Surprisingly while gallivanting round town I have never come across The Real Greek before; it has recently expanded with seven branches in London. The restaurant was founded in 1999 by celebrity chef, Theodore Kyriakou and his team. The initial restaurant in Hoxton won the title "Best New London Restaurant," following this success establishments opened across London, we visited the buzzing Covent Garden branch.
The Real Greek aims to provide regional and home-style Greek cooking, and can proudly boast being the first restaurant to offer a calorie check on each dish. We were overwhelmed by the menu which lists numerous options and variants of familiar Greek classics as well as some lesser known delicacies. I realised, appalled, that I have never been to a Greek restaurant in London before, despite really enjoying the local food when I visited Crete many years ago. The style of eating is similar to Spanish tapas, with several small plates to be shared between the table, it is a sociable and relaxed way to eat, and more importantly you get to try everything! I immediately noticed similarities between this Greek food and Lebanese cuisine, both genres focus on vegetables and lean meat, making it a very healthy and nourishing style of food.
We were treated with exceptional care and attention by the lovely manager, Kostas; he felt the need to check up on us rather too often, though I know it was done with good intentions. The dishes were thoroughly explained to us, and he highlighted his favourites. After our delicious nibbles of Mediterranean Kalamata olives and Greek Flatbread with Olive Oil and Dukka (a spicy mix of ground, dry roasted nuts and seeds), we chose a few of the cold meze dishes as a starter course. With a generous portion of crudites to dip, we relished homemade, deliciously spiced coarse hummus and the more adventurous Htipiti, a feta dip with roasted red peppers and red onions. The Htipiti was our definite favourite, an amazing blend of salty and sweet cheese and vegetables, it was delicious with the light warm bread.
I feel ashamed to list the many, many different hot dishes we tried for mains. Somehow, through no fault of our own, most of the menu made it onto our table, and the surrounding diners must have been astounded by the extensive array of food. Kostas kindly mentioned that our silhouettes didn’t suggest we were greedy, which made us chuckle and feel a little better! Plates of food are presented on clever contraptions that hold three or five dishes at once. The salads arrived first, simple Cos Salad with shredded leaves tossed in a fruity sultana dressing and an ultra fresh Greek Salad, which surprisingly comes in at 681 calories, even for a small portion!
Halloumi has always been a hit with me, and the Real Greek’s version was the best I have tried, not too salty and grilled to crispy perfection - it was very moreish and lovely paired with the meat dishes. The Yiaourtlou: homemade lamb patties grilled and topped with yoghurt, tomato relish, onions and sprinkled with paprika was a beautiful stack of yumminess and tasted as good as it looked: tender,sweet and spicy with a cold dash of sour from the yoghurt. We also had succulent chicken skewers that were perhaps a little overcooked, and Bifteki – beef patties with spring onion and minted yoghurt, the meat had a lovely flavour but was a little dry. Tiropitakia – filo pastry parcels with creamy leek and feta filling, were a comforting and contrasting dish and the grilled octopus was a welcome break for my friend from the epic meat fest!
Desserts were thankfully light and refreshing, a wonderfully citrusy lemon cake that had a hint of almond and a selection of palate-cleansing sorbets: passion fruit and raspberry were on the menu when we went. We finished with a tiny glass of strong dessert wine, warm and earthy.
The Real Greek offers an exciting range of authentic and modern Greek food, with a keen emphasis on healthy eating. I really appreciated the calorie count and was amazed to discover how wrong I was about various food types and the fat content. Despite being made aware, I think we more than cancelled out our calorie awareness considering the quantity we ate! I left feeling satisfied and appreciating the benefits of this flavoursome Mediterranean diet.
Visit The Real Greek website to book here.