Naming your restaurant after a Greek god can lay you open to accusations of delusions of grandeur – especially when that God represents much that is good about life. Unless, like The Apollo, you are able to deliver a dining experience to match.
The popular and sophisticated Macleay Street venue, The Apollo, is in the heart of Potts Point, the perfect spot for a venue named after the Greek God. The Apollo is co-owned by Jonathan Barthelmess who, at the age of 33, has already established himself as one of Australia’s most exciting chefs, and Sam Christie of Longrain fame.
The restaurant opened in early 2012 to showcase the delicate flavours of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. It is still being delivered in an elegant setting that features classical Greek cornices, granite and concrete finishes, with neutral and earthy tones that are accented by brass fittings and a subtle shock of colour. Working with Architect, George Livissianis, they created a space that’s beautiful in the same way that much of the Greek landscape is – a kind of dusty, engagingly simple setting.
Starting early, Jonathan has been working in kitchens since his early teens, preparing him for bigger things such as guiding the Manly Pavilion Restaurant to Sydney Morning Herald’s Best New Restaurant of 2011 award.
His family hails from the Greek Island of Kastellorizo, which has strong Middle Eastern and Egyptian influences that have permeated his cooking. His grandfather was a chef at former Sydney haute cuisine icon, Pruniers, though at home he still cooked Greek. This is where Jonathan learnt many of his trademark talents, combining traditional simplicity with contemporary ingredients and techniques. He also learnt a great deal from mentors, Stefano Manfredi and Janni Kyritsis.
Working with Head Chef, Joshua Davidson, only the freshest local produce is selected for an array of Mediterranean favourites that go well beyond the standard fare, each with their own Apollo ‘stamp.’
While you’ll find staples like Taramasalata and Tzatziki, also expect to see dishes like Wild Weed and Cheese Pie with Pritharaki pasta. There is also a range of mains cooked over wood or charcoal, such as Grilled Snapper with broccoli, capers and mint, Oven-Baked Lamb Shoulder and Apollo’s Homemade Pork Sausage with chickpeas and saffron.
However seriously food is taken at The Apollo, there is a refreshing recognition that there must always be a lightness of touch and an awareness that, whether simple or spectacular, eating out must essentially be delicious and true to the chosen cuisine. As well as banquette and outdoor seating, a chef’s table is placed adjacent to the kitchen for a more private gathering, with seating for up to twelve guests. This can be booked exclusively for a special occasion, where one of the special Greek banquet menus will be perfect either as an introduction to Greek cuisine or for old hands.
Jonathan said that he is happy to be part of the Sydney hospitality scene. “There’s a generational shift in our food culture that’s making Sydney one of the world’s most exciting places to eat right now,” he said.