A new Greek restaurant and cocktail bar has become all the rage in Melbourne’s south east.
Rebel Blue, co-founded by business partners George Loupos, Vinny Diaco and Rody Kaka, opened its doors on Thursday 10 May with a star-studded line-up of first diners including chef George Calombaris and wife Natalie, hairdresser Joey Scandizzo, Georgia Love and Lee Elliott, and DJ Andy Murphy.
With an oversaturated market of eateries and bars in Melbourne it can be hard to stand out and stay in the limelight, but co-owner Diaco is confident, giving people something different, and that they didn’t even know they needed.
“We noticed a gap in the market; a trend towards fresh, healthy food, something that is not currently associated with Aussies’ perception of Greek food,” Diaco told The Urban List website.
“So we decided we needed to show Melbourne our version of xenia,” an ancient Greek form of hospitality, for which generations thereafter are renowned.
The slick fitout is a far cry from traditional taverna-style Greek eateries Melbournians have come to associate with the cuisine. Designed by Black Milk, there’s blue neon signage adding to the contemporary casual feel that is more on par with the bars of Athens.
In a fun play on the diaspora, there are also light boxes as part of the decor that show the way to Oakleigh 11 km away, along with Athens at 14,495 km and Mykonos 14,788 km.
But the menu, designed by head chef Dionisios Pouliezos, brings those Grecian destinations much closer to home.
The selection features traditional favourites with a contemporary spin and presentation, perfect for sharing, just as the Greek cuisine was intended.
Small bites include everything from eggplant croquettes and spanakopita bites, to pan fried local sardines and slow-roasted beef shoulder.
There’s also a section of the menu devoted to all-time favourite saganaki, including the traditional version fried, lightly salted and served with lemon, along with prawn and eggplant options.
Meanwhile larger plates include chargrilled octopus accompanied by fava, feta-filo served with honey and sesame seeds, and lamb cutlets straight from the grill.
An array of skewer options are offered including squid, king prawns, marinated pork, lamb or chicken served with a selection of dips including tzatziki, taramasalata, and feta and capsicum.
Sweetooths are also covered with homemade baklava deliciously paired with an espresso martini, orange cake with homemade vanilla bean ice-cream, and pastry cones filled with custard.
Taking the eatery to the next level are the cocktails – think ouzo with blueberries and spritzed lemonade, a fruity take on the aniseed favourite, which can make it appealing even for the biggest sceptics in the room.
But what brings the experience together is that ancient Greek hospitality that Diaco highlighted, the staff bringing warmth to the dining experience.
While Rebel Blue is bringing something different to the area – it’s the only Greek eatery, and certainly the only cocktail bar with Greek-inspired options – it is in fact an homage to the area’s past.
Back in the 1930s, the now highbrow suburb was reportedly run by a group of Greek thugs known as the Rebel Blues, who, aside from racketeering and organising a shakedown, spent much of their time in their underground ouzo distillery and dive bar.
According to the founders of Rebel Blue, to prove their worth, prospective members of the group were set the task of cooking the boss’ saganaki following his secret recipe. Only three were successful in becoming members while the others were sworn to a code of silence.
If that’s not enough to get you to Rebel Blue to try the saganaki at the very least, we don’t know what is.
Rebel Blue is located at 127 Chapel St, Windsor, VIC. For more information: rebelblue.com.au/