As Greek as it gets

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Obelix used to say that food is like the Romans; the foreign is always the best. All others may agree that when it comes to food, there is no place like home.

But when you live or travel abroad and desire to taste authentic food from your country, things are starting to get dangerous. I admire the Mexican, who endure any cheap tex-mex variety on the high street, and the Italians, who have to make their way through all the self-proclaimed Italian restaurants to discover the appropriate Italian joint. When it comes to Greek food, trying to find an authentic restaurant abroad is no easy feat either.

In Germany, you would except to taste authentic Greek food because of the high numbers of immigrants from Greece, especially in Stuttgart and Munich. But it is not as easy as you think, as the restaurants have adopted their cuisine to the german dining experience. Sauces in dishes appear where they should not be and the main course is always accompanied by a small side salad. Those of you who have been to Greece already know it is inconceivable you keep the food to yourself especially when you are ordering mezedes (small dishes to whet you appetite like Spanish tapas). The salad is typically for more than one person and is majestically put at the centre of the table to shoare. But in Germany, even Greek food needs to obey the unwritten rules of the German: you need to keep the food to yourself so that you can pay for it separately at the end.

Fortunately, Greek food in London does not seem to suffer from the same drawbacks. Your chances to find authentic Greek food are better. This is not to say you don’t occasionally find an odd restaurant that prides itself for being Greek but its offerings are far from being authentic. In fact, there is a chain of joints and does exactly this: it names itself as the Real Greek but should be avoided by all costs. (It is, indeed, rather costly for what it offers). If you want to play safe you may chose any restaurant in the Greek area of Bayswater. I ‘d rather avoid this area, as any conglomeration of Greeks ends up reminding you of living a Greek life in a foreign country and never really getting to appreciate what London experience has to offer.

So, when it comes to tasting simple, authentic Greek food, there is no better place than “As Greek as it gets” at Earl’s Court. (Ok, I admit that I have not tried an exhaustive list of Greek restaurants in London, but this one is very close to the real food that you eat in Greece).

The traditional Greek souvlaki, called "First class" at the restaurant

The traditional Greek souvlaki, called "First class" at the restaurant

The moment you enter the restaurant, you realise that it does not live up to any of the clichés and the stereotypes of the Greek dining experience you typically encounter outside Greece. There are no posters of the “National Tourist Organisation” that advertise pristine beaches and beautiful places to visit, any ancient Greek statues or any form of kitschy ancient greek decoration reminiscent of the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  The area is rather modern and simple, mostly in shades of green. There is just  chandelier, the walls of the stairs are decorated with numerous wooden laddles (not be best of decorations), and the place is full of black and white pictures reminscent of the pictures you typically encounter in a rural old Greek house.

You will be shown to your table by polite table attendants (not necessarily Greeks, but the restauarant is Greek owned) and you will be handed the menu. There you will find many Greek traditional dishes, such as moussaka, pastichio –pasta with minced meat and béchamel sause -, spinach pie and mezedes. But is it for the souvlaki – the pinnacle of characteristic Greek food – that you are here for. Apart from the traditional souvlaki, a piece of meat, typically pork, wrapped around a pitta bread with some tomatoes, onions and tzatziki, you have several variations: one with chicken, one vegetarian and one with low calories. While Greeks might say that £3 or £4 per piece might be excessive for souvlaki, compared to  the prices of other restaurants in London, I believe that it is a reasonable price to ask.

There are, however, some things I am missing. It would be good to refresh the menu every now and then and offer special dishes depending on what is fresh on the season. While you can also order the food for takeaway, there is not delivery service and worse, there is not website where you can take a look on the menu and the restaurant. However, a visit to “As Greek as it gets” will convince you that it is worth the hassle to come all the way down to Earl’s Court.

Lambda.

P.S.: As Greek as it gets is located at 233 Earl’s Court Road, London , SW5 9AH (Google Maps , Google Street View) and the nearest tube station is Earls Court.

[all images © LambdaPhage, special thanks to my friend, Lila K for giving me her camera]

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