London’s cuisines du jour are always on the change. Peruvian and Mexican have been big players recently, while Spanish continues to boom. But recently we’ve seen an outing for an underrated and often overlooked Mediterranean cuisine: London is getting its Greek on.
Not so long ago, tackily dressed-up tavernas were all Greek cuisine had to show for itself in the capital, with ouzo and hummus the height of the offering. Restaurant, wine bar and deli Ergon was among the recent newcomers to buck the trend when it opened near Oxford Street late last year, while popular pop-up turned permanent restaurant Peckham Bazaar
also helped put Greek food on the map with its Balkan dishes and Greece-dominated wine list.
In 2014, Greek restaurants have exploded in popularity. This summer saw Greek grill 21 Bateman Street
open in Soho, followed closely by contemporary Hellenic eatery Opso
in Marylebone. Greek deli The Life Goddess
opened a second deli in Kingly Court, near Carnaby Street, just over a month ago, and this week will see the launch of The Greek Larder
in King’s Cross. It doesn’t stop there, with international Greek restaurant chain Milos
due to open before the end of the year on Regent Street.
While all these restaurants have very different offerings, their common link is daring to move away from the established line-up of dips, pita breads, kebabs, Greek salads and mezze dishes; they are more authentic and more willing to experiment or fuse Greek ingredients with techniques from other cuisines.
Before the latest onslaught of Greek openings, it was Theodore Kyriakou (pictured left) who had made the cuisine's biggest dent in the dining scene with his chain The Real Greek, which he has since sold. Now it is the same man who is opening The Greek Larder, a restaurant and food shop focused on bringing the best of regional Greek produce to London.
‘I am very pleased to see this surge in Greek cooking in London,’ Kyriakou told us. ‘I think there’s lots more to come, too.’
He went on to explain that he holds Greece’s current poor economy partly responsible, suggesting that ‘young entrepreneurs in Greece are aware that they are better going abroad to start a business than doing it on home turf’. He also believes that ‘London is by far the best place in Europe, if not the world, to be in the restaurant business right now’. On the part of consumers, he reckons London’s diners are always on the look-out for something new, and that ‘right now Greek food ticks that box’.
Is it a fad, then? He doesn’t believe so. ‘It took a certain amount of time for Italian or Spanish food to take hold, but now it just keeps growing and evolving. I think it will be the same for Greek food.’
The Greek Larder officially launches on Friday.
Published 28 October 2014