As a Greek – Cypriot, since you ask – I’ve long awaited the moment in which I sit down at an excellent Hellenic restaurant, sated by a range of delicious foods straight from my childhood. Sure, there are plenty of great Greek takeaway places, and my grandmother whips up a mean moussaka, but still, amongst the more commonly visited Italian, Spanish and Lebanese restaurants, a good Greek place is a rarity.
Based in Earl’s Court in west London, As Greek As It Gets lives up to its title without smashing any plates: a predictable shrine of cliché this is not. It’s smart, fun and lively. The affable Dmitri Karonis, weds the rambunctious atmosphere of the taverna to the quiet refinement of the urban restaurant. A musician strums his bouzouki in the corner, we’re served shots of ouzo by Dmitri himself and every Greek dip in the rainbow arrives for our starter. So far, so Greek.
For the uninitiated, meze is essentially the Greek version of Spanish tapas – small dishes of hot and cold nibbles exhibiting the whole range of the country’s cuisine, served best with plentiful wine and good conversation. It subverts the strict regimen of the three course meal, throwing the heavy cloak off with an ‘opa!’ and replacing it with a more informal, easygoing vibe. Dishes flow on and off of the table, shared with your fellow diners, and there’s always something to nibble on.
After the delicious and familiar preamble of pitta breads with dips – including a very popular bowl of crushed feta in garlic and olive oil, which was universally declared to be dangerously addictive – came a basket of calamari rings, which as any once-bitten-twice-shy British tourist in Torremolinos will tell you tastes like a deep-fried elastic band. But wait! Rather than being coated in a thick armour of stodgy batter, the squid rings were shallow fried and had a wonderful, crumbly texture to balance the fleshy seafood.
Better yet was to come in the shape of fried (a popular cooking technique in Greece, you’ll have guessed) sweet breads. Small chunks of crispy organs are not necessarily my idea of fun, but I was very impressed. If you’ve never tried this kind of meat before, I recommend it, especially at As Greek As It Gets. Sweet bread has a soft texture, almost reminiscent of paté, yet never metallic like liver – the connoisseur’s popcorn chicken. There was no respite as we were next charmed and challenged by the grilled lamb’s head. For the squeamish, the brain is easily detected by its lighter colour, but there are plenty of less demanding cuts – the cheek, in particular, was a real delight.
After the carnage of the feast, the dessert was a pleasantly subdued affair – no northern-European bombast here, just some fresh Greek yoghurt decorated with honey and walnut. Fluffy and light, it was a refreshing way to end a roaring meal. For those with a more decadent bent, I’d recommend the baklava – little parcels of filo pastry drizzled with honey and chopped nuts, the stickiest kind of pastry this side of Paris. For authentic, affordable and moreish Greek food without the garish tablemats and photographs of the Parthenon, look no further.
As Greek As It Gets
233 Earl’s Court Road
Tel: 020 7244 7777