David Tsirekas has worn many hats in his lifetime. While a water polo and swim coach he also picked up hospitality jobs to help pay the bills. Meanwhile, he also picked up more than a few skills in the kitchen.
After taking up the offer of his sister’s share in the legendary Petersham restaurant Perama, David never looked back. He went back to his roots and learned more and more about the history of Greek cuisine. He maintained Perama’s SMH Good Food Guide hat from 2001 until he moved on to Xanthe in 2011.
This year, one of Chicago’s most successful restaurateurs Louie Alexakis surveyed Sydney’s Greek fine dining scene and after eating at David’s restaurant 1821 convinced the chef to launch two new restaurants in the Windy City. Tsirekas has now opened Nostimo Restaurant Bar at Brisbane’s Greek Club as Chef in Residence.
Nostimo Restaurant Bar is the centrepiece of a very swish $3m refresh at the Greek Club. As the home of Brisbane’s Greek community, it has seen a number of makeovers. Nostimo features white rendered walls, terrazzo and ceilings embellished with thousands of worry beads. The private dining room is also a contemporary space complete with a table for ten and more beads.
We spoke with David Tsirekas last week. He walks to and from work and he’s excited to see what’s going on in West End in particular. With breweries (plural) and so many small bars every few metres he says it could take him longer than it should to get home. His mission is for Nostimo to have a “friendly vibe where people want to spend special moments with the people they care about”.
Food is served family style with share plates of traditional Greek favourites. This is not Mod Greek or Greek with a twist but defined Greek flavours. The classics are all here with tweaks that enhance rather than overshadow.
We started with deliciously warm pita to scoop the three T’s: excellent dips of Tarama, Tzatziki and Tyrokafteri. A surprise starter – a crunchy Greek ‘slaw’ of red cabbage, carrot, green apple, currants, toasted almonds and a light, mustardy mayonnaise. A whole new take on the traditional Politiki Salata.
What would a Greek feast be without Saganaki but here Chef tops it with caramelised figs for extra a little yin and yang of salty and sweet. Hortopita traditionally features gathered wild greens and rice in filo and it is hearty and definitely as good as your ya-ya’s.
There’s Swordfish Kalamaki – mini skewers served with Fassolada stewed, braised mixed beans. Every real cuisine has its own take on meatballs and for the Greeks it is Soutzoukakia. Tender pork, beef and rice meatballs are served the way they have for eons in a thick rich tomato sauce with the addition of fresh yoghurt. Chef knows what people want and so he follows welcome favourites of Horta and Lamb Souvla with chips topped with grated kasseri cheese, oregano and a fried egg!
Greek desserts are traditionally super sweet but at Nostimo the desserts are lighter with the Nostimo Indulgence of layered white chocolate ice cream, sesame halva, sour cherry preserve and dark chocolate a parfait of sorts. So, maybe not light but definitely delectable.
Chef Tsirekas loves the drama of the kitchen but is quite happy in a supervisory role, knowing how good it will be on the plate. Designing and testing menus for four restaurants in three cities in two countries is a big job for one man. Just the sort of job for a man who has worn many hats; including a toque. Nostimo – tasty it is.