How Jim’s Greek Tavern in Melbourne gives people a taste of Greek village hospitality

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In the Collingwood neighbourhood of Melbourne, Victoria, next to the second-hand shops and the hipster corners, there is a special Greek tavern that everyone should visit.

People are, of course, those who make a place special. In the case of Jim’s Greek Tavern, you can instantly feel the warm welcome of its staff and the owners, before you are taken on a trip around Greece through a series of unique and traditional dishes.

On the right, the daughter of Mr Leonidas

I have been in Australia from Greece for almost five months now and after visiting Jim’s Greek Tavern, I felt like I was back home for the first time.

When you visit, the staff will take you on a tour of what tastes await you.

You can tell almost immediately that the owner, Leonidas Panagopoulos, is a person with a big heart. He has one of the most contagious laughs I have ever heard, and he narrates with passion the story of how he created his tavern with love.

Preparing the dishes

Over 40 years of passion:

Born in a village in Kalamata, Greece in 1956, Leonidas left at the age of 14 to come to Melbourne, where he would eventually build his life in hospitality.

He remembers his mother in the village sending him to call his father or uncle from the market and meet them at the butcher’s taverns.

“I could see the pans and forks hanging around,” he says.

Greek style decoration

Leonidas first got a job at the Melbourne tavern in 1982, when it was called “Jim’s pizza place,” before buying it with a colleague one year after.

“Everything that’s fried is served with the pan to give it that village feel,” he says.

I felt like I was back home for the first time.

He explains to me that the products are carefully picked from the best producers of the area, while things such as olives, cheese, oregano, mountain tea, vinegar and wine vinegar, come from Greece.

People of Jim’s Tavern

What is also special at Jim’s Greek Tavern is the fact that there is no menu to read. Instead, when you visit, the staff will take you on a tour of what tastes await you.

“My philosophy is as follows. You know you’re hungry and you don’t know what you want to eat. If you take the menu, you will start reading, you will ask the waiter to explain. Then you’ll choose something based on price rather than something you actually want to eat,” Leonidas says.

The tavern

“We give customers a tour of Greek cuisine. People get different appetisers and share them.”

Leonidas says that costumers welcome his suggestions and they reply to them instantly saying, “Bring them!”

“Sometimes when they tell me that a restaurant without a menu isn’t a restaurant, I tell them, to tease them, ‘I have a menu, but it’s not written’,” he says.

Greek style decoration

The tasting experience starts with the appetisers, taramasalata, eggplant salads, grilled octopus, fried zucchini and bell pepper with feta cheese and then comes the seafood, with squid, scallops, shrimps, grilled fish. At the end, people usually like to finish their meal with meat.

When asked about the reason behind Australians’ love for Greek cuisine, he says that it is because it is clean.

Jim’s Greek Tavern people were full of smiles

“We don’t have sauces. If you grill the fish with just lemon on it and the fish is not fresh, they’ll return it back to you. Tastes do not cover one another. The dishes are simple and clean. You feel what you want to eat,” Leonidas explains.

Jim’s Greek Tavern in Collingwood

In Jim’s Greek Tavern, everything is home-made, even the bread, which is served warm.

“We do not take anything ready from outside, it is strictly prohibited. The place must have its own identity,” he concludes.

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