You could always tell when my Greek grandmother had called the home landline because you could hear her voice coming out the receiver. Even if you were in the next room. Greeks love their conversation a few decibels higher than everyone else — if you need proof, just visit Drummoyne’s new Hellenic diner, Zeus Street Greek on a Friday night.
Beats are pumping and the line is out the door. There are small girls carrying large, heaping platters of food above their heads while a head waiter keeps watch with a steady, statuesque gaze. The animated conversation of families, friends and first dates at the tables has all the vivid drama of an ancient Greek vase painting. It’s louder than two yia yias arguing over spanakopita recipes and just as great to watch.
Recently, The Apollo and Alpha put the sexy back into saganaki, but Zeus, although king of the gods, is all about smart-casual Greek street food. There’s been care put into a stylish room in tones of black, white, timber and gold that is refreshingly devoid of Santorini blue.
The menu (dine in and takeaway) highlights a selection of ‘pitas’ — house-made pita bread filled with either lamb, pork, chicken, prawns or haloumi. We order Papou Niko ($9.50, pork from the souvla with Aegean slaw, caramelised onion, preserved lemon mayo and parsley) and watch the chef attending his souvla with the taught, measured movements and intensity of a hoplite. The pork is perfect and is happily wrapped in its fluffy, nicely grilled pita doona, but we’re looking for just a little more of that preserved lemon mayo to balance the char and crunch of the vegetables.
Truth is, Zeus is best in the nude. Choose from the ‘Nude Zeus’ section of the menu to let the souvla shine, leaving you room to explore the dips and salads, pita in hand. Large chunks of skewered lamb ($16.50, regular size) are tender, well seasoned and with excellent outer caramelisation. The taramasalata ($6.50) is as pale and silky as Zeus’s white chiton and the ancient grains salad of cracked wheat, lentils, pepitas, almonds and yoghurt ($12.5) is a herby, sweet, brightly flavoured accompaniment that changes up the textures nicely.
If you still have room, get the spanokopita ($8.50) with it’s fluffy spinach filling and pale, flaky exterior and see if there aren’t any loud, Greek-style conversations (or outright arguments) over who gets the last bite.
As we leave, the line has only gotten longer and the noise a little louder. Zeus is giving the popular Ocean Seafoods down the road competition for the Friday family night out. So it’s clear that even if the Greeks haven’t had much success in Brazil this year, they are definitely kicking goal after goal in Drummoyne.