ARISTOLE’S is a modern Greek restaurant in Neutral Bay on the border of the North Shore and the Northern Beaches. It is a food revelation. If I made my original booking it would have been my #1 venue for 2016. I only managed to visit here in early January after postponing my December visit. It is a venue that can claim three bests of. 1) The best service I have ever had, 2) Best halloumi on planet Earth, and 3) Best octopus on planet Earth. Not many restaurants can claim one “best of” but three is a miracle. I was an invited guest to ARISTOTLE’S thanks to the lovely people at Papaya PR.
Owner, manager and designer, Maria O’Meagher, has brought forth an intimate stunning venue that oozes opulence and perfection. The entire restaurant is inspired by the decadent lifestyle of shipping magnate Aristotle and his wives, most notably, Jackie Onassis (Kennedy). It pays homage to their luxurious life on beautiful yachts with gold plated port hole mirrors lining the walls, leather dimpled bench seating along one wall and a large rope roof decoration. Among the ropes are some of the most incredible lighting balls that are reminiscent of the old glass rope weaved ocean orbs from back in the day.
The constant white and gold throughout the venue makes it light, bright, incredibly clean and a nice big hug to my cleanliness OCD. The gold cutlery is so beautiful I had to refrain from stealing an entire set. I have actually been so inspired I have found them online and have them on order. And to top it all off is black and white photos in gilded frames of the venue’s namesake everywhere.
One of the highlights of visiting ARISTOTLE’S is Miguel. Miguel is head waiter and maître d’. Put it this way, if I was Batman, Miguel is the guy I would hire to be my Alfred. He has worked with O’Meagher in other restaurants and was serving a spell over in Fiji for a while when O’Meagher called him about ARISTOTLE’S. He dropped everything to return to Sydney, I repeat FROM FIJI, to work at this venue. Miguel is a bubbly ray of sunshine dressed in white starched shirt and apron, with a splash of floral cuffs. Make sure he shows you his Apple watch with the ARISTOTLE’S logo as its wallpaper, his pride in his work is admirable.
Not only that, he knows EVERYTHING about the venue, the food and the drinks and he will ensure your visit is not just about the epic food. Upon meeting Miguel my guest and me handed over all food and drink selections to him. He never missed a beat and didn’t serve anything we didn’t enjoy.
Their drink game is strong with cocktails to blow your mind, a wine list that is Greek heavy with a splash of Australian greats. In addition the bar is full with nearly every spirit you could request and beers to make you very happy indeed. They have two beers from Northern Beaches, Nomad Brewing Company on tap and a selection of Greek bottled beers you may need to try.
Their cocktail game is next level with Maria O’Meagher designing most of them herself. Being an ex-architect she made this venue superb to look at and this is also shown in the cocktail presentation.
We had a wickedly cheeky Greek Goddess – it looks like a kid’s ball of fairy floss mixed with a pink lemonade, stuff to make your teeth fall out. Turns out it’s a blend of Sipsmith Sloe Gin, Campari, Peychaud’s bitters and pink grapefruit, with sparkle added by Greek Prosecco. It was sublime and that cotton candy aka fairy floss was the good stuff, I could have eaten a bowl of it, to hell with my teeth. The other cocktail we shared for first round was the Golden Greek – Disaronno Amaretto, Passoa Passionfruit Liqueur, passionfruit, dash egg white, lime. At first it was too tart for me and I wasn’t digging it, but once I realised to scoop in the passionfruit and stir it around it hit next level, I wanted more. But we had to eat something.
THAT FOOD THOUGH:
ARISTOTLE’S Head Chef is Neutral Bay resident Heydeon Young, formerly of La Goulue in Crows Nest and Ecco in Mosman, and the pastry chef is Barbaros Seres, formerly of Anason in Barangaroo. Let’s just say these guys are my new chef rockstars. Their food game is next level and with each dish I was floored. The restaurant avoids cooking traditional dishes because as O’Meagher says “Ask any Greek and they’ll tell you no one cooks better than their mum.” Instead they have taken the foods cooked by the Greeks and turned them into modernised delights with plating from the Gods and flavours only artisans can blend.
Our first dish was their Taramosalata. “Why is it not pink?” everyone I have shown the photo to has asked. Miguel explained it isn’t pink because at ARISTOTLE’S they don’t use any artificial colours in their tarama (salted and cured roe). Impressive. It was delightfully fresh and more bread arrived before we could finish what we had. If the bread and dip was this good we needed to slow down and pace or we wouldn’t survive this feast.
Next up was the Goat’s Cheese – wrapped in vine leaves with caramelised garlic. We cut it in half and then squeezed the garlic out of the shell and of course I ate my half in one bite – incredible. I LOVE goat’s cheese and blended with the olive oil, vine leaf and garlic it was so flavoursome. But word of advice – take your time, don’t eat the entire thing in one bite – it’s strong in flavour.
Next treat was their Seared Scallops with pickled kohlrabi, cauliflower purée, pastourma and fennel. Third best scallops I have eaten in the last decade. #1 is Manjit’s and #2 is INDU. But what set these apart was the pastourma, this is an air dried beef, a bit like a ham or a pastrami. Google says it is of Armenian origin. But you pick up the pastourma and wrap your scallop in it. Being uncouth I then put the entire thing in my mouth and rolled my eyes in tastebud seduction as I chomped. More refined people might cut it in half with a knife and eat it more fitting to the environment they were dining.
Following scallops came out the Zucchini flowers. Something I had always wanted to eat but never gotten around to. I have eaten them a couple of times since ARISTOTLE’S and nothing has come close to their delicate perfection. The others I have had have lost their structural integrity under the weight of the oil they were cooked in. Not from this kitchen – they looked as fresh as if they were plucked from a vine. They were cooked/stuffed with grated Kefalotyri cheese, truffled honey and lime to squeeze on top. Sadly for other restaurants they will forever be compared to these.
TWO BEST OF DISHES OF ALL TIME:
I love halloumi, everyone loves halloumi, I cook it, I worship it and I buy it whenever I see it on the menu. But I had never eaten halloumi really until I had this halloumi. It was like comparing Kraft singles to a King Island Dairy Black Label Double Brie. I nearly openly wept at the lie of halloumi I had my entire life, and it sucks to be any other venue serving halloumi from now on, because unless it is house made by culinary gods it will not compare. It is not flat, it is fluffy wedges cooked in pomegranate, red grapes, honey, balsamic, oregano and walnuts. Cooked under the grill until it puffs like a soufflé and then delivered hot and still in the pan. No superlatives can describe this dish accurately enough. JK food passion level unlocked.
After the halloumi, I was done, I did not need to eat anymore for the rest of my life but out came their famed octopus. A stunning minimally plated work of tentacular beauty that is the cover photo for this article. It is simply a Chargrilled Octopus Tentacle served with walnut tarator and preserved lemon. It was cooked like no octopus I have ever eaten and it was more tender than the scallop. I could not imagine the thicker parts being so tender but it sliced like butter and tasted sublime. Best octopus I have ever experienced. I had another octopus literally the day after this one at another venue and while it was probably a good dish, in comparison it was bordering on awful.
THE FINAL MAIN:
We finished off our main with another of their signature dishes, Barbequed Cypriot Sausages. Served with tzatziki and lemon these were delivered still flaming by Miguel. They were delightfully tasty but could not compete with the might of the previous two dishes. If this was served prior to the halloumi and the octopus I may have loved it more.
There dessert game was all about slowing down the excitement of the meal, we had a round two of cocktails with Rose Asteria and Mykonos Mojito. The Rose Asteria was for my guest, fellow foodie, @threespoonsfull, it was a mocktail and is basically the greatest pink lemonade of all time. Raspberries, cranberry, lime, grenadine, soda. For the first time in photo editing I lowered colour saturation on this drink because it was BRIGHT. My Mykonos Mojito was a perfect drink choice from Miguel – Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, raspberry, mint, lime, ginger ale, aromatic bitters. YUM. We matched this one with a truly decadent dessert. A baklava cigar served in a cigar box with pistachio custard and filo pastry. It was incredible, Miguel even posed with me holding a lighter like I was about to spark up. It was so clever, delicate and a nice treat with a story.
We complimented this with the Aristotle’s Classic Loukoumades. Made with cinnamon honey syrup, walnuts and vanilla bean ice-cream. This was like a deconstructed baklava and it was delightful, however by this stage we were force feeding ourselves.
MY ONE GRIPE:
Everything about this place so far had been perfection, and while this is a gripe I am not deducting points for it. Miguel offered us coffee. I can only drink decaf after overdosing about 12yrs ago and Laarni can only drink soy thanks to lactose issues. She had already double dumped the anti-lactose pills but for a coffee she wanted the soy. Miguel advised they don’t do decaf or soy. Bad move Alfred! For a venue this decadent they need to accommodate the many tastes and requirements of the guests, offer Greek coffee instead of coffee to avoid this issue perhaps or stock up.
The problem that I have with this is not the lack of decaf, I am always discriminated against, but the menu says soy is on offer. This has bugged me since attending but to be honest I would never have ordered a coffee if it wasn’t offered. The food is so good I can’t deduct a point over this and will remember the experience as though Miguel never offered.
ARISTOTLES would have been my favourite venue of 2016 if I had made my original booking in December. For a restaurant to tick three “best of” experiences in one visit is unheard of. It just doesn’t happen. But it did and I am stoked at the closeness of this venue to my home, because I can visit over and over again. Thanks to the venue and Papaya PR for a visit ad food experience I will never forget.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 1/1 bonus
PH: (02) 8969 6900
OPEN: Lunch Thurs to Sat: 12 – 230pm, Dinner Tue to Sun: From 5pm
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes – but not for me
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.