Closer to Greece, spoonful by spoonful

Photos: Vlad Savin/ Rustica Food Photography
In Oakleigh's Mykonos Taverna, Thomas Deliopoulos and Sylvia Gabriel offer delicious traditional treats from northern Macedonia all the way to the Cyclades


Thomas Deliopoulos and wife Sylvia Gabriel have outdone themselves once more, setting up the kind of taverna one only sees on a Greek island. In Oakleigh's bustling Portman Street, the duo serves hot and iced Greek coffee out of a setting that makes you feel you're holidaying in Mykonos' Little Venice. Their second venture in Melbourne's Little Greece after Kalimera Souvlaki Art, has set the bar high for the meze experience as the menu features a wide range of traditional and generous share dishes from different regions of Greece.

Everything, from the fit-out to the service and the food itself is inviting; add some authentic Greek tunes from a live orchestra to the mix and you've found your happy place.

"Kalimera was our first child. It's a completely different concept; street food-oriented and celebrates the authentic Greek-style pork souvlaki.

"We love it and it has most certainly been a great school for us," Thomas tells Neos Kosmos.

However, the couple felt that a place like Mykonos was missing not just from the area but from Melbourne in general. A place where friends, couples, and families can sit down and enjoy different types of share plates over a bottle or tsipouro, some beer or a glass of vino from their long list of Greek wines, as they describe it.

"We wanted to bring that freshness of the Cyclades, the Aegean, to Melbourne and create a space that would really make people feel closer to Greece," Sylvia explains.

"We have build Mykonos, just like Kalimera, with our own hands. I would tell Thomas and being so amazingly talented he would turn my ideas into reality. I spent months painting everything, decorating, making props, and making sure it felt as close to the real thing as possible."

Surprisingly, neither Thomas nor Sylvia are from Mykonos, but they share the same love for the island, which they visit religiously every year.
"I love the colours, the paved footpaths, the whitewashed houses, the fuschia and red bougainvilleas climbing up the walls and the turquoise blue doors and shutters . . ." she muses.

"The legendary Caprice in Mykonos was a great source of inspiration for me, with its breezy feel, the lanterns and white sheer fabrics hanging from the arbours."

Even though the owners originally aspired to launch Mykonos as a creperie, they quickly shifted towards the taverna, as this was the feedback they were getting from friends and loyal customers.

"To be honest, that's what was missing from our lives as well," Thomas and Sylvia agree.

"It's not just people we'd chat to who would complain there [was] no such place in Melbourne. This is our happy place. We don't only come here to work. We come here to sit down with our friends, relax and take it all in; the food, the drinks, the music; everything," he says.

While the list of establishments claiming they can offer the real-deal experience is long, only a few actually tick all the boxes and Mykonos certainly sits at the top of the list.

Thomas, who prior to relocating to Melbourne worked in Volos and Larissa - Greece's meze restaurant heaven - has reinvented all his favourite cold and warm dishes to satisfy even the most demanding Melbourne foodie.

"I come from a village, Alexandria near Argolid," he emphasises.

"And we are very pedantic when it comes to how we cook our food, as well as how we enjoy it.
"Tsipouro is like a ritual for us; to be had with mezethes cooked with meraki from fresh ingredients. Back home there would be 50-80 different share options one could choose from.

At Mykonos, you will not only see the staple Greek cuisine starters like saganaki, Santorini fava, dolmadakia, chargrilled lamb chops and octopus, skewers and so on but dishes like Cyclades-style fava with octopus stifado, the crispest battered zucchini chips and tomato fritters, feta parcels with honey sprinkled with black and white sesame, chicken with white trahana (cracked wheat) and ouzo shrimp orzo to name a few.

The mains menu is mainly meat-focused with heroes like kontosouvli (slow-roasted rotisserie-style pork) and kleftiko, kotsi hirino (slow-cooked pork knuckle), tigania xirini (pan-fried pork in vegetables and gravy), pork belly and oregano-crusted lamb on the spit, but Thomas is introducing seafood ideal for tsipouro and ouzo pairing like the chargrilled smoked mackerel dressed with tomato, onion, and parsley all bathed in extra virgin olive oil and lemon.

"I've put a lot of thought into everything. Take one of our most best selling dishes, kleftiko. Do you know the history behind it? How our ancestors, Kleftes and Armatoloi (thieves and bandits) fighting to liberate Greece in the mountains cooked it?" he asks.

"During the Ottoman occupation, they would bury the coals and the meat wrapped on top in the ground, to avoid getting discovered. They wrapped the meat without removing the bones in leaves, with vegetables so it would get the moisture and flavour and ate it the following day. We slow cook our kleftiko pork for hours, trying to recreate that. It gets its flavour from the marrow and its juices from the vegetables that reach a melting point.
"We take pride in the food we serve and how we prepare it," Thomas enthuses, explaining that he has added many influences from his village to the Mykonos menu.

"There are so many mind-blowing recipes from all over Greece people don't know of. We wanted to include that and focus on some special island flavours we've come across in Mykonos island."

Even the salads contribute to the overall Cycladic feel with the namesake salad, Mykonos, stealing the show thanks to a well-conceived sweet and savoury mix of figs, grapes and prosciutto. On the more traditional end, the Cretan dakos. Diced tomatoes, capers, feta, olives, and vine shoots sit on barley bread soaked in a drizzle of olive oil and tomato juice. Need I say more?

"As I said, we come here with our friends and family to eat the food we miss from home and enjoy ourselves. Every little detail matters," Thomas adds.

"We have not only invested our money, but our dreams and aspirations to this place. We wanted people to fall in love with Mykonos just like we have."

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