Why London is hotting up for Greek cooking

·3-min read
Greco-Australian: Esti is hosting a pop-up at TT Liquor  (Press handout)
Greco-Australian: Esti is hosting a pop-up at TT Liquor (Press handout)

London has long been home to good Greek restaurants, but lately there is a stronger whiff of olive oil than usual. The latest place to be announced is Kima, a new “fin-to-gill” seafood restaurant that will open next month in Marylebone (57 Paddington Street, W1U, kimarestaurant.com). Translating as “wave” in Greek, Kima will be the third London project from Andreas Labridis and chef Nikos Roussos, the duo behind Opso, which sits opposite the new place (10 Paddington Street, W1U, opso.co.uk), and Carnaby’s lively gastrobar Ino (4 Newburgh Street, W1F, inorestaurant.com).

Between the three, Roussos and Labridis have built the beginnings of a great empire, bringing Hellenic flavours from sea and land. At Ino, find rich squares of feta over classic salad; at the soon-to-open Kima, grilled octopus, prawns and olive oil-drenched fish, a homage to those white and blue islands so beloved by tourists.

But there has been more of late. Take Esti, a new six-month residency at TT Liquor in Shoreditch (17B Kingsland Road, E2, ttliquor.co.uk). The restaurant, from new-on-the-scene Kostas Vais, has sought to combine traditional Greek cooking with Australian hospitality. On the menu are the likes of twice-cooked lamb ribs with tzatziki and Cornish fish alongside a garlicky skordalia.

It isn’t all so humble. Bacchanalia (1-3 Mount Street, W1, bacchanalia.co.uk) is Richard Caring’s newish Grecian-cum-Roman orgy of a restaurant. Diners sit beneath great porcelain white hooves and Mayfair becomes mythological; you could call it Stath Lets Flats after a lottery win. It’s another new spot for taramas, keftedes and juicy Greek sausages and, assault on the senses as it might be, it is rather fun.

Building an empire: Andreas Labridis with chef Nikos Roussos. The pair are opening Kima next month (Press handout)
Building an empire: Andreas Labridis with chef Nikos Roussos. The pair are opening Kima next month (Press handout)

There are old hands that are beginning to pick up renewed attention, too. Andy’s Taverna in Camden (23 Pratt Street, NW1, andystaverna.co.uk) was established in 1967 and is every bit a neighbourhood institution. It’s a cosy and romantic spot for traditional spanakopita, dolmades and kalamari, and prices only ever veer beyond £20 if steaks enter the equation. Lemonia in Primrose Hill (89 Regent’s Park Road, NW1, lemonia.co.uk) is another family run joint that takes diners to the sunny Aegean from a buzzing pocket of north London. It is — and take this as a positive light — a restaurant that might be written by Richard Curtis: convivial, traditional, where old timers serve the chattering classes great bowls of lamb stew and glasses of almost ironic Retsina. Meanwhile, ouzo and fresh fish are the star at the Four Lanterns (96 Cleveland Street, W1T, 020 7387 0704), which came out on top in two reviews by the Standard’s David Ellis — besting both the soulless Zephyr in Notting Hill (itself Grecian-inspired), and Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy spot, the River Restaurant, which happens to have some of the same tableware.

And then there is the unassuming Catalyst Cafe (48 Grays Inn Road, WC1X, catalyst.cafe), an industry-favourite that last summer began to stir interest in Greek dining again. Its hyper-modern cooking, carried out by an oft-changing roster of talented chefs, has been called by “inventive” and “exhilarating” by the likes of the Standard’s own chief critic Jimi Famurewa. Charmingly, it is served with at the whimsy of a Mykonos fisherman, smoking a cigarette and downing a strong espresso from the starboard side.

We are residing in feta-clad days. Pass the ouzo and sprinkle on the oregano. The Greeks have come, and London is living their odyssey.