389 Lonsdale St
Happy Birthday Chris! On the eve of my other half turning 20, I found myself with his family at what I think is one of the best Greek restaurants in Melbourne – Aspro Ble. We loved the cosy, romantic dinner we had here a year ago, and we have always been meaning to return but unfortunately one of us happened to be a food blogger constantly searching for new eats. Incidentally, I realised just the other day that I’ve been pronouncing Aspro Ble wrong the whole time; turns out it’s Aspro Blee, not Aspro bleh.
Anyway, as this dinner is part of Chris’ birthday present, it was his lovely parents’ shout. So the least I could do was to not constantly interrupt the meal with incessant photo taking, so if you want to see a couple of grainy blurry iPhone photos, you can take a look at the post from my original visit here.
(Who are we kidding? Chris bullied me into leaving my camera at home, and this is the one time each year where I have to grudgingly oblige. His family even asked me where my camera was.)
Whilst going through the menu, we ordered a round of drinks and a Trio of Dips and Chargrilled Bread ($12) to share. A long rectangular plate came out minutes later, laden with two types of bread, dips, and a small plate of rich, oily olives. The dips – tzatziki, hommus, and taramosalata – were house-made and delightfully fresh; I especially liked the taramosalata, a bright pink cod roe dip that was creamy and subtly fishy. We could have left at this point and we would have been entirely satisfied.
After a bit of coaxing by our waitress, we decided to share our dishes instead of ordering separately. The Spanakopita ($14) came out first, followed by the Calamari and Prawn Dumplings ($16). The spanakopita was squeaky with cheese and very flavoursome, but unfortunately also rather soggy, lacking in the flaky pastry that is arguably the highlight of the pie. The dumplings were delicious little parcels, filled with delicately diced seafood and drowned in a thick, creamy dill and caper sauce.
Then the mains started coming out. Ordered by Chris’ Mum was Aspro Ble’s legendary Slow Roast Lamb ($24). Rarely have I had lamb so buttery, infused with its own juices from a long, slow roast. Served with a cool tzatziki and a small jug of tarragon gravy, this was met with murmurs of appreciation all around the table.
Chris’ Dad ordered the Greek Island Goat Stew ($23), which was remarkably tender, especially given how tough goat can be. The sauce was a lovely concoction of tomato and wine, and the accompanying herbed pilaf was golden and fluffy, a more than worthy pairing for the delicious stew. Also I just noticed that whilst Chris’ dad got goat, Chris’ mum got lamb – what an adorable coincidence!
The birthday boy was originally thinking of having the pastitsio which he had enjoyed so much on our first visit, but the menu had undergone a large change since then, so that was no longer available. Instead, Chris ordered the Butterflied Oregano, Garlic and Lemon Chargrilled Chicken (half, $23). The small chicken had gloriously crispy skin, and the tender flesh was infused with the pungent fragrance of garlic. Served with a purple cabbage salad on top, this is one beautifully roasted chicken.
I was tossing up between roast pork and Swordfish ‘Spetses’ Style ($24), but I ended up choosing the latter, considering that I had just had a porkalicious meal at Gypsy and Pig the day before. This proved to be an excellent choice; a solid yet moist plank of swordfish came encrusted with a mix of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, onions and capers. The combination of sunny flavours from the olives, the sour notes of the capers, a rich, earthy feel imparted by the vegetables, and the gentle but insistent nudge from the swordfish came together so well, and the result was an explosion of flavour.
We were all full by then but Chris’ sister still had her eyes on the Baklava ($10). Unlike the Lebanese version, this pastry was baked in a wood-fire oven so it came out almost like a slice of pie. It reminded all of us of apple crumble with its layers of walnuts and pastry flavoured heavily with cinnamon. Two scoops of (what we think was) almond ice cream was the perfect foil to all the syrupy sweetness of the honey. It was a gorgeous ending to our meal, and the perfect size to share in our state of satiation.
There are few restaurants in Melbourne I find as charming as Aspro Ble. With tables that spill out onto the street, and the simple yet comforting blue and white decor, Aspro Ble is the perfect low-key restaurant with a menu that is humble, yet so easy to love.
Rating: 15/20 – aspro definitely-not-bleh.