I spent my childhood years growing up in the ethnic melting pot of Sydney’s inner west suburbs. Apart from feasting on Cantonese food at home, a trip to the local shops was a visual tour of the delights of Lebanese sweets, Greek treats and Vietnamese bakeries. Going to a school in the local area also meant making friends with mostly people not of my own ethnicity and being exposed to the myriad of treasures that are school lunchboxes.
Somehow over the years, even through moving home to different areas and changing schools several times, I always seem to befriend a Greek person or two. This has great side benefits for a food lover as all the Greek mothers I’ve come across are still adept at churning out wonderful home cooking (as opposed to my mother’s home cooking which constantly fluctuates in quality). The problem with when I am in need of a Greek food fix these days is that there’s not much choice where I currently reside. Same applies for Lebanese and Vietnamese food. The area’s great for Japanese and not too bad for Chinese choices but that’s about it for ethnically diverse cuisine.
So in my husband’s and my ongoing quest to sample more of our local dining options, we lurk around Crows Nest around lunchtime one weekend when I spot Xenos and declare that I indeed am in need of a Greek food fix. Although there is a row of attractive white tables curbside, we choose to take a seat inside to get away from the bustle of the street.
The husband starts with a caffe latte, which is a little too milky for his preference, whilst I opt for a tartly refreshing grapefruit juice.
The menu at Xenos is quite extensive and features food which is generally café as well as obviously Greek. I am in a somewhat bossy mood and don’t really offer Monsieur Poisson much choice. I assertively steer him towards the spanakopita as well as the ‘Meze Plate for two’.
Spanakopita is one of those things that friends bring you spare portions of (for there are always extra portions) when their mothers make it at home. It contains the things which I love: flaky, buttery pastry and an almost creamy filling of spinach with fetta and/or ricotta. The one at Xenos is a bit of a surprise as it is taller than the home versions I’m used to seeing and has enough layers of filo floating on top to rival that on baklava. The pastry is wonderfully crisp though, and shatters absolutely everywhere when cut into – lucky I’m only on a date with the husband! The side salad is fresh and crisp and quite substantial.
I have a habit of ordering starter plates of nibbly-type foods as mains. So when I see the ‘Meze Plate for two’ in the entrées section, that immediately translates for me as a meal option for one. I believe it has something to do with the appeal of lots of little bits of food where you get to sample multiple things, and the fact that most of it is finger food which instantly induces a bit of a party vibe.
We are unsure if the bread basket comes complimentary to the table or with the mezze plate. They are a great accompaniment to the beautiful dips under the mound of food on that plate. My husband’s favourite is the eggplant dip as he’s not a big fan of taramosalata and is only impartial to tzatziki. I greedily sample them all, along with the olives, prosciutto, grilled haloumi, octopus, mild provolone, stuffed baby bell peppers, crumbed keftes and more filo pastry goodness with the tyropittes. My husband also does not happen to be a fan of dolmades, which intrigues me to no end, but I shouldn’t complain as it does always mean more for me.
We end up with too much food as we hadn’t expected the mezze plate to be quite so large. Unless you’re absolutely famished, you could definitely get away with the platter and probably another entrée to share between two people. Excellent value.
7 Burlington St (cnr Willoughby Lane), Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9439 1748
Opening Hours: Tues-Sat from 7am (breakfast)
from 12pm (lunch)
from 6pm (dinner)
Sun & Mon from 7am (breakfast)
from 12pm (lunch)