When living in Athens more than 20 years ago, I was treated to lunch at the home of a friend's yia-yia (grandmother). The food was delicious and served with such enthusiasm, affection and insistence ("Just once more helping") I spent the rest of the day in a fully-stuffed state of somnolence.
I was reminded of this following a recent visit to the delightful Greca which is hunkered beneath the Story Bridge, inside the new-look Howard Smith Wharves. Figuring that the celebration for which we were assembled called for the Full Greek, we enjoyed a feast that started with olives, peppers and herb-dusted feta cheese, and finished with katoumari - smashed filo pastry, topped with walnuts and a giddy whirl of semolina cream.
The garden salad offers a taste of village life in Greece. Author image.
In between these two bookends, we savoured a range of other taverna-style courses - taramasalata served with a breadbasket, the traditional horiatiki (village salad), hot saganaki cheese soaked in honey and dressed with oregano, and a melt-in-your-mouth oven-baked lamb shoulder with roast potatoes, garlic and herbs. Fortunately, all dishes are designed for sharing.
Greca also has an enviable drinks list, so make sure you don't need to drive home afterwards. I selected the Greca spritz which marries lemon with Otto's 'Athens' vermouth, prosecco and mastica (a resin with a piney flavour, which gave the drink an unmistakably Greek flavour). There's also a great selection of wines and, as might be expected, ouzo (a dry anise-flavoured aperitif).
The slow-roasted lamb shoulder is sure to keep you coming back for more. Author image.
A la carte options at Greca, which marry tradition and contemporary twist, are also highly tempting. Think octopus with almonds and green chilli, quail with grapes and warrigal greens, and calamari, peppers and saltbush. And as for sides, there's Greek Island chips (with seaweed salt), or fasolakia (braised green beans with dill and mint). Desserts? I'm hankering for an excuse to return in order to sample the strawberry granita with campari, ricotta and Greek basil, or the watermelon with ouzo and mint.
We visited during the day, but I imagine the Greek Island vibe would really ramp up at night. A few more ouzos and you might even be able to convince yourself that you're overlooking the Mediterranean Sea instead of the Brisbane River.
For a sweet and creamy indulgence, be sure to order the katoumari. Author image.