Kefi Taverna has a hard name to live up to. Situated in the main street of Kingsgrove, this place offers up quintessential Greek cuisine and experience. Its name in Greek means the embodiment of joy, energy, unbounded passion and general high spirits. It’s a hard concept to pin down, but the owners of Kefi Taverna, Steve Sentas and Con Tsoutsouras, are giving it a try.
Head chef at this new venture is David Tsirekas, of Perama and Xanthi fame. With decades of experience behind him, there are very high hopes for this place. The takeaway version has been open for a few months and is enjoying reasonable success.
We venture in on a weekday at around 7pm and there was no live band. The restaurant is located conveniently next to Kingsgrove station and has plentiful parking.
The bar at Kefi Taverna.
A small outdoor seating area sits just outside the glass doors, but this was empty on a chilly night. The front of the restaurant is surprisingly free of tables and instead the host’s desk is set in front of a partition which blocks the view to half the restaurant. A comfortable looking red sofa extends down the glass wall and around the corner on the left, facing the bar. It’s open and modern, combining dark stone and concrete textures with wood and glass, tinged with red. Raw, industrial looking lights shine over the tables.
The bar is stocked with basic alcohol and a professional coffee machine. From the partly open kitchen located opposite the bar can be seen meat on metal skewers floating deliciously and sizzling over hot coals.
When we get there, the restaurant is about half full and buzzing. Upbeat hits from modern Greek artists weave through the air - it’s fun and relaxing. The waiters though seem stressed at times and a bit rusty. All in all the service left something to be desired.
The menu is quite simple. There are a selection of mezedes (small portions of dishes designed as sharing plates), main meals and salads to share. It’s all designed to be shared. It’s quite traditional, with Tsirekas’ own spin.
Two items catch my eye: Yiayia’s chips (grandma’s chips, $9.50) and the Kokoretsi (a combination of barbecued lambs organs commonly eaten in Greece, $45).
We don’t go for either of these, instead ordering baked potatoes ($7), two salads, Whiting, prawns and stuffed vine leaves.
Our salads and potatoes arrive first, heralded by the fragrant scent of oregano. A perfect light golden colour, they are in the juices they were cooked in, served in a small cast iron skillet. They taste just as good, soft and flavoured with lemon. They are almost perfect, perhaps with a hint too much lemon, but pleasurable to eat in any case.
The deliciously tangy baked potatoes.
The Greek salad ($12.50) is exactly what you’d expect – no surprises. The fetta used is perfect for salad – soft and salty. The Marouli salad (Greek for lettuce, $8.50) is fairly self-explanatory. A simple heap of shredded lettuce topped with spring onion and dill in a light vinaigrette dressing. Simple, but lovely. The dill and onion could have been cut a bit more delicately so they mix into the salad evenly and provide flavour through the whole salad.
A traditional Greek salad.
The dishes come fast – basically as soon as they are ready – and if you don’t have enough room on the table, it can feel a bit rushed. But the food just keeps coming.
We ask for some bread as an afterthought and it soon arrives, laid on a wooden board, lightly grilled an herbed. They are thick slices perfect for mopping up the delicious juices left behind on your plate.
Dolmades ($15), grape vine leaves stuffed with rice, are next up. Served in a traditional avgolemono (literally “egg and lemon”) sauce. I have high hopes for these, as they’re a favourite of mine, but they fall short. Although soft and cooked through, the rice doesn’t have enough flavour and there is not enough sauce.
Next up is the fried Whitebait ($15.50) – coated in flour and fried, these small fish are a classic. Tsirekas’ version is served with caramalised onions, adding sweetness to the dish. The fish themselves are soft and taste lovely.
Rich and full of flavour; the prawn saganaki.
Prawns saganaki ($18.50) completes our meal, served with a piece of lightly grilled and herbed bread and a garnish of parsley. They smell amazing as they come to the table and I dig in as soon as I can. They are as delicious as promised. The tomato sauce is rich and flavoursome and the prawns are cooked to perfection. The chunks of fetta in the sauce were cooked and melt in your mouth, adding another layer of flavour to the dish. The only complaint I have is that there might be too much cheese and it overwhelms the dish slightly.
Satisfied and full, we move onto dessert – we choose a classic – loukoumades ($9), greek donuts covered in a lightly flavoured syrup. They should be crunchy on the outside and light and slightly moist on the inside.
Fresh Loukoumades in a warm syrup with crushed pistachios.
An amazing smell preceded them as the waiter brought them to our table – a mix of cinnamon and something familiar that I can't quite pin down. They taste beautiful – crunchy on the outside and covered in just enough syrup, as well as crushed pistachios, and while they’re a little bit heavy, their amazing taste makes up for it.
Classic Greek drinks for something just a bit different.
As well as all this, Kefi has a small range of Greek wines and soft drinks to complement the traditional meal.
The food is good and the atmosphere is lively and relaxing, if a bit loud sometimes. It’s fantastic to go to in big groups. Overall, the owners are pretty close to their mission – to give you an experience full of Kefi.