I have been looking forward to visiting this place for a long time. There is something attractive in the look of it, an honesty, and in the straightforward name. You know what you are going to get: grilled things, from Europe. Eastern Europe to be specific: Macedonia and the Balkans. Meat and seafood is the order of the day, but first we had to get there.
Arriving early, I decided to have a quiet drink at Bench before the main event kicked off at Europe Grill. As I was settling onto Bench’s actual streetside bench, who should pull up in front of me in a big black ute, but that well-travelled pensioner John. He looked very comfortable in the role of the landed gentry come to town for a bit of business and a bit of a knees up.
We had a quiet drink and a chat outside Bench, trying not to let our legs poke too far onto the footpath in case we tripped up one of the passers-by. There were quite a lot of pedestrians hurrying up the hill in waves, released by the traffic lights at Alice Street, and eager to get to their Friday night assignations.
For once all of our party arrived right on time at the restaurant, so John and I were the last there, having first discussed guitar making in Wellington, the true meaning of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing, WestConnex, Transport Police, Nazis, the problems with democracy, and John’s plans for a technocratic post-democratic democracy.
John and I slipped into the only seats left, at opposite ends of the table, which was just as well, as we had nothing left to talk about. There were seven of us for the evening: Strop of course, Roy and Jill, fresh from the decreasingly leafy Epping, Monica, soon to return to the Old Country, and Wendy from Pyrmont Heights.
Europe Grill is a bit of an institution at this end of King Street. It is located on a corner block, with the kitchen up front, so the grill chef can keep an eye on who’s coming and going, and so the smells of grilling meat can afflict the salivary glands of every non-vegan within a hundred metres. Being Newtown though, there might not be that many non-vegans. However I am one and I am proud, and by this time I was actually quite hungry.
But first there was chatting – quite a lot chatting. It happened to be Strop’s birthday, which was not the reason for the outing, just a happy coincidence, so there were lots of birthday wishes flying around, and not much attention being paid to the menus. Which became a bit of a problem when Roy and I ordered a couple of beers to start. Nearly everyone else wanted wine, but which one? Strop soon discovered that the wine list was full of varieties she had never heard of. The waitress, clearly exasperated by our lack of organisation, headed off to get the beers while the wine discussion was had. I was just glad that she had her priorities right.
While Roy and I drank our beers and discussed the growth rates of Moreton Bay fig trees when utilised in a revenge-planting scenario, we sensed a great disturbance in the Force, emanating from the other end of the table. Strop having first taken umbrage at the waitress’ assertion that of course all rosés were sweet, was now giving her both barrels of cold, hard logic, pointing out that, as the restaurant didn’t have our first choice of wine, we were going to have to refer once again to the wine list to choose another, and that this process might take a moment to complete. I don’t think the waitress subscribed to the same logic Strop did: she wasn’t seen anywhere near our table for some time afterwards. Which was fine as it gave us all plenty of time to workshop the exchange, choose a wine and decide on our food strategy.
After a protracted negotiation communicated by eyebrow raising, head nodding, and eye rolling between Strop, the chef and the waitress, a settlement was reached and we were able to place our order. Strop and Jill decided on herb and garlic bread to start, a grilled meat platter and two grilled seafood platters as well as salads and grilled peppers.
The herb and garlic bread was excellent and so were the salads. One was cabbage, kind of like coleslaw, but without the heavy dressing. The other salad was potato based. Both were very good and surprisingly light and delicate. The peppers were good too, with plenty of garlicky sauce, a point that Jill kept reminding us of throughout the evening.
There was plenty of meat and seafood on the platters, in fact a bit more than we could cope with. There were baby octopus, prawns and fish on the seafood platters and the meat one had chicken, pork chops, pork on skewers, cevapi, rissoles, and paprika sausage. Yumm.
The arrival of the meat triggered off a call for some red wine. This time the alpha females squared up to each other with mutual respect. The waitress was heard to refer to Strop as “Special for wine.” She was obviously no longer willing to trust the wine list, and arrived at the table with bottles in each hand and a couple tucked under her arms, offering a range for Strop to choose from. After a few trips back and forth we ended up with a Macedonian merlot, which slipped down very nicely.
The meat platter had stopped us in our tracks but it didn’t supress our desire for dessert, which was unfortunate because the servings were very large. Strop had now decided that she and the waitress were besties, and sought her advice regarding Tulumba, which was something none of us had ever encountered before.
“What are they?” Strop asked.
“Very nice if you like it,” her bestie replied.
On that basis, no one was prepared to take the risk. Instead we had strudels (apple or cherry), pancakes and baklava. As I said, the servings were large, more than some of us could cope with, and everything was drizzled with chocolate sauce. John and Roy had coffee – they would like me to record the fact that it was very good.
We had a great time at Europe Grill despite a few ruffled feathers. It’s a good place for a large group, as long as you get your ordering organised.