A long wait preceded the recent opening of 1821 in Sydney’s CBD, mid-way between the kinetic action of Pitt Street Mall and the business-minded Martin Place. The modern Greek restaurant is an ambitious offering from renowned chef David Tsirekas and restaurateur Jim Kospetas, who have pulled no punches with the three-level space which was created in Athens and then shipped over by designer Dimitris Economou.
The historical influence of the 1821 Greek revolution is evident from various symbols used to bring the space to life, spirited right down to the finest details. It makes for an entirely decadent and eye-catching affair, presenting an effectively grand atmosphere helped by higher-than-high ceilings and an endearing sense of restraint, moving away from the overly-ornate and focusing on big, memorable pieces like the large plaster-art recreation of the Greek flag or the gallant white horses overlooking the red-spotted island bar at the entrance.
Oddly tall menus contain descriptions tempting enough to guarantee repeat visits, sitting next to a strong wine list that unsurprisingly heroes Greek varieties. Diners would be wise to begin with the Tarama ($14) with is a beautiful Swordfish roe dip served with crisp bread rolls, strongly flavoured with a clean profile that won’t spoil your palate for the oncoming onslaught of the indulgent Yia Yia’s Hand Cut Chips ($14), thick cuts seasoned with mountain oregano before being topped with crumbled feta and fried egg, and the interesting Pork Belly Baklava ($28). The “baklava” is a surprisingly small serving diced up into four cubes of golden filo pastry with tender sweet chunks of pork and pistachios, though the use of date and mastic sauce is heavy and much too sweet; a divisive dish that may be too exaggerated for it’s own good.
Pastry cravings are better served by the Wild Green & Leek Pie ($27), broken up (for sharing) and packed with chicory, amaranth, endives, spinach, leek, mixed herbs, and jasmine rice, all sitting in a messy balance in flaky filo pastry; it’s the beautiful eggplant purée which really makes this one stand-out.
There’s a generous choice of mains but if you’re not dining solo the bigger, meatier cuts like perennial Greek favourite BBQ Lamb Shoulder ($39) are your best bets. The slow-roasted heap of lamb shoulder is grilled first and then dressed up with silverbeet, leek and herb yoghurt, served with quite a rustic presentation that deserves admiration before you and your dining partners take turns picking it apart. The produce is top quality.
There are four desserts to choose from, each modern takes on what one would expect from a modern Greek restaurant. Get the Caramel Baklava Ice Cream ($16) for best results, three attractive nutty logs of vanilla bean ice cream swimming in caramel fudge, defined by the sweet baklava nuts inside. Though the Custard Filo Pie ($15) is just as good if you aren’t quite full-to-the-brim by this point, the fancied bougatsa (traditional Greek custard pie) contains sweet semolina custard bursting out of some flaky flio pastry, flavours beautifully complemented by a mixed berry compote and olive oil ice cream.
While business-types might make up a large percentage of patronage at 1821 (at least during lunch hours on a weekday), there’s something here that will excite any type of diner; whether that to be the seasoned cynic or the over-enthused Insta-blogger. Maybe I need to visit a few more times before I place it up there with my favourite Greek dining spots, but as for right now 1821 looks to join aforementioned staples like The Apollo and Alpha in making Sydney the number one spot in Australia for generous dips into Mediterranean food and drink.
Address: 122 Pitt St, Sydney NSW
Contact: (02) 8080 7070
Hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-12am; Sun 12pm-10pm
Venue images supplied.