“Oh my God, this smells just like home” gushed a very excited Jenny as we walked into the quaint greek restaurant in Bayswater. Having lived with quite a few Greeks these past few months, it was but a matter of time before they dragged us to the nearest restaurant and made us try their cuisine that they so proudly talked of. Having loved their company and stories, I was always up for it. Plus, they come from the land of sands and beaches. They have a little bit of sunshine tucked in their sleeve, no matter how sullen the London weather gets.
The Greek restaurant we decided to try out, Santorini, seemed to have brought Greece to London. With walls painted a very calming white with hues of turquoise blue, I felt as though I had been transported to the beach, a delicious glass of Sangria in my hand. The floor was adorned with glass frameworks of sand and sea shells and the soulful yet heartbreaking songs of Kaiti Garbi, a very famous Greek singer, kept us entertained and serenaded.
Having absolutely no clue about what to order, we let the two Greeks, Mary and Jenny, choose the dishes for us. They explained to us that according to the Greek culture, it was more convenient to order loads of starters and less mains each of which would be then shared by everyone so that no one missed out on tasting the dishes. After a quick conversation in Greek with the server, we settled down with glasses of iced water as we waited for our food to arrive. Not long after, we saw a server walking towards our table with the first of many orders.
To begin with, we were served Tzatziki, Greek Salad, Keftedes and Pita Bread which is served along with any dip ordered.
We immediately dug in, smearing copious amounts of Tzatziki on our Pita Bread. The garlic in the dip was the right amount since it wasn’t overpowering but at the same time delivered the kick one expected. Imitating Mary and Jenny, we tore pieces of our Pita Bread and spooned the Greek Salad onto it and then popped the massive morsels into our mouth, shamelessly. While the salad was extremely fresh and the feta cheese made me swoon with happiness, the minced meat balls with lemon juice squirted on top balanced out the flavours perfectly.
Just as we were cleaning up with these dishes, we were served Cretan Cheese Saganaki and Fresh Fried Calamari.
The Cretan Cheese Saganaki stole the show for me. The melted cheese with honey on top turned me into a puddle of flesh in my seat. There was a mini party in my mouth with every bite I took. It was my favourite dish out of all the rest and I really wish I could be munching on some right now. It was heavenly. The calamari wasn’t oily at all and was the right amount of crunchy and soft and the servings were huge. Having cleaned out the tiniest of crumbs on our plate, we took a break from eating to make some space in our bellies for the mains that were soon to be served.
All too soon, they had been laid on the table. While Antonin and his brother Florian decided on the Kleftiko, us girls, decided on the Mousaka.
The flavours of the Kleftiko reminded me of a lamb dish served back home. The meat was succulent and the spices used along with the oregano roasted potatoes made me want to keep on having more. Once we had divided the Mousaka, which in presentation faintly resembled lasagna, I hesitantly had my first bite, not being the biggest fan of aubergine. I then continued having bigger morsels. It was so delicious ! The béchamel cheese sauce was very different to taste but so yummy and the alternate layers of lamb, aubergine and potatoes made me say ‘yum’ one too many times.
Having licked my cutlery clean, we pondered over the very important question; “Should we have dessert?” By this time all of us were quite full and could barely move. We went back and forth, trying to decide, none of us agreeing or disagreeing. We decided to take a break and it was at this point that we decided on having pictures clicked because
a) Why not ?
b) No proof, no believers
c) Refer to point a)
The boys weren’t the best when it came to using my phone camera so we girls decided on having our picture clicked a little later. We returned to the question of whether we should satiate the sweet tooth or not and ultimately, greed won over. We just couldn’t resist the temptation !! Having looked through the dessert options, we decided on having two servings of the same dessert which was Mastic Panacotta.
My first taste of the panacotta made me crave some more but at the same time made me wonder whether I liked the taste or just wanted to remember what the infusion reminded me of. The mastic comes from the bark of the Mastic Tree, commonly found in Mediterranean regions. After having had tiny bites of the dessert, Antonin tried one more time to take a picture of us and he succeeded this time. Yeah us !
It was when I was nearly done with the dessert that I realised that mastic tastes faintly like the cardamom spice. Once the realisation hit me, I couldn’t get enough of it. By this time, my stomach was grumbling in protest and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore. Thankfully, Florian came to the rescue and cleaned up both the desserts for us.
Not wanting to leave immediately, we stayed there chatting, losing ourselves to the music playing in the background. Since it was a Friday, the restaurant was quite busy which meant we had to leave soon since people needed to be seated and we were holding on to seats we didn’t need. So, with a heavy heart but a very happy belly, we left the restaurant promising to return soon.
Santorini, you own my tummy heart and now more than ever, I believe, a part of me is Greek or was Greek if you readers believe in reincarnations. The food we had reminded me of the sun and summer and it becomes a little too difficult to reign in the excitement every time I think of the fact that I will be visiting Greece soon. If not for anything else, I’m heading there for the food and I for one CAN. NOT. WAIT !