A decent pre-theatre dinner can help to make or break a night in the capital, so when my friend Gemma and I were excitedly planning our evening to see Jersey Boys, I thought carefully about where we should dine beforehand. With a work colleague recommending the nearby The Real Greek restaurant, I was quite keen to give it a go, and since it was also a short 10 minute walk to the theatre, it seemed an ideal solution to our dining dilemma.
The Real Greek, a roomy blue and white tiled rectangular spaced restaurant, had what I would call a ‘kitchen table’ vibe. An abundance of pale wood formed the majority of the rectangular tables, with a long wooden bench style seat occupying one entire length of the restaurant, other seating being made up of basic metal and wooden dining chairs. Black wrought iron candle holders and chandeliers contrasted the clean cut Greek tiling, although the dusty blue coloured pewter water jugs made you reminisce about beach-fronted taverns, especially as tea lights flickered inside large square glass holders.
Ordering a double gin and tonic – it had been a busy Wednesday – I began to peruse the menu. Trying to save my purse strings meant I was trying to be cost savvy and not as extravagant as usual, so I decided to try and skip anything starter-like and just focus on getting a main dish followed by a dessert, as I cannot deny my sweet tooth anything when in a restaurant. The menu was divided into hot and cold mezze and then grilled mezze, so I assumed the hot and cold mezze formed starter options while the grilled mezze was more main course stuff. I settled on the lamb meatballs, which were grilled and covered in a Greek yoghurt and tomato sauce, onions and a sprinkling of paprika. I opted for some saffron rice as a side and Gemma and I also decided to share some aegean slaw, which was made with both red and white cabbage, sultanas, lemon mayo and dill.
I was astounded when the food arrived at the table in what I would call a tiered afternoon tea stand, my meatballs occupying the top plate, Gemma’s chicken skewer underneath, and our slaw slobbing out at the bottom. It was then that I realised there was no segregation between starters and main course, and in fact the only food available was mezze, picky style bits, and that the aim of the game was to pick an abundance of plates to share and dish out. Looking at the prices though, this was certainly sure to add up pretty promptly to make an expensive meal, so I’m a bit undecided about what I think about this approach. The meatballs and rice that I had was enough as a main course, as my meatballs was quite a large plate, however Gemma’s skewers came up a lot smaller so if you decide to try and create a main meal from mezze, it could be a bit pot luck. We were given small plates so stacking my rice and meatballs on it was strange to say the least, but at least now I know for next time what to expect!
The meatballs were not as I expected but still utterly delicious. I was expecting the Greek yoghurt to be more of a feature, but I barely found any at all among my meatballs, although the tomato based sauce was drenching the dish – which is exactly how I like things – and the onions and paprika worked really nicely with the rich and thick sauce. The meatballs themselves were moist and tasty, so a thumbs up all round for those.
The saffron rice, which came in a cylinder shaped ceramic dish, was yellow in colour, dressed with herbs, olive oil, Greek honey and saffron. I really enjoyed the rice, and it was nice and soft too. I couldn’t massively taste the additional flavours that had been added, although I did think the rice was slightly sweeter than the norm due to the honey. The slaw was really yummy and I loved the juicy sultanas smuggled among the shards of sharp and crunchy cabbage. This worked really well for me and I’m glad I got to try this.
As an acclaimed custard lover, dessert was a complete no-brainer as soon as spotted item number one: the Greek filo custard pie. Made using light and flaky filo pastry, the square shaped dessert is filled with a very runny custard come cream concoction. Served warm, a scoop of vanilla ice cream plum in the centre of the pastry completes this dessert. Moreish and weirdly decadent for something without chocolate, this dessert is hearty and delicious. The custard can get lost in the melting ice cream sat on top of it, as the custard is only situated in the centre of the dessert, however when you do find it, it is really rather lovely. The sweet filo pastry is really tasty, dusted with cinnamon, and I personally found that the ice cream finished it all off nicely. I’m glad I left space for this!
Since we didn’t go overboard with the food and I only had one alcoholic drink, and Gemma only had a juice, we ended up paying £22 each for our meal, which was great for being cost-efficient. However, I feel The Real Greek can be a dangerous pit in which money can easily go wondering, as its mezze style format will quickly add up in the same tapas can, especially if you end up ordering a couple of dips, and then want flatbread to go with it. The food was really tasty and I am rather keen to try their wraps one lunchtime – they look divine! – however I am wary that it’s far too easy to spend money here, so maybe The Real Greek would be better suited to larger parties or when you are feeling flush, or maybe just as a lunch time treat. Will I go back? I’m not sure. The food was lovely so definitely worth a visit if you are passing by.