02 June 2011
You can enjoy the buzz and flow of tourists in Borough Market on any day of the week. Saturday lunchtime – and Valentine’s Day at that – is probably not the best day to casually eye-up food stalls, sample freebies and find a table that’s not been booked for the past two months.
It is London’s oldest food market, standing in its original location for two hundred and fifty years. Along the South Bank, the Thames as your backdrop, Shakespeare’s Globe your neighbour, all eating establishments have their market flowing past their doors from morning till evening.
The Real Greek on Bankside has everything in its favour. There are other Real Greek restaurants in Spitafields, Westfield, Covent Garden, Marylebone, Putney, Clerkenwell, and the original in Hoxton, which opened in 1999. My opinion of Greek food is not great. I have not sampled enough to reach a conclusion. Like you, I’ve sampled the midnight kebab, booze injected and stumbling home from a night on the town, but true Mediterranean dining experience, no.
Walking in to any empty restaurant, on February 14th, is not a good omen. Our waitress walked us to a table in the corner at the back. This puzzled me. There was no one else there. Frankly, it would have been quicker catching a bus to our table. Why don’t they give you an Oyster card on arrival then let you pick a table of your choice?
Our welcome was cold. “This is your table, here is your menu, bye.” Puzzled by our introduction, I conversed with my guest who agreed and was also appalled. We were given the hospitality of a guilty man appearing in court.
From the hot Mezedes menu I ordered grilled kalamari marinated in paprika and honey (£5.75), along with a meat sharer (£25.00) consisting of pork, lamb and chicken, bifteki, meltitzanosalata, htipiti and flatbread. The kalamari had potential but was cold and rubbery and thus, ruined. The grilled sardines were fine, but that’s as much as I can say.
All the food arrived cold (much like the staff) and was served on layered plates. It looked uninspired, the skewered meat not enough to feed the starved homeless, and each dish accompanied by a huge wedge of lemon making enough, if all put back together, to create at least six whole lemons. The Greeks, the inventors of the Tragedy, had mastered another one, and it sat on a plate in front of me.
A £7.50 large glass of Cabinet Sauvignon washed down the mint, pepper and feta dips and a small flatbread did its best to fill my hungry belly with carbs.
Such bad experiences leave you with a predicament: do you stick with that which is familiar? Or, do you venture out, willing to try and experience new things? But stodge food is stodge food and at the end you are still left with a bill to pay (gratuity already included – of course). I should have stuck to my guns and face the fact that Greek food is decent only when drunk. If I hadn’t been out of breath from walking for miles, and didn’t have a twinge in my calf, I would have done a runner.