The Real Greek
The Real Greek
Specialising in regional home-style cooking, The Real Greek has spawned a small chain of fun venues that combine tradition and modernity with aplomb. Its menu features a selection of mezedes, or compilations of small dishes (just three or four bites) eaten as appetizers. The beetroots dressed with yogurt and walnuts are especially delicious. Mains include lamb served with trahana and purslane, or simple grilled fish with lemon, oregano and olive oil. Greek bottles rule the wine list, but the restaurant cleverly reassures patrons by dividing the selection into categories based on the ingredients they match.
Where: 15 Hoxton Market, London N1. www.therealgreek.co.uk, Tel: 020 7739 8212.
The Eyre Brothers, Robert and David, developed their love of regional Portuguese cuisine while growing up in colonial Mozambique. Later, working with Spanish chefs gave David the opportunity to develop an interest in authentic food from Spain too, and so the menu at this popular venue might best be described as Iberian. It's no rustic bodega however. With an open kitchen, plenty of black walnut and leather, and customers including city professionals and local creatives, it is a glamorous and highly enjoyable night out.
Where: 70 Leonard Street, London EC2. www.eyrebrothers.co.uk, Tel: 020 7613 5346.
A romantic and exciting vision of a decadent and opulent Moroccan souk, Momo is an elegant retreat at lunchtimes, and a little crazy at night thanks to lively customers and hyped staff. Start with a filo parcel of potatoes, cod and chermoula served with red pepper mousse, or the more traditional sweet-spicy pie of pigeon, eggs and cinnamon. On a first time visit, a tagine is essential, and vegetarians can opt for one featuring baby vegetables and wild mushrooms. Inventive desserts include crisp chocolate mille feuille with ras el hanout caramel.
Where: 25 Heddon Street, London W1. www.momoresto.com, Tel: 020 7434 4040.
Fino is one of the few Spanish eateries in London to produce sophisticated tapas cuisine but it's welcoming rather than pretentious. A light and stylishly decorated basement restaurant, it has an open-plan kitchen and high bar stools face the griddles where chefs sear an impressive array of seafood and marinated meats. The seafood black rice cooked in intensely flavoured stock with splashes of Manzanilla is excellent.
Where: 33 Charlotte Street, London W1. www.finorestaurant.com, Tel: 020 7813 8010.
Moro's cool, understated interior and pan-Mediterranean menu still seem as hip as the day it opened. As with its Italian inspiration the River Café, mains are based on the wood-fired oven and charcoal grill. You may find roast hake with spinach, judion beans and hot paprika sauce, or grilled lamb with grilled pepper and aubergine salads. Well-conceived desserts include yoghurt and pistachio cake, Malaga raisin ice cream, and Persian candy floss. Those without a sweet tooth can enjoy a plate of Spanish cheeses served with membrillo.
Where: 34-36 Exmouth Market, London EC1. www.moro.co.uk, Tel: 020 7833 8336.
Catherine Zeta Jones is a regular at this bodega-style Spanish restaurant and wine bar with party atmosphere. Known locally as The Bras, its cooking is based on the chargrill. Go to the counter to see what's on offer. Choice varies according to seasonal availability, but tends to be wide. Fish is a speciality and the attractively displayed varieties may include shark, snapper, swordfish, bass, plus gigantic prawns. Meat lovers can expect lamb, beef, suckling pig, venison and ostrich too.
Where: 28 Wind Street, Swansea, Wales. www.labraseria.com, Tel: 01793 469 683.
Rustic Portuguese cooking can be found at this fun find in the heart of Mevagissey. Run by a husband and wife team, she politely running the front of house, he in the kitchen, the restaurant makes use of local produce and speciality ingredients imported from Portugal. The specials board focuses on seafood, grilled or baked, and may include squid, octopus and cuttlefish in season. Classics on the menu include cataplana, caldeira, chicken piri-piri and rojoes.
Where: 2 Polkirt Hill, Mevagissey, Cornwall. Tel: 01726 842 055.
Especially popular with families, Bar Estilo offers a sunny cocktail of tapas, paella and other contemporary Mediterranean fare. Even the chunky fries that come with the steaks get a Spanish twist with a touch of paprika. Small dishes such as tortilla with chorizo and feta, and whitebait with horseradish mayonnaise, can be served as appetizers or tapas. Mains including sausages and mash and smoked haddock fishcakes veer further afield, but there is a choice of paellas and vegetarian options.
Where: 110-114 Wharfside St. The Mailbox, Birmingham B1 1RF www.barestilo.co.uk, Tel: 0121 643 3443. Branches in Esher, Teddington, Richmond and Barnes.
Okra is modern and stylish, its Moorish and Berber cuisine has nomadic wanderings to Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. Start with bread, olives and Libyan pumpkin dip, before moving on to smoked harissa chicken with sweet pea hummus, and a classic tagine of lamb, apricots and almonds. Sides include cous cous dishes - one with sultanas, herbs, nuts and coconut milk. For dessert: Mahgrebi sweetmeats, or bruléed panna cotta with Turkish delight and rosewater. To finich have Bedouin coffee flavoured with saffron and cardamon.
Where: 6 Chandos Rd, Bristol. www.okra-restaurant.co.uk, Tel: 0117 970 6078.
Some believe this friendly, family-run outfit beats London's best North African venues.
In addition to perfectly fluffy couscous, you will find smoky aubergine and garlic dip served with home-made bread, minced beef briouts, chicken and prune tagines and beef kofta brochettes. Authentic specialities such as m'hummar, mechoui and sharia madfouna can be ordered a couple of days in advance. Décor is reminiscent of a bazaar and mint tea is served in pretty tea glasses.
Where: 27 St Leonards Road, Windsor, Berkshire. Tel: 01753 855 370.Reuse content