Owns 'FoodLit'. Highly qualified, established food & lifestyle writer, former restaurateur, founder professional writing business, Articul8. Long, diverse writing history, passion for food culture, the land & inspired food language.www.foodlit.com.au
Published January 1st 2010
Transport yourself to the fishing villages of Greece – albeit minus the water – amidst the cafés and restaurants of Oakleigh. The mall and surrounding streets are brimming with a vibrant café culture, colourful characters, and food that'll have you thinking you died and went to heaven – or maybe Mount Olympus in this case.
Make a day of it so you can truly soak up the culture. Melbourne is, after all, the second largest Greek city in the world after Athens. You can read a bit about Greek immigration here.
Head to Portman Street for the Oakleigh Market and a fantastic array of specialty stores. The fish and seafood is as fresh as can be (as you'd expect from the Greeks). Delis brim with dips and dolmades, olives and every kind of fetta imaginable, and for all of us carnivores out there, the meat is plentiful, high-quality and cheap.
If you call past the butcher shop on a Saturday morning, there's a barbecue with sizzling samples out front. Don't expect snags or burgers. I mean, you've temporarily stepped into another culture. Expect thick, tasty slices of barbecued liver maybe. Don't go yuk! You don't know until you give it a go. I go back for seconds – and thirds.
There's a large shopping centre with supermarkets. The seafood store in there is also very good, as is the deli, and the chicken store with chemical-free produce. The bakery's as cheap as chips and good. I don't think you can match Oakleigh's prices. These are a people who know and expect a bargain – and won't tolerate anything less.
Shopping done – and hopefully with a good, hearty appetite by now - it's time to head to the mall in Hanover Street. You can't miss it. Just look for row upon row of café umbrellas and plenty of Greek gentlemen gathering to converse over small cups of strong, rich coffee, maybe with a syrupy wedge of baklava, or loukoumades, Greek-style donut puffs with clove and cinnamon in a honey syrup.
Then again, there's the mouthwatering moussaka, or the crispy spanakopita, not to mention the sensational souvlaki… Yep, plenty of choices, but a café frappe is a must-have.
For a guide to no less than 84 food stops you can make in Oakleigh, either for picking up gear for home cooking or leisurely lazing around and being fed, click here. You'll see plenty of non-Greek stores too, but I reckon when in Little Greece, do as the Grecians do. Oupa!