A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
Something special, Xanthi is a magic carpet ride of a dining experience.
In the upper levels of the refurbished CBD’s Westfield shopping precinct, Xanthi is a hidden oasis. A typically white-tiled Mediterranean entrance opens out onto a simply breathtaking space that is perfect for fine and casual dining. Drawing from the Byzantium-Ottoman era of Greece’s history, dining at Xanthi is akin to dining in a luxurious desert marquee tent, resplendent with all the details of billowing gold drapes from the centre pole of the room, the Persian-esque brocaded covering of the mid-rise banquette seating, and the teardrop lanterns inlaid with amethyst and lapis lazuli stained glass dropping from the low ceiling. A small window of the open kitchen brings a touch of bazaar-like theatre (and the occasional burst of fire) to the experience.
MoMo & Coco visited for a weekend dinner. Divided into “sharing plates, wooden board, spit, mains, sweets,” Xanthi’s share plate style a la carte menu was designed to be a feast of taste sensations…and it was. Of the just under ten or so dishes that MoMo & Coco’s dining party settled on, the flavours were occasionally understated, otherwise bold, the servings mostly generous and adequate. The highlights were the small sharing plates and that much-lauded pork belly baklava.
As this is an abbreviated “Travel Post,” let’s move on to the desserts now. MoMo & Coco have a particular soft spot for Middle Eastern desserts. At Xanthi, sweet-tooths were very well-catered, tempted by an extremely irresistible, extensive dessert menu of 7 options (and 3 ice cream options). We selected the three that we have not seen at other Middle Eastern restaurants. Bypassing the vanilla bean and baklava ice cream options, the first irresistible sampled was the “Olive Oil Ice cream ” ($9). Three pale green orbs were delicately infused with Elea Cretan Extra Virgin Oil to culminate in a smooth mouthfeel, with sweetness conferred by the enfolded nuggets of dried figs. Quite lovely.
Bypassing the ubiquitous tiramisu, baklava, bougatsa (several types of the latter are available) and non-Middle-Eastern cheesecake crumble and chocolate kaitafi roll, we indulged instead in the two more unique of the dessert options available, the first was the “Never on a Sunday Sundae” ($15). Here, a handful of small golden loukoumathes (doughnuts) were thrown and shaken together with a treasure trove of orbs of mastic ice cream that whispered musk and aniseed, balls of soury cherries and chewy opalescent cubes of rosewater-flavoured turkish delight. Although the doughnuts do not surpass our favourite Middle Eastern-style Turkish Delight-filled orbs of glorious sweetness from Maha, this Xanthi irresistible was nonetheless exactly our type of a sundae, thankyou.
The third irresistible was the “Cretan Breakfast” ($13). Notwithstanding its name, it was similar to a traditionally-rendered bougatsa, a homely roll of filo pastry encasing layers of rich custard made with two types of Greek cheeses (kefalotyri and myzithra), to be saturated as desired with a jug of sweet honey. Exquisite indulgence.
Dining at Xanthi is truly something — an experience. And that’s exactly what dining-out should be about. The food is both traditional yet modern, flavours are occasionally understated, otherwise mostly strong rather than exploding, and could therefore possibly be executed with greater confidence. It’s delivered by diligent, respectful staff in a setting that pays homage to the colourful history of Greece (and the Middle East), while simultaneously re-introducing a touch of glamour and decadence in an era of dining-out in Australia where there has been an annoying penchant for uninspired sterile decors. Indeed, notwithstanding the absence of fine linen betopping the tables, Xanthi reminds MoMo & Coco very much of our favourite fine dining restaurant in Melbourne, the sadly soon-to-depart Momo. In that void, it looks like we now know where to go to experience a touch of a magic carpet ride. Xanthi is truly something special.
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: Xanthi Restaurant, 100 Market Street, Level 6, Westfield Shopping Centre, NSW 2000.
- Budget: $$$.
- Sweet irresistibles: Restaurant dessert. Neo-classical, pan-Middle Eastern.
- Must-eat: The “Cretan Breakfast.”
- The short and sweet story: Something special, Xanthi is a magic carpet ride of a dining experience.