David Tsirekas’ culinary magic: A two-day Greek food feast at Niagara Cafe in NSW

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It was an amazing two days at the Gundagai’s renowned Niagara Café on Friday, February 23 and Saturday, February 24 – luminous blue skies, a soft warm breeze, a magnificent historical setting, crowds of people (from the region, as well as Sydney, Canberra, Yass and Wagga Wagga) eager to enjoy a shared experience.

There were lots of memories exchanged, memories created anew, and feasting to ones heart’s content on consultant chef David Tsirekas’ Greek inspired and inspiring cuisine.

‘Filotimo’ and ‘nóstimo,’ at the heart of the Greek soul of hospitality and sharing of food, were abundantly present.   

Niagara Cafe
All photos copyright: Effy Alexakis.
Niagara Cafe

Well-known and popular contemporary chef, David Tsirekas  – former executive chef for Kefi Restaurant and 1821 Restaurant in Sydney, and previous owner and chef of Xanthi Bar and Restaurant as well as Perama Greek restaurant also in Sydney – provided Greek food sensations over two successive evenings.

On Friday 23 February, Greek street food, and on Saturday 24, a sit-down Greek feast over two sittings.

Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe

David’s Greek food brand is characteristically boldly innovative with surprising, unexpected twists that beguile the palate. His dishes are always an adventure into the delights of the unanticipated, emerging through his passionate challenging of the familiar – he pushes the known into areas unchartered to seek refreshingly new taste sensations.

David’s main dishes for the two-day event included his contemporary take on: tarama, tyrokafteri, Greekslaw, wild green pie, yiayia’s chips, chicken melitzana, gemista, lamb skaras, loukaniko, BBQ calamari, haloumi chips, pork belly baklava and much, much more.

Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe

His pork belly baklava – one of David’s outstanding signature dishes – where he utilised techniques usually applied when creating the traditional sweet dish to craft something savoury instead, was spectacular. His approach is simple, not complicated, resulting in a cuisine of immense elemental clarity and tastes.

His creative culinary reputation is such that he is in great demand both in Australia and in the United States as a consultant chef – he is about to return to Chicago yet again to deliver his ‘eye-brow-raising’ dishes. 

Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe

The Niagara Café’s restoration has brought the past to life – heritage buildings tell stories about shared community identity, a sense of place, emotional resonance and nurture historical understanding in physical elements and in built purpose and function – but combined with David’s dishes, the Greek drama of taverna-style social engagement focused on exceptionally good food, heightened conversation, boisterous laugher, new friendships made and old ones renewed, was forcefully brought to the fore.

During Friday evening’s Greek street food event Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski presented a highly entertaining short, informal talk on the Greek cafe’s historical evolution and transnational influences through to the broad introduction of Greek cuisine in Australia.

On Saturday’s two sit-down feast sessions, they presented two longer talks, utilising images projected onto the Niagara’s semi-domed ceiling.

Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe
Niagara Cafe

New owners, Kym Fraser and Luke Walton have brought the Niagara Café into the 21st century, respectful of its Greek legacy and its role in transforming popular eating in Australia. A new era has begun – back in the 1930s and 1940s the Niagara was known as “Australia’s Wonder Café”, it is now reclaiming that title, significantly assisted by David Tsirekas’ two days of culinary magic along the way.

The two-day food event at the Niagara was part of the 2024 Greek Festival of Sydney. For more information on the programme and to book tickets to selected events, please visit www.greekfestivalofsydney.com.au

*All photos copyright: Effy Alexakis.

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