It would be difficult to pinpoint a greater gift than that of an inter-generational passion.
Years of innovation and dedication to hospitality have been passed down to Matt Nikakis like a family heirloom and after two successful hotels he has his sights set on a new challenge.
“Trinity”, located in Melbourne’s inner seaside suburb St Kilda, has been in the works for over three years and is Nikakis’ first purely food and drink venture.
“We pre-ordered and sourced as much as we could in advance. But there were still labour shortages among builders and we’re still in a labour shortage now trying to get hospitality staff. Doing all those sorts of things has been extremely hard,” Nikakis told Neos Kosmos.
Despite the challenges, his vision remained stronger than ever.
“I love the core of the business which is food and beverage. I wanted to just get a solely food and beverage venue with a focus on outside and more casual, family, anyone’s welcome sort of environment too.”
Nikakis and his team have turned the Holy Trinity Church Hall, established in 1925, into a beer garden, event space and food truck rotation. The church hall’s original hardwood trusses and iconic windows have been restored to peak condition, and the interior has undergone a full renovation to include lush green booths, copper beer tanks, and a deep blue bar that spans the length of the main room.
The publican has had his sights set on the site for quite a while and so when the opportunity presented itself, he didn’t take any chances.
“It was definitely something I was seeking out. I had been looking for a few years. I like the idea of an old heritage building and predominately outdoor site to do food trucks but still have a nice bar inside…I was talking to a friend about it and he actually knew the previous tenant who had the nursery and he told me that he was getting out of the site and waiting for his lease to expire. I knew it was coming up for vacant possession and spoke to the real estate agent,” he said.
Nikakis is bringing in almost a century’s worth of knowledge into his new eatery. His grandfather’s arrival to Australia fell earlier than the establishment of the church itself.
“He was an early arrival from Crete. He came in early 1920s, probably 1921 or ‘22 out to Melbourne and ended up starting as a cleaner in a cafe in the city. He said to myself ‘one day I’ll own this building’, and he did! He bought the building that he started out in on Lonsdale Street and changed it to Georgian Café and ran it for years and was quite successful. Then he bought another building on Lonsdale Street, and then the Centennial Hotel also on Lonsdale Street,” he explained.
“When my grandfather started out it was just steak and eggs, there wasn’t extensive menu and now there’s a lot of variety. But my grandfather very much realised who his customers were and spent time with his customers and had a friendly environment to come and eat and drink at and he was really part of the community, the Melbourne community and the Greek community as well.”
Nikakis’ father Nick dedicated his life to hospitality too, becoming president of the Australian Hotels Association for many years. The third-generation publican hopes that one day he can pass on the same heirloom of passion for the industry to his own children.
“We’ve got this site for 50 years and one of the things when I was speaking to my landlords of the church was that I really wanted my kids to have the opportunity, if they want, to get involved and be part of it. My kids Zara and Nick are 13 and 15 and these three years have been a big part of their life. I’d love to potentially see if they have interest in hospitality to see them working there one day and I can sit back and have a beer and watch them go on their own paths,” he said.
Decades of wholesome Greek hospitality has been weaved into the fabric of Trinity and there is no shortage of cooking which will come out of a renovated silver airstream which will operate as a functioning food truck. The rest of the spacious front courtyard is reserved for two additional food trucks which will alternate nightly.
While one of Nikakis’ favourite areas is the outdoor space where there is a designated kid’s play area, he also shares some of his favourites behind the bar.
“We’ve got a great original cocktail menu and an extensive range of wines and beers, so we’ve got something for everyone. I’m personally a beer drinker and we’ve got Carlton Draught tank beer on, which is in the big copper tanks above the bar, which is unpasteurized.”
Trinity can be found at 2 Brighton Rd, St Kilda. For more information visit trinitystkilda.com