Peter Conistis is a survivor, and as I finished one of the most unusual fish dishes I have ever had (and, I’m not ashamed, even mopping up the last of the sauce with a heel of bread I’d saved for that very use) I praised all the Greek gods for this.
They must have been listening to the moans of disappointment some time back when Conistis’s last restaurant, Omega, closed but fortunately this new gig looks like the ideal stage for some of the best Greek-style cooking in town.
Conistis’s food is really only Greek because he is Greek. That is about where it begins and ends. His interpretation (call it Modern Mediterranean, if you like) flies far beyond the traditional and only works so well because he has been so expertly grounded. His mother, Eleni, ever his muse and mentor, is even now not far away.
Civic Dining, reopened on November 1st, is on the first floor of the beautifully restored art deco Civic Hotel, on the corner of Pitt & Goulburn streets in Sydney, and Eleni’s @ Civic, serving trays of homestyle Greek food is on the ground floor.
Through many years of research and numerous trips to Greece, Peter has been able to hone his unique style. Lengthy conversations with mothers and grandmothers in villages throughout Greece have provided him with a greater appreciation and understanding of the country’s regional food.
My meal the other night began with a duck confit and quince pie served simply with shaved fennel. Actually I shared it (a practice encouraged here, and for good reason) with my partner on condition I could enjoy his salad of fresh figs, sheep’s milk fetta, wild rocket, almonds, radicchio with spiced lamb cigar and pomegranate dressing.
But there was no sharing of mains. My delicately moist pink snapper which came rolled and baked, wrapped in a light veil of kataifi pastry and served with blue swimmer crab meat, sautéed spinach and sauce raito was so unique, so delicious, I made sure it was all mine.
Obviously Gordon felt similarly about his twice-cooked sumac crusted Thirlmere chicken, which came berber-style with a lentil tagine and coriander yoghurt sauce.
Desserts and coffee were relegated to the ‘next time’ list – even though we were so terribly tempted by a chocolate baklava and a fig and nut tart – allowing ourselves just a nibble of amazing buttery icing sugar dusted shortbread, and rose-coloured Turkish delight. We were more than happy. If it had been a different sort of Greek place, we would have been dancing and plate-smashing happy
It’s all good. Chef Conistis is back, and so is his Mum. The gods must be smiling.
CIVIC DINING, corner Pitt & Goulburn Sts, Sydney, 02 8080 7040, Mon-Fri 12-2.30pm; Tue-Sat 6-10pm. ELENI'S@CIVIC Mon-Sun 11.45am-3pm.
(GPS: -33.878011, 151.207535)
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