What: A recent pundit for vegan food, I was first hand up in the office when it came to sampling the brand new vegan menu at The Real Greek in Soho. It’s all in the name at this restaurant, whose first branch opened its doors in the same year Julia Roberts wandered into a certain Notting Hill dwellers travel bookshop, and MySpace began to take over lives – that’s 1999 for those lesser-informed. Feeling old yet? With a food well-travelled menu that triumphs the Eastern Mediterranean diet, and the fanciful flavours of Greek food, The Real Greek’s many restaurants really do give you a real Greek experience.
The Setting: Berwick street is absolutely bustling with post-work punters and tired footed shoppers, suffice to say it’s got that London look, and that’s what makes it so great. Set in amongst the commotion is The Real Greek, and like the pied-piper of Greek food, you can hear the traditional Greek tunes of bouzouki and guitar player Leandros Toumpas as you walk down the side street.
The Look: You feel like an intruder on a Grecian family meal, but we loved it. It’s got such a family dinner night vibe, even more so when you’re handed a couple of ouzo’s! The interior is cosy, peppered with Greek influence in the form of pictures and hand-written wall slogans. The major thing I took from the space was that it’s airy and spacious, eliminating the feeling of being boxed in. Glancing over at a table across the room were friends clinking champagne, celebrating some sort of occasion and I immediately wanted to return with a big group – it’s the perfect place for it.
On the Menu: The vegan menu consists of a range of cold and hot meze dishes, all of which contain many ingredients. Fear not to the vegans who are bashing their heads against the wall every time they see a tofu-based dish as the only vegan option, The Real Greek has it covered. Truly embracing the beauty of the vegan way of life, ingredients include lemon, garlic, red onions, aubergine, red pepper, lentils and more.
What We Ate: We asked our waitress how many dishes she’d recommend we have: her answer being four to five per person. So, we stuck to this advice and tried to avoid the end of meal food-coma, and in total we chose nine dishes. When I was reading our selections out from my iPhone notes, I felt like someone reading the terms and conditions at the end of a radio advert – it never ended. Greedy is one word to describe us, however googling images of meze makes me feel better as it shows they should be enjoyed in their plate loads.
So, wanting to get our full dose of Greek, we opted for a range of dishes: Olives, flatbreads, green pea fava, houmous, spicy walnut and red pepper dip, chickpea filo triangles, spinach with gigandes and dolmades. Told you it was an extensive list. The dishes come on stands similar to what you’d expect at an afternoon tea – ideal for saving space, (and for blocking out your company if the conversation is getting a little dry)!
The green pea fava with mashed green peas, olive oil and lemon was by far our favourite dish – like a Greek version of mushy peas, it was so flavoursome. Each cold meze was tasty, with portion sizes being just right for the amount of flatbread received. The spicy walnut and red pepper dip has a spice kick to it, so don’t opt for this if you’re a lemon and herb in Nando’s type of person. The chickpea filo triangles were a little too intense on the pastry front, perhaps overwhelming what’s inside. However, when you do reach the inside, it’s very eclectic in taste, like spices partying on your taste buds. The dolmades, which consist of vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomato and fresh herbs were also delicious – the tomato taste is strong, as it seeps into the rice a treat. A lot of the dishes we had were tomato infused, unsurprising as tomatoes are ubiquitous in Greece.
For dessert, we couldn’t quite hack the baklava or the plum, almond and pistachio cake, instead desiring something smaller and cooler as a palette cleanser. So, we went for the two sorbet options, my friend choosing lemon and I went for mango. I like the simplicity of these choices as they are flavours people love and I think it makes you more inclined to have a dessert, as you don’t have to scramble through a list of options. The sorbet was refreshing, and the portion size an ice-cream sundae glass amount, no small sorbet balls gone in one spoonful at this restaurant, that’s for sure!
What We Drank: A sucker for rosé wine, I was eager to try a Grecian one as it’s something I’d never normally go for. There are two rosé options and we went for the Atma Thymiopoulos, a vegan, summery and light wine that has fruit salad flavours perfect for partnering with meze. The vegan drinks list is bountiful, with more than just a couple of offerings.
Go With: Someone with a big appetite, who’s partial to a shot of ouzo (or two!). It’s a great place for that dinner with a friend you’ve been “too busy” to see (/being a couch potato after a long day at work)!
Where: The Real Greek, 50 Berwick Street, Soho, W1F 8SJ, www.therealgreek.com
Final Word: We were swept off our feet by the food, and by Leandros’ sporadic switches between classic Greek music and Oasis’ Wonderwall. Also, make sure you try the Mastika – it’s a liqueur synonymous with Greece, and translates to “to chew, to gnash the teeth” – and whilst you might have done enough gnashing on the food, the woody tones of the drink are definitely worth a shot…or two!