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74 | squaremeal.co.uk

restaurants ” food

Which is probably why Opso, a bar and restaurant in Marylebone,

has had such a warm reception since it opened a year ago, serving

sharing plates inspired by the traditional Greek table. Co-founder

Andreas Labridis says the response has been "overwhelming. The

most common thing we hear is 'I didn't know this was Greek food'."

Labridis also says the Greek economic crisis had an unexpectedly

positive e™ ect. "Back home, the crisis has meant chefs have gone

back to basics, using meats and parts of the animal they might have

discarded: the ears, feet, bellies.

Tavernas in Greece used to use

French butter, French wine - now

they source locally. There are also a

lot more Greek chefs in London. Many

arrived two to three years ago and

now have the con

dence to strike out

on their own," he suggests.

Theodore Kyriakou - the man

behind The Real Greek chain and now cult

King's Cross eatery The Greek Larder -

agrees: "For a long time there was no work

or only seasonal work back home. London

is a good reason to pack a suitcase."

The current enthusiasm for the cuisine

is, he says, because "the ingredient is king.

Provenance and freshness matter. With The

Greek Larder, I haven't reinvented the wheel.

I have copied and pasted a version of what

my dad had in the old part of Athens, a deli

started in 1939 that every lunchtime pulled a

long table out front and served lunch using

only the produce he and the market traders

were selling that day." Go to The Greek Larder

and you'll see shelves full of products that

ebb and Ÿ ow with the seasons.

At the Hungry Donkey in Aldgate, the

focus is on Hellenic street food to eat in or

take away, o™ ering

lo pastry pies, yoghurt

pots with cinnamon, walnuts and seasonal

fruit, and courgette fritters.

Bringing us right up to date are a couple

of key new openings. The grandest is

Estiatorio Milos, the

rst London outpost of

Costas Spiliadis' high-end seafood concept.

Opening on Regent Street this month, it will

be serving up 'Milos Classics' such as the

special - a lightly fried courgette, aubergine,

tzatziki and kefalograviera cheese stack -

and its sushi-grade grilled Mediterranean

octopus. There will also be a large market-style

sh display where

diners can pick their catch.

More casual is Suvlaki, soon to open in Soho, serving dishes such

as pork tenderloin, Athenian Caesar salad with grilled chicken thighs

or lamb shoulder skewers and wraps, as well as Greek craft beer.

According to Suvlaki's co-owner Yannis Theodorakakos, the

common denominator in the proliferation of contemporary Greek

restaurants is "the dynamic young professionals who have started

them. New blood making a noise

about the food they want to eat."

These restaurants are also about

proving something on the world

stage. As Theodorakakos explains,

"There is now a young generation

of Greeks in London who want to

show that our food can be healthy,

tasty and sexy. At a time when the

country has received so much unŸ attering

publicity, food is a way to present our

youthful, creative side."

That goes for Greek wine, too - no

more retsina tasting of Toilet Duck. All the

restaurants mentioned here carry Greek wine

only, and with support from Waitrose, M”S

and The Wine Society, there is now around

"300 per cent more choice then there was

three years ago", says Donald Edwards of The

Peckham Bazaar, an eastern Mediterranean

restaurant with a wine list brimming with

indigenous Greek grape varieties. For him

and Mary Pateras, an importer specialising in

Greek wines, the upsurge is about a change

in perceptions as well as product. "Yes, the

wine has itself got better," says Pateras. "But

the economic crisis also made producers

in Greece look out rather than being so

ethnocentric. They have had to

nd new

places to sell to."

Edwards agrees, but also points to

today's Londoners, who try wine without

the preconceptions of older clientele. But

both ultimately believe the change in Greek

cuisine was the real game changer. As Pateras

puts it: "Greek wine has never had quality

Greek food to match it to. Now it does."

For reviews of all the restaurants mentioned

here, visit squaremeal.co.uk

Going native

Time for some less familiar

grape varieties as importer

Mary Pateras picks Greek

wines for summer drinking

1

Hatzidakis Santorini 2014

£11.50, Waitrose

A dry and mineralic white made

on the island of Santorini from

the Assyrtiko grape, it is the

most versatile wine for

matching. with food.

2

Twin Sails Rosé

£7.99, Waitrose

A dry elegant rosé made

from the Xinomavro grape

variety, it's rich in umami,

with wild strawberries, dried

tomatoes, pomegranates

and hints of black olive. A

great summer qua™ .

3

Thymiopoulos Xinomavro 2012

£10.83, Marks and Spencer

This special cuvée made from the

Xinomavro variety is bursting with

red forest fruits with just a hint of

oak. Perfect for a summer BBQ.

"THERE IS NOW A YOUNG GENERATION OF

GREEKS IN LONDON WHO WANT TO SHOW

THAT OUR FOOD CAN BE HEALTHY, TASTY

AND SEXY" YANNIS THEODORAKAKOS

Left to right: a selection of dishes from Hungry Donkey in Aldgate;

Estiatorio Milos chef and owner Costas Spiliadis; The Greek Larder

A dry and mineralic white made

on the island of Santorini from

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