MELBOURNE | After what seems like a lifetime of waiting, famed souvlaki outlet Jimmy Grants has finally opened it’s doors in Richmond. This is the fourth in the wildly successful chain and joins stores in Fitzroy, Emporium, and Ormond, continuing the work of the seemingly unstoppable wunderkind Chef George Calombaris (so unstoppable his website even managed to crash my browser). But for those of you unfamiliar with this Melbourne institution, here’s what you need to know.
Jimmy Grants is a bit of rarity. We all know the souvlaki, or the kebab, or any other cuisine of this style you care to name, but many of us only really know of it at 2am (or later) and may be unlikely to remember the taste without some extensive reminders. In comparison, Jimmy Grants aims to do something different. The souvlakis still taste like souvlakis of course, but their presentation, their carefully chosen recipes and ingredients, and in particular their opening hours (the Richmond store closes at 10pm) position them squarely in a class all their own, a class far away from the realm of drunk food.
Looking inside, if the famed Apple retail stores are known for their wood surfaces and clean white walls, and Swedish flatpack furniture store IKEA is known for its maze-like shopfloor, then Jimmy Grants in Richmond should most surely be known for it’s enormous round mirrors. With their presence filling up almost every wall in the place, a glance in any direction will likely reveal your own familiar face starting back. Of course like all great store designs, this very distinct feature creates a feeling unlike any other souvlaki store and most certainly anywhere in Richmond.
Straying to the food, the Jimmy Grants menu offers something a little different than a traditional souvlaki outlet. We were invited for the Richmond opening, so here are a few of our favourites from the night.
Steamed Jimmy Dimmy
We know what you’re thinking, what is a dim sim doing at a souvlaki store? But if you haven’t tasted one of these before, we are very happy to say that this little gamble pays off in a very big way. By treating the humble dim sim as something more than fodder for a fish and chippy, it elevates it to something worthy of attention. We’ll admit we don’t know the story behind it, perhaps it was a dare, but we do think it’s a very clever and very original take on a dim sim that most certainly deserves your attention.
While we would like to suggest this was named after the cartoon character of the same name (or his ill-fated car), we’re pretty certain the origins of the name of this vegetarian falafel-based souvlaki are from a far older place. And after having a few bites, I was not surprised to hear that people who would usually avoid the vegetarian option on any menu, are often more than happy to choose this as their souvlaki of choice. It there’s such a thing as a premium vegetarian option, this is likely to be it.
The Duck Souvlaki
Offered exclusively for the launch of the Richmond store, this duck souvlaki doesn’t have a snappy nickname that was know of yet, but I’m certain it’s just around the bend. At first I was surprised to hear of duck being used, but my fears were quickly allayed. In many respects it reminded me of Peking duck, but transplanted into something far removed from small pancakes. I’m not sure if it will make it to the chain’s regular menu or even if it will be on the menu at the Richmond store, but if it makes it, you won’t be disappointed.
Aside from having the best of the nicknames, the Mr Papadopoulos is first and foremost, the souvlaki in which Jimmy Grants will be measured. For every time you had that lamb souvlaki on your way home from the club or the bar, you compare that experience with this lamb souvlaki. How does it stack up? Quite simply, with the Mr Papadopoulos the lamb is nicely slow cooked, the flavours are all given the right airtime, and the bread is soft and carefully chosen. The verdict is that if you’re sober enough to appreciate it, this is the souvlaki for you.
A side of chips topped with crumbled feta and oregano and olive oil never did anyone any harm. A great tasting twist to something simple.
If you’re in the mood for something on the healthier end of the scale, there are a range of salads on offer, including this tasty grain salad. Pulses, grains, nuts and herbs topped with herb yoghurt make for a tasty lighter option.
At the sweeter end of the scale, there are a few options on offer. We’re big fans of the Jim Jam, a take on the Wagon Wheel, but at the Richmond opening it was all about the Whippy Snapper – a tasty mixture of soft serve chocolate baklava ice-cream, salted caramel and… crunchy stuff!
They do large sundaes as well (the Whippy Snapper), but after you finish everything else on this list, you may not have the stomach to take on anything larger.
At this point, it’s worth stepping away from these bright lights and enormous mirrors to take a look at what Jimmy Grants really is. If you were to happily say that your desire for a souvlaki is mostly confined to when you’re a little drunk at 3am, then Jimmy Grants is not and never will be the food of choice for you. And for that there are plenty of other amazing options out there that will gladly fill that void. However, if you’re willing, as so many Melbournians are, to see a souvlaki as being something of a culinary pleasure that does more than line the stomach, then we think you will be incredibly happy with what Jimmy Grants has to offer.
Of course with its rapid expansion, Jimmy Grants will certainly have its detractors yearning for simpler days, but if it continues in the same fashion as the newly-opened Richmond store, then I don’t think we have anything to worry about just yet. Simple Greek street food done well, in a suitably 1970s-esque homely Greek/Australian space.
Jimmy Grants Richmond
427 Church Street
Mon – Sun: 11:00am to 10:00pm