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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 8 April 2017
14 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 8 APRIL 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU Diving into the Richmond Oysters philosophy Neos Kosmos visits the family business’ newest establishment in the heart of Oakleigh, bringing six decades of seafood legacy and modern culture to your table S ince 1959, when brothers Tony and Nick Anassis established a single-fronted retail outlet next to the train line in Church Street, Richmond Oysters have been committed to delivering a superior standard of quality product to their diverse Melbourne clientele across wholesale, restaurant, and retail. They shucked oysters and supplied fish whilst doing small deliveries to restaurants and bars across the city. This one-on-one approach and door-to-door promotion of their business, humble as it might have been, set them apart. It was this connection with the community and the kind of relationships the two brothers built with their clientele that helped them grow to be one of the most respected seafood establishments in Melbourne. Personally, I have lost count of the times people from the Greek community have directed me straight to Richmond Oysters for "the best seafood you've ever had". The same 'advice' would come from my family, my Greek friends, and lately from Melbourne's Instagram food connoisseurs. I have shopped and grabbed a bite several times at the Church Street nest, but since the Oakleigh restaurant opened its gates I became even more curious about how it all started and culminated into this impressive premium dining establishment. I found Sarakosti (Easter Lent) was a great opportunity to explore the menu, so I booked myself a table and arranged an interview with Caleb Griffiths, Richmond Oysters' business manager. "From early on, I've been fascinated by Richmond Oysters," Caleb who sees himself as an honorary Greek, tells Neos Kosmos. "At periods they had dozens of ladies shucking scallops, or dozens of guys shucking oysters; there was a huge production behind that little shop." "There were live lobster tanks, fish display cases, everything," he muses. "Even when there was nothing on display, Evan Triantafyllou, who has been our fishmonger for almost 40 years, would be like 'Wait, I've got something good for you', he'd go to the back, find something he knew the customer would like, cut it up and bring it out. Greek-style." Caleb, whose mother used to shop at Richmond Oysters, remembers the business flourishing and building a sound reputation on those very relationships. "Many of our customers and their families had been shopping with us one way or another for up to 50 years," he explains. "Just like my mother. She would go to them for as long as I can remember, even before I was born. Tony and Nick are our community icons." In 2008, the second generation of Anassis, brothers Theo and Chris who have taken the reins, decided to expand the operation and renovated half of the Richmond production site into a restaurant with the help of Alex Scoutas, one of the company's retail managers. "Nine years ago they opened the restaurant, which PHOTOS: VLAD SAVIN/ RUSTICA FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY basically started as a small kitchen. Alex and Evan set it up and the main feature was a nine-metre long cabinet with fresh fish, fillet fish, lobsters, prawns, mussels, scallops, calamari... Alex would make fish pies, skewers, dips, platters; he would come up with so many dishes." The philosophy of the Richmond eatery was built on the foundations of the retail business. The first restaurant became an extension of the shop and family's heritage in Melbourne and complimented the stark shopfront. It was also fitted out to have that simple, clean, almost surgical feel yet come across as a pristine space offering the freshest seafood of the best quality. Retail and consumption would come straight out of that window. "In the beginning, someone could come in and say 'I want that tuna in the window, I don't want anything with it, just some rice'. Evan would take it out and Alex would put the most delicious, crisp flavours on that plate." "We were mainly about what the customer wanted to eat, our service was built on a more personal, or personalised approach and people loved that," Caleb continues. Year by year, Alex Scoutas would add more items to the menu and evolve the dishes. Based on seasonality and availability he would create the most variable seafood platters that catered for all tastes and this, to date, remains their signature dish. "It's our two-tier delicious monstrosity," Caleb laughs. "The best and biggest seafood platter in Melbourne.
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