Pre-dinner drinks. The prospect of a pre-dinner drink with Strop, has lured me out of the comfortable anonymity of a pub, into the irony-plagued awkwardness of a hipster cocktail bar. Unfortunately Strop can’t make it, she is stuck at Parramatta Station due to Transport Turmoil (and it’s not even raining), so I am alone except for the new Miles Franklin winner to read on my phone, and an excellent whisky sour to sip. Actually it’s not a bad trade. Except for the bill shock – oh well, I guess that is the price you pay for having a maitre de with a waxed moustache, and a 1980s soundtrack designed to make you feel old.
Tonight we are eating at a Greek restaurant called 3 Olives, we’re being joined by Matt and Jim, who last appeared in these pixels back at The Animal which, strangely, is also a Greekish joint. Matt and I are first to arrive at the rapidly filling restaurant. After a quick discussion about increased hangover propensity with age (there’s definitely a thesis in that) we get things under way with a bottle of wine and some dips. Matt is momentarily confused about whether the three dips are free dips, but luckily the waiter and I are clear about what is going on. We are soon joined by Strop and Jim, who help us finish the first bottle and the free dips. Then it is time to get serious about food.
Our enthusiastic and overblown first draft of the food order elicits a little shake of the head, and a quiet “That’s a lot of food,” from the excellent waiter. With his editorial guidance we pare it back to three shared entrees and three mains. The entrees are haloumi, white bait and octopus, and the mains are lamb cutlets, meatballs and quail. Because we don’t want to risk malnutrition we request that an emergency beetroot salad be held in reserve.
Now that we have got the decision making out of the way, Jim takes the opportunity to admonish me for not writing enough about the other punters. So here goes. There are a lot of them – the place is full by about 7:30, and is still full when we leave at 10:00. They are happy. They don’t look particularly Greek, but they are loud. There are a lot of family groups with young children. They are well dressed. They are mostly not teenagers, and they are definitely not hipsters. Although our waiter might be, sometimes it’s a fine line. And they know something that we are only just discovering: 3 Olives is a great place for a night out. It is a family affair, which is as it should be in a Greek restaurant, overseen by Olga, the matriarch who puts the hospitality back into Hospitality Industry. Throughout the night she befriends each table, smiles, makes jokes, and makes you feel like a friend. You will want to come back.
The food is all good. It is not stunt food, just really good, well-cooked simple food. And plenty of it. The octopus is excellent, the meatballs are delicious, but then so are the lamb cutlets and the quail. The accompanying salads are fresh and generous and the chips are crisp on the outside and soft and mushy inside. We didn’t need the beetroot salad.
Meanwhile the conversation was bouncing all over the place. Book writing, Matt’s near miss at being a Famous Author; who is the most passive passive-aggressive person we know; the glamorous new upgrade of Newtown station; drug dogs; young people en-masse; young people singing, and the end-of-an-era deaths of Sue Townsend and Rik Mayall. We probably talked about a bunch of other stuff too, but by that time I had drunk quite a lot and had stopped taking notes. We were having too much fun.
After a short hiatus we turned our stomachs to the subject of dessert. And sweet sticky wine. Jim was keen on the baklava, and Strop wanted galaktoboureko because “It’s the best dessert in the world.” After they had both received lessons in Greek pronunciation from Olga, we decided to share again and have some port as well. The galaktoboureko was good, but I thought it was surpassed by the baklava, which was the best I have ever had.
So get along to 3 Olives, you won’t regret it.