We've tried a few more places and I just thought I'd write quick reviews.
The Commoner -
I think this was my favorite in our last few restaurants - we saw they had roast suckling pig for a Sunday lunch and so we booked a table - even for a weekend lunch I think this place you need bookings. I loved the atmosphere - cosy, charming, sweet, warm, caring - really a small place on a busy street, but as soon as I sat down I wanted to stay for hours. They have some nice wines by the glass (I really liked the central Otago Pinot) and also refreshing non-alcohol drinks involving mint and lime. I had somehow pictures a whole baby pig being wheeled around and sliced, but no. But we had a nice rib, with some extra meat pieces and cracklin', which I feel is essential. You could taste the flavor of the wood smoke in the pork.
We also had beignets for dessert which were warm and served w cream and jam. yum. and buttermilk pudding w blueberries. I was very happy. This was some of the best service and it also felt like they knew a lot of their customers. I could see into the kitchen which I enjoyed. Very focused on what is in season. I want to go back.
The menu had a lot of fun things - wallaby tartare and kangaroo fillet and spanner crab and we ordered them all. And I thought the food was tasty, but there were two big issues, one the kitchen was extremely slow, and two the service was just off in the sense that they were not paying attention to people, when they wanted more to drink, they did not offer more bread (when you are waiting forever you'd like to have things like that) they reached across people to serve or remove plates. I get that it is training grounds (like Delancey Street in SF), but still. issues.
Hellenic republic -
I loved the atmosphere - filled with people having a good time, and I enjoyed the food, but it wasn't like rock my world food. We did the set menu, which is very reasonable $58/person and way more food then we could eat - fish and meat and entrees and dessert. I feel like I tasted most of the menu and it was all ok, but it was somehow not innovative/creative, to me.