Seven years ago Greek businessman Dimitris Karonis had just launched Yo Sushi in Athens when he had a bet with its owner who claimed he could not open and run a successful Greek restaurant in London. Dimitris proved the man wrong. Seven years on and his restaurant in Earl’s Court Road in London – As Greek As It Gets – is buzzing with regular and new customers every evening.
The restaurant is modern and simple, decorated with authentic spoons, mirrors, a map of Greece and black and white family photos. Ouzo, the traditional anise-flavoured Greek aperitif, is flowing freely and the guests are munching on meze plates of Mediterranean favourites.
Hummus and tzatziki or taramosalata dips with pitta bread, aubergines with grilled tomato, feta and basil, lamb meat balls, Moussaka, Souvlaki and many other delicacies that you can choose from an extensive menu.
The benefits of a Mediterranean diet are well known and after recent reports about the remote Greek island of Ikaria where there are more healthy people over 90 than any other place on the planet, I decide it’s time we start paying better attention to Greek food and wine.
Dimitris imports wine directly from local producers all over the country, his olives come from Crete, honey from Thasos and even the restaurant’s chef, Miltos Michas, was discovered in Greece and brought over to London after Dimitris had fallen in love with his cooking.
At As Greek As It Gets, I fall in love with prawns cooked in ouzo, feta and tomato sauce called Garides Saganaki, calamari stuffed with feta and herbs (Gemisto Kalamari), lamb meatballs in cumin and tomato sauce (Soutzoukakia), spinach pie (Spanakopitakia) and a 2008 Tsantali Rapsani Reserve red wine.
Dimitris suggests we try some exotic delicacies that are popular in Greece, such as lamb’s brain (Myala), tongue and tripe that are not on the menu but are available for large parties on request. After a few careful bites I come to the conclusion that offal dishes are not for me and go for a light and delicious dessert of milk pie called Galaktoboureko.
The people of Ikaria island in Greece say they enjoy wine, food, a good night’s sleep and say they simply forget to die. We can only hope that with all the great restaurants and various foods and wines available in London, we can do the same.
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