It’s not often we have the pleasure of chatting about our northern neighbours but there is certainly a lot to discuss when it comes to Brisbane’s dining scene. The most important aspect of which is the city’s adoption of one of our favourite restauranteurs and one extremely talented head chef.
Yes, it’s Simon Gloftis (founder of Hellenika, The Fish House and nineteen at The Star) and Kelvin Andrews (former Head Chef at The Fish House and nineteen at The Star), two of the Coast’s most impressive foodies and now, owners at SK Steak & Oyster.
As you’ve no doubt heard, the pair opened the venue within The Calile Hotel in Brisbane and it is exceptional in every sense of the word.
Before we begin, some context. In late 2019, the pair embarked on an eating tour of the US to ‘gather intel’ (which roughly translates to tasting all of the things) on the style of venue they were planning. They wanted a sophisticated space with white tablecloths, a piano and of course, the highest quality produce they could source.
Which is exactly what they’ve created.
SK Steak & Oyster greets you with a beautifully stocked circular wall of spirits including a stunning array of single malt whiskey’s that we would very much appreciate sampling.
Inside you’ll find an air of unpretentious sophistication with fresh flowers dotted throughout, plants tucked in overhead, a completely open kitchen and a window showcasing some of the finest cuts of meat there are.
The team are dressed in crisp white dinner jackets and are both very welcoming and extremely knowledgeable and the entire experience is one that will stay with you always.
Now to the food and although words may not do it justice, let’s see how we go.
The premise is of course, steak and seafood and as mentioned, it’s of the highest possible quality.
To begin, oysters of course. SK’s are sourced daily and served with a champagne mignonette that takes champagne and oysters to a whole new level.
The seafood platter is a must with oysters, prawns, bugs, mussels and lobster and it is unlike any seafood platter we’ve ever laid eyes on. Fresh, flavorsome perfection.
Next the raw seafood is an absolute taste sensation and we sampled the Raw Yellowtail Kingfish with smoked dashi, white soy and jalapeno and The Petuna Ocean Trout Tartare with shallots, cornichons and capers. Melt in your mouth and beautifully balanced, the both of them.
Now there are a few ways to go and if you’re a risotto lover, Kelvin’s Lobster Risotto is the best you’ll ever have with southern Tasmanian Rock Lobster and crustacean bisque. The flavours guys, too good.
Of course, you’ll want to sample a steak and there are many to choose from depending on your preference. We went for the eye fillet and it was life changing. Crisp on the outside and pink in the middle, soft and just exceptional honestly. No sauce required… but available if you can’t do without.
Sides-wise there is an entire potato menu and we love that a lot. The Moreton Bay Bug Mash Potato is the greatest mash in the world (actually), do yourself a favour. If you’d like a salad too (because at this point, why not?), the SK Signature Wedge Salad has blue cheese dressing (!) and bacon on iceberg lettuce. YUM.
For dessert, you must try the signature Strawberry Cake that Kelvin has absolutely perfected, is sweet and smooth and we’re in love with it to be frank.
To drink, cocktails, wines, spirits and beers, all able to be matched with your dishes and all absolutely sensational.
Quite obviously, it’s worth a trip to Brisbane just to sample the goodness that is SK Steak & Oyster, not to mention you’ll be supporting two former Gold Coasters who have firmly made their mark on the Brisbane dining scene and have zero signs of stopping there.
World takeover? We’re here for it.
LOCATION: Ground floor at The Calile Hotel, 48 James Street, Fortitude Valley
HOURS: 12pm to 3pm and 5.30pm to midnight daily
Words and photos by Kirra Smith
We’re going to call it, Simon Gloftis is the man who started the foodie revolution on the Gold Coast. Starting with Little Beans, then now-iconic Greek eatery Hellenika and finally The Fish House, the restaurateur has a slew of local firsts under his belt.
His passion for the Gold Coast’s dining scene has seen him become one of the most familiar faces in town and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
We chat with Simon about Hellenika’s soon to be opened rooftop bar and the game-changing plans he’s got in store for the Coast.
How did your passion for food came about?
I didn’t realise but obviously growing up in a European family, it was ingrained in me when I was a kid. My godfather has one of the most famous Greek restaurants in Melbourne and we used to go there as a family but I wouldn’t sit at the table I’d go and stand at the door of the kitchen and they’d pass me food and I’d take it out. Then I got a job delivering pizza, worked in a few restaurants, then went to pizza maker and floor manager then I went back to the kitchen. I eventually left hospitality and got my real estate license but every night I was going home and instead of studying the real estate course I was looking at cookbooks so I realised what I loved. I had three cafes on the Gold Coast and then from the cafes I opened Hellenika then Fish House.
What is it you love so much about it?
I literally wake up in the morning and start thinking about food, then I eat food and I don’t stop until I go to bed. It’s my life. I don’t travel anywhere other than for food. When I go to Europe I book the restaurants before I go, even if I’m popping down to Sydney I book the restaurants before I book the flights. It’s all I want to do.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I went to Marymount College from year four. I was born in Melbourne then we moved to Brisbane, back to Melbourne then to the Gold Coast.
What do you love most about living here?
I just think there’s an energy here on the Gold Coast that the bigger cities could only dream about. We can actually make an impact with such a small decision. When I opened up Little Beans in Nobby’s it was probably the only real espresso bar on the Coast and people followed it straight away. We needed these places. In a big city you can make an impact but you get lost. My whole success on the Coast has been because people supported me. They followed me from Three Beans to Little Beans to Piccolo to Hellenika to The Fish House and now back to Hellenika. I’ve got the same customers from back then and some of my staff have worked in all those venues. The Coast has been a massive support for me.
Why are you so passionate about bringing such quality dining venues to the Coast?
Some of it’s a bit selfish, I actually do things I like and then hope enough people like the same thing. I’m a big fan of healthy food, not as in quinoa salad, as in King George Whiting and Greek salad. When you come to one of my restaurants you will get the best produce in Australia, bar none. We’re either equal to, or better than, every other restaurant in the country and that’s my whole motto.
Do you have a personal favourite of all the ones you’ve opened?
Hellenika. I love every one of my venues because they’re all a piece of me but when I walk into Hellenika I feel like it’s home. I eat there five or six nights a week, I’m happy there. I love the nice big wooden tables, the Greek music, the food, and the wine, the feeling. We all say there’s something in the walls at Hellenika, it’s looked after so many people. It feels like it’s been around for 40 years.
What have you got in store for Hellenika?
We renovated the whole building and I put a whole new level on it. Downstairs will be opening next Friday (1st September) and upstairs is probably about eight weeks away. Upstairs will be a bar with a retractable roof. Downstairs has gone from a taverna-style venue. It had that real rustic Melbourne-style Greek restaurant feel. It’s gone away from that now so when you walk in you’re going to feel like you’re in a Greek restaurant in Athens but something that’s modern today. We’ve gone from 110 wines on our list to 500, it’s amazing, there are 50 indigenous wines from Greece alone. We’re taking everything to the next level. We’ve added some new dishes to the menu – kept about 60% of the favourites – but added some really traditional Greek dishes. Things like Corfu Bianco which is my favourite dish, it’s potatoes and Kingfish baked in the oven with olive oil and lemon juice. So simple but so beautiful.
It’s going to be a touch more formal downstairs and then upstairs is a lot more casual. It’ll be all the mezze food, which is tapas in Greek. Things like pork belly, meatballs, zucchini chips, all that lighter stuff. The bar upstairs will be the main focus, we just want people to be able to come and have a light dinner or snack and drinks. We’ll try and be open until midnight every night upstairs so there’s no guessing if we’re open. You can feel comfortable to go at 10 o’clock at night and have a wine.
What are your thoughts on the rapidly growing dining scene of late?
To give you an example, seven years ago I had to explain what share food was. We had to tell people that food comes to the middle of the table and it’s sort of like a Chinese restaurant. Hellenika was also the first one to do double sittings. Now, that’s commonplace. Nine of my ex staff have opened up venues between Broadbeach and Palm Beach, most of your favourites were opened by my ex staff. I’m really proud of what’s happened on the Gold Coast, if I had a small part to do with it, that’s great.
How would you like to see our foodie scene change or grow over the next few years?
We’ve opened up all the venues I think it might be enough now, there’s nearly one restaurant per person. I think there might be a little bit of hardship to come, just because I know how hard it can be. I’m hoping we consolidate a little bit and maybe get more quality into what we’ve already got before we think about expanding too much further. We need all these local restaurants to make sure what they’re doing is the best they can do. I think it’s neglectful to customers if you start giving them things that are making them sick like artificial flavours and enhancers. I’m hoping we improve on what we’ve got before we grow too much more.
What’s happening after the rooftop is up and running?
I sold The Fish House to do an amazing project, which I can’t mention for a few months but that’s the next big one. Hellenika will always be my baby but I’ve got plans for something that will really be game changing. I can’t wait to launch it.
Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites…
Café: For someone who’s owned cafes, I don’t hang out in cafes. I do pop down to get a smoothie or juice from Smoothie Shack, that’s about the extent of it.
Restaurant: Can I mention a few? For steak, Glenelg Public House, again Aaron used to work with me. For soup I go to New Saigon and get my Pho. For ribs I go to Fire Cue. For sushi I go to Sapporo in Broadbeach, they’re the only ones on the Gold Coast that I know buys the same quality seafood I do (just ask them what their best dish of the day is and go with that). For hot pot I go to Itoshin in Mermaid Beach. My cousin owns The Lamb Shop in Burleigh so I’m always up there. Pinocchio in Mermaid Beach do a really good fennel salad.
Weekend hang: I’m working on weekends but my weekend is during the week. I’m just hanging out in Nobby’s. The boys and I always get together on a Tuesday and have dinner, that’s my thing. My family owns Miami Marketta so I’m there a lot to watch a band and hang out.
No doubt you’ve had the pleasure of tasting one (and hopefully many) of Chef Kelvin Andrews’ exceptional dishes and if not, do yourself a favour.
The former Gold Coaster has headed up and worked within culinary teams in some of the Coast’s most revered restaurants including Nineteen at The Star, The Fish House and Hellenika.
He recently made the move to Brisbane where he’ll be Head Chef at SK Steak & Oyster in The Calile, so we sat down for a chat to learn as much as we could about the newbie.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I have been a Goldy local for 16 years; I’m originally from a country town called Tully in Far North Queensland!
You recently moved to Brisbane but what did you love most about living here?
It’s got to be the beach, I take it for granted and never got to go as much as I should have, but the feeling of walking on the sand barefoot in the morning listening to music was very therapeutic. I will miss that feeling for sure.
What do you love most about your work as a Chef?
I guess it would be the whole aspect of hospitality, I followed in my mother’s footsteps as she was a chef and restaurateur and she instilled that passion in me, so I love cooking and looking after people.
You’re set to head up the culinary team at SK Steak & Oyster within The Calile in Brisbane soon, what can you tell us about the newbie?
SK Steak & Oyster has been a passion project for Simon Gloftis and myself for years; we wanted to create a restaurant like the old school days when we were growing up in the industry with classic service – think white table cloths, white waiters jackets, someone playing piano, a dessert trolley being pushed around – with a casual yet elegant feel about it all. We want to bring back the classic dining scene and take a break from the more modern style restaurants.
You were in the States recently for a holiday slash tasting tour, did you bring any ideas back you’ll be showcasing there?
We did. America still has classic restaurants like you see in old 90s films so we went there to see how they operate and get a feel for them. Once we were there we realised that was exactly what we wanted to do… with our own twist of course.
How will this venue be unique?
Everything about this restaurant is unique; it has a very casual yet elegant Palm Springs vibe including Walter Knoll saddle leather chairs, a baby grand piano that’s played Friday and Saturday nights (people can stand around it and have a few drinks before dinner), plus we have a Juliet balcony that looks down from the mezzanine level over the piano. Oh and a huge custom built dry-age meat fridge which will be a feature in the room.
What are your predictions for SE QLD’s foodie scene over the next few years?
I think the sustainability movement is massive and we are huge advocates for that. Chefs and restaurateurs need to learn more about our produce, and where it comes from, ethical farming practices and reducing carbon footprint, its been at play for a few years now but it will be huge on everyone’s menus, from bars to clubs to restaurants soon. Hopefully we can minimalise wastage and utilise all parts of the products we buy.
What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?
I love cooking with fresh produce and vegetable heavy. Usually I start by picking my vegetables first and my protein last. I love experimenting with Asian flavours, I haven’t really professionally cooked Asian food so in my down time I love to try new things.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Coffee spot: Nook in Burleigh, then a light stroll on the beach is my zen time
Cafe for breakfast: Alfreds; their breakfast burrito, it’s everything you want for breakfast in a wrap, what can go wrong?
Restaurant for dinner: Hellenika; a fresh piece of fish and salad and Bougatsa (warm custard pastry) if I’m feeling naughty, which is every time
How does your weekend usually look: If I’m not working, I‘m sleeping or eating, I like to over indulge on my days off
There are certain Gold Coast venues that one can never get enough of. One of which, quite obviously, is Hellenika in Nobby Beach. In fact, if we could just move in and consume Saganaki every day, for the rest of time that would be ideal.
Now that’s sorted, here’s some really great news. There are even more opportunities to enjoy the exceptional eats and abundant good vibes you’ve come to know and love at Hellenika because (how’s the build up) their Brisbane venue is opening this week and Hallelujah.
That’s right Greek food lovers; you may now travel a very short distance, as opposed to all the way to the Gold Coast, to get your Hellenika fill and that is something to celebrate.
The brand new venue can be found inside The Calile Hotel, also brand new and probably your new favourite place on the planet. Owner of Hellenika, Simon Gloftis, says The Calile and Hellenika Brisbane are an absolute match made in heaven and, in our opinion, absolute interior goals the both of them.
The restaurant’s interior, set to be completely different to the Gold Coast, will be all marble and white stone surfaces with vaulted ceilings and skylights and quite the classic beauty. The fitout is a pared back version of a resort-style classic and we are really quite excited.
Now to the food. The menu will be very similar to the Coast’s (including all your faves – Taramasalata Dip, Zucchini Chips and Junee Lamb to name a few) but, with the addition of breakfast, there’ll be a few new dishes for you to fall in love with.
The morning menu will be filled with Greek-inspired breakfast treats like Rizgalo, a rice pudding that’ll be Hellenika’s take on porridge, Bougatsa, a custard-filled filo pastry dish (love you already) and The Onassis, a big breakfast option featuring a lamb cutlet (of course) among other tasty treats.
Oh and there’ll also be a Brûlée Grapefruit dish and a magical dish featuring Greek yoghurt, seasonal berries, crushed macadamias and Manuka honey.
We’ll take one of everything please.
Excitingly, if you opt to stay at The Calile Hotel you may eat said delicious dishes by the pool, celebrity-style.
Also excitingly, Simon has coaxed Hellenika’s original Head Chef and Restaurant Manager, Brian and Tessa Kelly, back from London to oversee the Brisbane venue so you know you’re in excellent hands.
Hellenika Brisbane has been a dream four years in the making so happy days for Simon and the team and us, the good people of southern Queensland who get to eat even more epic Greek food on the daily.
Friday cannot come soon enough.
LOCATION: The Calile Hotel, 48 James Street, Fortitude Valley
Words and photos by Kirra Smith