Masterchef judge George Calombaris has become a slender gentleman of late. We’re not surprised. For the past few months he’s been opening restaurants like a madman.
First came his casual Greek restaurant-bar Gazi. In October the smaller part of Press Club will re-open as a test kitchen. This month we’ve got Jimmy Grants – Calombaris’ fancy souvlaki shop. This is no late-night greasepit. It’s a bar, diner and takeaway in one where you can get ouzo for a fiver, hammer huge fresh salads full of almonds, barley and citrusy handfuls of rough cut parsley, or get a baggie of slow roasted lamb to go. The kebab game just changed.
Unlike a lot of Melbourne’s fancified hot dog stands and burger joints, Jimmy’s is almost as cheap as its inspiration. Three huge steamed dim sims are $6 and worth every dime. Minced chicken with sweet sautéed cabbage and capers are captured in glossy wonton skins.
Our Bonegilla souvlaki – the double meat combo king of the six-souva menu – is $8.50. Them’s Car Wash Kebab prices. Here your coin gets you get a charred, pillowy flatbread stuffed with hot chips, juicy hunks of lamb shoulder and rotisserie chicken with an enlivening jab of mustard, parsley and tangy caramelised onions. What it lacks in hugeness and sweet chilli sauce, it makes up for in straight-shooting deliciousness. Get a grilled prawn and cucumber version for just a buck more. Or how about a meat plate? A cool $16 gets you a platter of lamb or bird with a big dish of cucumber and yoghurt dip. Add flatbreads and citrusy iceberg salad for a fiver.
Calombaris hasn’t quite run out of mileage on his Greek-Italian heritage yet - Jimmy Grants is actually rhyming slang for immigrants. His family tree is printed on the floor-staff’s uniforms, and the murals across the brick and blue tiled walls are all of ships, planes and hopeful souls from far away. But it’s not the diaspora you’ll be dining with. The communal tables and bar seats are packed with those stopping and dropping on their migration between Northcote and the CBD.
We like the idea of passionfruit wagon wheels more than the dark-chocolate-meets-sour-marshmallow reality, but a bag of honey-soaked deep-fried doughnut balls are such things as dreams and insulin attacks are made of.
Sadly, Jimmy is only open till 11pm. Then again, this is food you don’t need a 5-hour booze entrée for. Go hard, and still go home early.