This post was actually supposed to be a review about a new ‘eating house’ that opened last year in Elsternwick, that I was so pleased to visit during my recent trip to Melbourne. I felt lucky to visit because Bricks & Mortar Eating House is owned, managed and run by a dear friend I went to school with, Anna Konstantinidis and her fiancè George Petinakis. I sent Anna some questions, but what transpired was Anna’s story, which I really want to share with you all.
Anna is one of those gifted and talented people that was born to bring people together through her love of food, evident in whatever leaves her kitchen. The outstanding themes in Anna’s story are family, love, food, dedication, and hard work. So, when I asked Anna had she always had a passion for cooking, she replied with a beautiful memory from her childhood. “My love for food stems back to age 6-7, I hid in the back of my fathers valiant station wagon when he was on his way to the footscray fish market (circa 1977) and waited a good 30 mins before I let him know I was there, knowing full well that he wouldn’t turn around and take me back home. We lived in Mornington at the time. After his initial anger and complete shock, we continued and I was allowed to sit in the front seat. When he asked me why, my answer was, that I wanted to see the fish and when we got back to the shop, I wanted to learn how to gut & fillet them like he did. And that’s exactly what happened. My first fish I learnt to fillet was flathead. I remember as if it were yesterday, and when he opened the doors to the market, there was no smell, it was clean and I stood in complete awe. It was then that I knew that I had a love of all things related to food.”
Following Anna’s adventures on Facebook, I am always rather envious of anyone fortunate to be invited to her Christmas lunches. I asked Anna to tell me about her special Christmas feasts she prepares for her family.
“Christmas… Ah.. Most people cringe, I started planning it in January as we are having 36 this year… Growing up in the back of a fish n chip shop had its sacrifices, we never went on holidays, we didn’t live as a conventional family in a proper house (we lived in a room out the back) and we rarely got time with our parents. Christmas Day was an exception and was always fabulous. We are a very small family, my mums’ sister and her husband (no children) and my parents and us ( Tess & me). Dad would put a trestle table in the shop, Mum & Auntie would set it and the food would come out. Basically it was always the biggest & best crayfish, prawns & oysters, salad and home made mayonnaise on the side. Those days, dad would have all his contacts at the market and the crayfish would come in 50kg hessian bags. I remember so many things about the way my father respected food and his family. No matter what, he would hand pick our food for Christmas. He would never say, I’m going to put it all out and whatever is left we can have. It was the opposite and that has translated down to me, he ALWAYS set our special crays, prawns etc.. aside and whatever sold- was sold but ours was special. Once I was married I made the call to take it in turns and celebrate all together. It worked really well for about 24/25 years and to be honest I truly love it and so it seems that I have catered for Christmas most of those years. Even when it’s Tessies turn, I organize the menu, food etc and prepare it.. It’s just her house that’s on offer!
A little note about the food on Christmas Day, I think it’s been the same menu and I’m not joking, for about 20 years, it just works and everyone looks forward to it. I decided back then that Easter was for traditional Greek food & customs given that it is the most celebrated day in the Orthodox calendar and that Christmas would be an Aussie / English tradition and the parents absolutely love it, they love everything, the turkey the fruit cake the mince pies.. I’m serious when I say EVERYTHING. I start my fruit mince the year before, so I’m always a year ahead if that makes sense? I macerate & feed it for 12 months and I turn it once a month. At the moment I have one lot that is 3years old, it’s super moist and full of flavour. Traditionally I try to always start Christmas morning with baking my tarts before anyone is up, I want to evoke the memory of Christmas via smell. My sister is always in charge of Bon bons & cherries. Traditionally my father says Grace before we begin and then we Bon Bon, put our hats on and eat”.
I asked Anna if her Greek origins are evident at Bricks & Mortar Eating House. “Greek Origins evident in the menu? “Not really, I’m excited by the diversity of food in general, fascinated is probably a better word, extremely fascinated, the minute I find a new dish I research the crap out of it! I’m not drawn to any one particular cuisine, rather I’m constantly watching food shows from all over the world and subscribe to various overseas magazines so that I can constantly inspire my mind”.
Anna has spent all her working life somehow involved in the food industry, and when she met her fiancè George, they immediately hit it off when their conversations centred around food, wine and hospitality. George had been running food establishments for 30 years but had never owned & operated his own. Then Anna came into his life and Bricks and Mortar Eating house was born. I was curious to know where the name came from. Anna explains that George inadvertantly put the idea into her head when he told her about his parents recently celebrating 50 years of marriage. His youngest brother Steve made a speech, ending it by stating that- “what our parents have is a Bricks & Mortar relationship, metaphorically speaking you can’t build anything in life if one is missing” George and Anna agreed that they hope to have the same, a Bricks & Mortar relationship, a strong foundation where the Bricks (George) is the strength & protector and Anna is the mortar, the glue that holds everything together. Anna then added ‘eating house’. “I want people to understand that and just that, we are all about comfort food the kind that your mother or grandmother would make.”
I sincerely wish George and Anna a beautiful future together. I also suggest that if you happen to be near Glenhuntly Rd in Elsternwick, that you pop into Bricks & Mortar Eating House, whether it be for breakfast, lunch, or one of Anna’s delicious desserts with a delicious coffee.
Bricks & Mortar Eating House
345 Glen Huntly Rd, Elsternwick VIC 3185, Australia Tel: +61 3 9523 1118