32 Johnston St, Collingwood, Vic
So, where do you go in Melbourne if you want the best Greek food around? The famous Jim's Greek Tavern of course!
Well, that statement would have been true about 20 years ago. But these days Jim's Greek Tavern is far from the best Greek Food in Melbourne. In recent years with the addition of restaurants like George Colambares' traditional Hellenic Republic and the more modern Press Club, the standards have been raised.
When people go to restaurants like Tetsuya's, Vue De Monde, Quay, etc, you spend quite a bit of money. But it's all ok, because it's "an experience." Well if you want an experience, Jim's is one of those. I can't say it will be one that you will cherish forever, but it will be an experience.
If you've never been to Jim's, it's decor is still very much from the early 80's with apparently very little being done to it since then. The only difference to the staff from back then is less hair and what's left is a little more grey.
The staff bounce around like they're at their only daughter's wedding night. It would be good if that energy went into checking on their customers though.
Don't expect a menu when you arrive at Jim's. We got a "what would you like?" and our response was, "what have you got?" So, basically the waiter tells you what's being served that evening - there's a few choices when it comes to the type of fish and how you would like your meat cooked. It all sounds great! Be warned though, there are no visible prices anywhere and Jim's isn't all that cheap! You feel a bit stingy asking what the price of each item is, when it is offered to you, so you just go with the flow.
We started with the Saganaki. This came out far too quickly to be prepared especially for us, so it had been sitting there for at least a few minutes before it was bought to our table. You could tell because the cheese was rubbery and stodgy - the was saganaki goes if it isn't served straight from the heat. Lemon juice helps to reduce the richness of the cheese.
Next was some dips, which when you walk in, you can see come from a big bain marie style cooler on the counter. You would find better dips in the fridge at the supermarket to be honest. The bread however that is homemade, is pretty awesome. Nothing like fresh home made bread to soak up all those oils and juices!
Next up were scallops. These were actually delicious. They weren't all that much to look at and look like they are way over cooked, but they tasted nothing of the sort. They were tender, zesty with some lemon and really, really good with the bread! Definitely the highlight.
Next was the whiting. I chose the whiting out of the choices that we were offered, because whiting for some reason screams Greek to me. Not sure what it is. Maybe it's the fishermen that I used to see down at the Warmies when I was a kid, pulling the whiting in. The fish was excellent, minimal bones, not overcooked. However one piece of whiting for $32 was an absolute joke. We didn't realise the price until the bill came at the end. I saw whiting the next day for $5kg at vic market. The fish had just been seared in a pan.
Lastly came the lamb. You would think after cooking lamb for more than 20 years at this same restaurant to so many happy punters, you would think that these guys would have perfected it! Guess what? Not even close. The lamb was almost cold when it came to us. It was dry, dry, dry. And although it wasn't chewy, it was verging on unpleasant to eat. You needed a drink to help wash it down. Which wasn't helped by me having to ask the waiter 3 times for the coke that I ordered. The lamb doesn't even come with any type of garlic sauce or anything like that to help ease the dryness.
Overall, Jim's was a massive disappointment. The service is half arsed, the food is definitely not up to Melbourne's standard. If I was looking for greek food in the future, I'd definitely look elsewhere. The one thing that seems crazy though, is that this place is chockas! There wasn't a spare seat in the house and from my understanding it's like that on most weekends. No idea why, but they must have ordered different food to me. Or maybe it's the atmosphere that reminds them of home... if home has vomit on the stairs leading to the toilet.
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