The Real Greek

2nd June 2012

A few weeks ago I was invited by a PR agency to a cookery lesson at The Real Greek, consisting of a 2-hour workshop on how to make traditional Greek Moussaka. I don’t normally get invited to such events – I suppose that’s because my blog doesn’t feature only recipes or simply because I’m not a famous blogger (ah!). I’m always up for trying something different and so I went!

At the workshop in Westfield Stratford I met Sofia of Digital Scullery and Fiona of London Unattached. They both have much more experience than me in Greek food and far better cooking skills; you can find their reviews of the cookery event here and here.

With chef Alan May, we learned how to make moussaka and then tasted the end result, made with potatoes, aubergines, minced beef and Béchamel sauce. It was delicious (I swiftly took a second helping!).

We also met The Real Greek’s Head of Operations, Christos Karatzenis, who explained us how the small chain has been under new management since September 2011 and has since changed recipes and menus to offer authentic food, in most cases using ingredients sent directly from Greece. Christos’ passion for the food and for the brand was evident and contagious. During the workshop, he commented on each step of the recipe, adding cooking tips and answering all our questions. His goal is simple: to create and serve authentic Greek food like the one he would eat at home. Judging by Sofia’s enthusiasm (she was the only Greek in our “panel of bloggers”) after the dinner that followed the class, I would say that the goal has been met!

I had low expectations about the food as I fear I have become a bit of a food snob who snubs restaurant chains on principle. But I enjoyed the food at The Real Greek so much, that I immediately decided to go back with my camera to take photos and share a review with you.

So this week I had dinner at The Real Greek in Covent Garden, a tiny restaurant with high tables and stools and low lights. All of the restaurants are in London and offer a menu of hot/cold mezes, salads, sides and grilled dishes. The moussaka is offered only at the bigger Westfield Stratford branch.

We started with a glass of Ymnos White Vin de Crete, Mythos beer and a selection of cold mezes that I had already tasted the previous time (I am a creature of habit!): Taramasalata, Tzaziki, Gigandes Plaki, Tiropitakia and Flatbread.

The taramasalata is an interesting dip made with cod roe, hence it has a very salty flavour (and several hundreds calories!), the tzaziki is a cream so rich that could be eaten with a fork (very different from the yogurt-y versions you find in supermarkets), the plaki are cold broad beans slow-cooked in tomato sauce and finally the tiropitakia are filo pastry parcels filled with spinach, leek and feta (my favourites!).

To balance the dips with something healthier, I ordered a salad: Watermelon, Mint and Feta certainly grabbed my attention and won me over after the first scoop. It’s fresh and sweet and absolutely perfect as a summer dish!

At this point, I was very tempted to order the Souvlaki. I ate a fantastic Pork Souvlaki from The Real Greek in Westfield, but somehow I controlled myself and reasoned that I should really try different dishes on the menu. We ordered Halloumi & Vegetable Skewers, Tiger Prawns with Garlic & Chilli, Grilled Kalamari.

The halloumi was perfectly grilled, though I didn’t love its combination with peppers. The prawns and the calamari were both delicious, and also extremely healthy and low in fat.

Calories certainly were not missing from the desserts: Raspberry & Honey Yoghurt Sundae and Greek Sundae (vanilla and pistachio ice cream with nuts, caramel sauce and whipped cream – gulp!). If there’s one thing I would immediately change about The Real Greek is the calorie count from their menu: I don’t want to think about the 600+ calories that my dessert had! ;)

We left the restaurant full and satisfied, and yet I still really crave a souvlaki! I must go back soon! :)

Disclosure: the dinner was kindly offered by the restaurant. All views are my own.

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