish marinade filling a hole in my culinary life I didn’t even know existed.
The traditional char grilled baby octopus comes in either entree or main size. Purple tendrils blackened to an acidic, curled and terribly addictive crisp permeated an underlying flavour sensation of sweet smokiness. A lightly dressed, perky salad to the side makes the meal perfect for the warm onset of summer. Although in all honesty, I think the best thing about eating octopus is the sheer novelty of its appearance – it really isn’t something stock standard you eat every day.
The most substantial dish of the night was the Souzoukakia. Attempting the pronunciation whilst ordering is well worth the effort, as these beef mince rolls mixed with fresh herbs, garlic, sweet chilli sauce, eggs and cumin, resting on a bed of rich sauce-absorbing rice, are quite simply to die for. Allowing the true flavours of spice to shine without the sometimes stifling shroud of fiery heat, these moist, velvety, almost cake-like (in texture) rolls prove quality meat and fresh spices should never, ever be apart. The fluffy rice and vegetable medley mop up any fallen sauce, ensuring not a single saucy skerrick goes to waste.
If you’re still looking for more, or just have an insatiable sweet tooth – there are plenty of traditional Greek desserts available. We had a go at the Galaktobouriko (again, attempting the pronunciation is well worth any potential embarrassment), Kataifi and Almond shortbreads. All were sweet, satisfying and easy to consume far too many!
For any night of the week requiring just the little bit of homely, exotic escapism – Head to Braddon for a Greek feast O’Stratos style. If the staff, drinks list and atmosphere don’t win you over – the food well and truly will. If you’re still not relaxed, satisfied and completely happy by the end of the night, I’m afraid you’re far beyond any feasible help.
For more information about O'Stratos, Click Here
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