Night has fallen and we wade through the darkness, in search of authentic Greek food that will tame our hunger, in one swift bite. We pass the colourful murals vying for our attention, blues and pinks dancing together in perfect harmony, until we reach a quiet road in Aldgate. A light flickers our way, like a torch in the darkness and as the street lamps flicker on and off, suddenly the manna that we had been after stands before our very own eyes. It’s small, but nevertheless overflowing with customers, whose radiance gleams through their harmonious laughter. At first we are seated at a table, with barely any space to photograph food, or to even feel comfortable, but the manager kindly locates us a more suitable table, where we can feel at home once more. Tensions dissipate and we begin to relax, as we languorously flick through the menu with starving eyes, our stomachs rumbling in protest. We begin with Mezedakia (nibbles) handpicked Kalamata and Amfissa olives, plump and round competing against warm, soft pitta bread, lovingly drizzled in extra virgin oil, salt & oregano. But would the salted Grilled Halloumi, Tiropita or Feta Bougiourdi claim our hearts first?
New to authentic Greek cuisine, the manager helped us choose culinary delights, aware that as a vegetarian with allergies, there needed to be something special to wow and delight my senses. The feta bougiourdi was first to taste, delectable oven-baked feta cheese with tomatoes & paprika, washed down with a refreshing Ginger Pony. The Mastiha Liqueur, was intermixed with a spice infused syrup, ginger beer and a hint of lemon, counteracting the tartness of the seasoned grilled tomatoes and the crumbled feta cheese. But a quick sip of my companion Marie’s Mule G&T was enough to convince me that the Ginger Pony was the way to go, a rare jewel among cocktails. We toasted our night Greek style, without the smashing of plates. The Halloumi we chowed down on with ample gusto, mopped up with extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet staple. But the Tiropita cheese pie was even more delectable, a warm Mezedes, filled with plenty of love and flavour. Crispy, flaky, with the right amount of cheese, it melted in our mouths, like ice cream on a warm summers day, as our drinks were replenished before our very own eyes.
A break between the starters and mains were needed, a brief respite, two more cocktails flung our way. A Rebel Donkey and a Retsina Spritzer, two polar opposites taking their place on the main stage. The Rebel Donkey was Marie’s choice, an aged tsipouro, with ginger, lime and bergamot, lovingly infused. But it was the mighty Retsina spritzer, which heartily quenched my thirst the most. Light and fruity splashes of mandarin was juxtaposed by bergamont, whose tasting notes were bitter and tart, with nuances of fruit and aromatic elements. But the sweetness of the mandarain made the spritzer a divine palette cleanser, offset by the Three Cents Gentlemans Soda with a Greek classic of Retsina Papagiannakos, for an extra cherry on the top. Room for our mains had been made and while we envisioned folkloric dancers breaking out of the shadows and smashing plates, our dinner was a rather more elegant and classic affair. Our veggie burgers were presented with a flourish; Marie’s a mushroom and Hallumoi pitta burger, served with hand cut chips and rocket salad and mine sans mushroom, with a red pepper relish. Our stomachs filled with good food bloated, until we could eat no more, loudly exclaiming ‘ Time To Get Pregnant’ much to the amused delight of our fellow restaurateurs.
But the feasting wasn’t over just yet, and we were plied with generous helpings of dessert. M settled for a warm cocoa brownie, rich and decadent , served with a dollop of buffalo ice cream, while a traditional Portokalopita (orange ripple cake), with buffalo ice cream was the winner for me, beautifully presented in a round china dish. The buffalo ice cream was not to my taste, too sour for my liking but Marie was a fan, reaching over to plonk my ice cream onto her plate. But the orange ripple cake on the other hand was like a gift sent from the Gods above, a thick sponge infused with citrus delight. The Portokalopita played with my senses, citric elements infused throughout the sponge layers, while orange peel adorned the top of the cake , like a decorative shield of armour. But would the cocoa brownie win the race? One taste confirmed that the orange ripple cake was the one for me and it danced around my teeth, in sheer delight and ecstasy. But no Greek dessert could be complete without some ol’ fashioned dessert wine , a Gaia Vinsanto, the colour of honey spun with gold.
Gai Vinsanto began its days in the beautiful Aegean Islands of Santorini and Nemea, pressed over many hours until the last drop of the richly concentrated fruits were rendered. And the result was stunning; to the eye the wine is smooth and clear as honey, while the base notes are complex and full bodied. But on the tongue tasting notes of toffee and caramel added a sweetness to the tart orange flavoured dessert, creating a matrimony between sweet and sour, to create one stunning dessert accompaniment. The night was drawing ever closer, and as the moon slipped into early consciousness, a silver sliver grew high in the sky, a radiant light that would guide us all the way home. Our stomachs were full and our senses were sated, relaxed at last we bid our goodbyes and slipped out into the open night. We made our way to the station, reminiscing over the food and drink we consumed but the question in our hearts was which meal was the star attraction? There could only be one winner and we thought long and hard until as if by magic it popped into our minds. The feta and the tomatoes dancing like ballet dancers, was the strong breakthrough act, gone too soon, before we could truly relish in its exquisite simplicity. We imagined eating authentic Greek food once more, this time imagining what the breakfast would taste like.
We would feast on eggs, a Strapatsada and Greek Omelette, washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice. The eggs would be scrambled with fresh plump tomatoes grilled to perfection, wrapped round Cretan mizithra cheese, basil and drizzled with generous lashings of olive oil. But the omelette would be enhanced by mixed peppers, seasoned with feta cheese and Greek Slaw, with a traditional Greek Yogurt for dessert. The yogurt would be creamy and thick just like Mama used to make, topped with wild thyme honey, orange and walnuts to garnish. And when we would eat to the point of no return, we would plan a holiday to Greece, where white and blue were radiant and bright and we would dive into the open waters of the sea, reveling in its radiant and serene tranquility. Like mermaids our hair would fan out behind us, and we would float until the sun went down, shadowless spectres under the light of the silver moon.
Have You Ever Tried Authentic Greek Food? Are You A Fan?D
Please note we were guests at Hungry Donkey but as always all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services. Definitely the best example of authentic Greek food that I have tried in the UK to date.