IONIO. The name evokes images of the blue, crystal clear waters between Southern Italy and the west coast of Greece.
Well that, and something closer to home; a restaurant with stunning city views, tucked away in Doncaster’s Westfield, where delicious Greek food is made from scratch and the masses come to enjoy a hearty meal.
“We love Greek cuisine,” says IONIO’s headchef KD Sran.
“At the heart of Greek culture is real food cooked with proper ingredients and shared between family and friends – and maybe an icy cold Mythos or two!” he adds.
The eatery first opened its doors two years ago and has steadily grown in popularity, exemplified through its large social media presence with over 3,500 thousands followers on Instagram and over five thousand on Facebook.
The menu, which is continually evolving, is the result of a collaborative effort between Sran and Dani Venn, former Masterchef finalist and Eat It Up Creative food consultant.
“When developing recipes we all like to work together, test out ideas, taste dishes and provide honest feedback as to what works and what doesn’t,” Sran says; a process that changes according to the seasons.
After a bit of fine tuning, so far this year he says they feel as though they’ve “really turned a corner and honed in on our values and what is important to us and our customers”.
“We have gone back to our roots preparing simple food from scratch with authentic Greek flavours in a relaxed and warm atmosphere that the whole family will enjoy.”
While the menu may resonate with traditional ingredients and flavours, with dishes such as ‘Grilled Dodoni Saganaki’, ‘Homestyle Mooooossaka’ and ‘Classic village spanakopita’, there’s a sense of fusion, with options and variations to suit everyone’s tastes.
The fried cheese balls, which are basically saganaki in a form that is easily downed in one bite, are a good choice. And you are encourage to give the sweet potato chip option a go, served perfectly crisp on the outside, with a soft and pillowy potato centre.
There’s also a full bar service, and a barista who serves up delicious Dukes coffee, which is best paired with one of the many desserts, such as the Smashed Baklava with toasted walnut and honey ice cream.
But thus far, the most popular items on the menu are proving to be their charcoal-fired meats, including souvlaki, gyros and the generous meat platter.
“We love cooking with fire and our charcoal-fired rotisserie; we appreciate the distinct flavour that charcoal lends to slow cooked meats that cannot be replicated by cooking in a conventional oven,” says Sran.
Taking it to the next level for meat-lovers, next month IONIO is introducing ‘Meat Feast’, which will see the chefs cooking a whole lamb on the spit every Thursday night, served simply with pita and tzatziki.
While the flavours of Greece are nothing new to most Australian city-dwellers, available across the country for decades, there’s no denying that the cuisine has seen a resurgence in recent years, of which IONIO is a part.
But it’s not just Greek food that is being given a shake up.
“The whole restaurant industry is changing in Australia, people don’t want to experience fancy fine dining so much anymore, they want to feel comfortable and they don’t want to be charged exorbitant prices,” he explains.
“Street food is a big movement in the industry; everyone loves souvlakis and burgers and it’s all about casual dining that tastes amazing and still looks good enough to share on Instagram.”
And by the looks (and tastes) of things, Melburnians will be seeing more of IONIO, with plans to expand the business with a second location.
Which all stems back to its roots, the Ionian Sea, a place of great beauty and serenity.
“It’s a place that makes us happy and so does our restaurant and we like to share this with our customers.”
IONIO is located at Doncaster Westfield Shopping Centre, Level 2 (next to cinemas) Shop 2001, 619 Doncaster Rd, Doncaster, VIC. For more information and to view the menu, visit www.ionio.com.au/#home-2-section