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Kate reviews: Almost Like Yiayias — ‘easily the best value meal I’ve had in lockdown’

ALMOST LIKE YIAYIAS
alyfood.com.au

If I learned one thing during the World Cup of Food, it’s that Melburnians really love their Greek food. Like, REALLY love it – which makes Almost Like Yiayias a brilliant new lockdown business.

Proprietor Alex Xinis is a former head chef at Hellenic Republic Kew and Hellenic Mastic. He worked with Made Establishment until the end of 2018, when he started consulting for the international Modern Greek Food Group, working primarily in London, but also designing the menu for brand new Greek restaurant Olea in southern Sri Lanka.

 

In fact, Xinis was in Sri Lanka in April when COVID really started to take hold, which meant his trip to Moscow to cook there was cancelled and he was forced to return to Melbourne. Lucky Melbourne! That’s when Almost Like Yiayias was born, a business building on his strength as a brilliant Greek chef, and our need of heartwarming food in lockdown.

So what’s so good about it. Well, two things for starters. ALY is tremendous value, and it’s seriously good food.

We went for the ALY Feast, the only problem being that we only got through half of it, and it was $74.

So what’s in it? Well kick off with the gorgeous house-made pita breads, whack ‘em on the barbie for a decent char. They’re the perfect vehicle for the home-made tzatziki and taramasalata, the former probably the best tzatziki I’ve tasted.

On the side two salads, and each is made to order fresh on the day you receive it. Of course, the Greek salad kicks things off – olive oil, feta and oregano direct from Greece, together with tomato, cucumber, and pickled onions.

And, a Russian Salad, popular in Greece with its carrot, potato, peas and mayo. Here it’s zhooshed up with chickpeas instead of peas and a sweet and sour yoghurt tartare dressing – think yoghurt, house-pickled cucumbers, capers, white wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, mustard, olive oil and salt – yum!

And the main event? Of course it’s the lamb shoulder. Alex takes bone-in, square-cut lamb shoulders, rubs them with salt, sugar and pepper and marinates them overnight in a paste made from garlic, onion, herbs, vinegar and olive oil. Then, they’re cooked for 12 hours at 100c on the bone for extra flavour. Once cooled, the bones are removed and they’re wrapped with cooking juices, ready for you to finish off in the oven at home.

I didn’t believe that 15 minutes in the oven could possibly producer the tender, tasty meat we ended up with – it was stupendous.

The ALY finishes with home-made baklava, if you can possibly fit it in.

This feast for four, priced at $18 a head, is easily the best value meal I’ve had in lockdown.

If you want to put together an a la carte meal, choose from dishes like moussaka, spanakopita (it’s popular, consider pre-ordering), beef cheek yiouvetsi; or try the other banquets – a DIY souvlaki kit or giaourtlou kebab kit.

ALY are delivering across a large swathe of Melbourne, from Caroline Springs to Preston, Point Cook to Malvern East. But get in early, this is all made fresh, and they do sell out.

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