Opening its doors last summer, INO Gastrobar on Carnaby’s Newburgh Street has gone relatively unnoticed on the restaurant scene, especially in comparison to its raved about big sister restaurant OPSO. But it shouldn’t. The cosy nook of a restaurant is bursting with flavourful, modern dishes that nod to its Greek heritage, a theatrical open-frame grill and an exciting wine list. Food writer and The Handbook contributor Katie Renouf tells us why it should be added to your must-visit list pronto…
When I discovered that we would be dining at INO this evening, I was very excited. INO is the newest venture from the team behind Opso; one of my favourite “casual weekday dinner” venues. It is home to the best tzatziki I have ever eaten, plus a devilishly good lemon-oregano chicken with melty potatoes…. Anyway. I digress.
We head over to INO on a chilly Wednesday evening and we are immediately warmed by the cosy interior. Exposed brickwork and a dining counter might be more typical of a Shoreditch venue than these parts, but with clever lighting and an earthy palette they have also managed to infuse a neighbourhood warmth into the space.
The menu is compact but diverse. There’s been no lazy copying of dishes from their other restaurants; whilst elements such as the (divine) homemade feta feature, INO’s dishes are designed to reflect and complement the slightly more rustic grill vibe.
The quality and diversity of the produce really sings here – whilst Greek classics such as feta, octopus, olives and tomatoes might come as no surprise, you can also experience dishes such as cauliflower steak, brown butter & truffle mac and cheese, and Wagyu beef short rib chops.
INO is the newest venture from the team behind OPSO; a favourite when it comes to casual weekday dinner venues.
Our dinner was served with a selection of wines. Interestingly, they have made the smart decision to invest in a clever anti-oxidizing device which enables them to offer a wide selection of high-quality wines by the glass. I’m not sure of the exact science but it is inserted through the cork and essentially stops the wine spoiling too quickly.
They also champion Greek wines, which is a welcome departure from the vast majority of restaurants that routinely offer Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay by the glass. Yawn. Instead, we were treated to whites, Malagouzia; a delicate white with a tropical fruit and floral flourish and Vidiano; a rich and tangy wine with deep orange / bergamot flavour. And Reds, Xinomavro; a light, elegant red – akin to a Pinot Noir and Mavrotragano; this packed far more of a punch, with black fruit and peppery notes. My favourite of the evening. Rounded off with a Samos Muscat; whilst I am not normally a dessert wine drinker, I do enjoy a Muscat and the honey-baked hues of this delicious drop were no disappointment.
Three to four dishes is recommended per person, to be served family-style. We agonise for some time before settling on tuna tataki, Feta ‘bouyiourdi’, spanakopita, octopus taco, lamb chops with yogurt and chimichurri and the house gyros.
First up are some wonderfully light crackers with fava bean puree. I am toying with the notion of ordering some more when the tuna arrives. It is delicate yet flavoursome, sitting on a perfectly crisp cracker with red onion and capers dotted throughout.
The “bouyiordi” turns out to be a spicy baked feta; a generous mattress of the stuff, topped with slow-roasted tomatoes and padron pappers. It is beautifully salty, spicy and decadent.
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The humble spanakopita has been given a twist; feta and vibrant, lightly-sauteed spinach are sandwiched between two delicate pieces of filo. I convince myself this version has half the calories therefore I eat twice as much.
I am often wary of octopus – stemming from past experiences where it has taken on an elastic band texture. However I need not worry here- the outside is lightly charred, giving way to the most perfectly tender interior. Topped with crispy onions and rolled up in a neat little flatbread taco, it is completely delicious.
The lamp chops are served perfectly pink and tender, with decadently thick yogurt – so thick its almost like clotted cream. The chimichurri is fresh and fiery – exactly how it should be. This dish is an absolute triumph.
The gyros, unsurprisingly, is worlds apart from late-night versions I have eaten in the past. Here, the olive oil flatbread is light and pillowy, the “Iberico Secreto” meat is tender and well seasoned, and the accompaniments are smoky and earthy with a little kick. If they sold this from a window, the queue would snake around the block.
We are also treated to the brown butter and truffle mac and cheese, with a rich egg yolk ready to ooze across the top. Oh my word. This might be a slight departure from Greek cuisine but – frankly – who cares when it tastes this good.
We are about to concede defeat when the dessert arrives – Kaimaki ice cream with sour cherry and a baklava cracker. The glistening cherries offer the kind of tart that gets you in the nook of your mouth but softened with thick, creamy ice cream and a rich sprinkling of dark chocolate drops. As with every other dish this evening, it is full of flavour and utterly delicious. Will I be back? You betcha.
Small plate – £8
Large plate – £20
Wine by the glass – £11
INO Gastrobar, 4 Newburgh St, Carnaby, London W1F 7RF