We didn’t expect a Tuesday evening in October to be so busy at The Real Greek in Dulwich, but the place was buzzing with families, groups of friends, couples from their twenties to their seventies and even a girly birthday party, giving the restaurant a real Greek taverna feel – but that of a modern Greek taverna.
The restaurant is in Dulwich Village in South London, not far from the world famous Dulwich Gallery, and its Santorini inspired interior is bright and light with turquoise and blue & white accents, decorated with Greek ceramics and maritime touches. There is plenty of space and in the summer or on warm nights, there is outdoor seating available.
We ordered a bottle of a Greek wine (Makedonikos Rosé, a lovely fruity wine with strawberry and raspberry flavours, served ice cold) and started the difficult task to decide which meze dishes to order from the extensive menu. The recommendation is to pick 3-4 dishes per person and share. If you are one of those people who has trouble to chose, you might want to have a look at the menu beforehand, like I did.
I love Mediterranean food of any description; it makes me think of sunny holidays, sitting by a little harbour on a balmy evening – feeding a local cat under the table – and enjoying life. I also love it because it is simple, healthy food made great by using only the best and freshest ingredients with all those wonderful fresh herbs.
We started with some exceptionally good Greek flatbread and feta cheese drizzled in olive oil. We also had Dolmades, the classic dish of vine leaves stuffed with a fragrant rice, tomatoes and herbs mix, served warm, which were delicious.
We picked two lamb dishes, the Lamb Skewer with onions and peppers and served with lemon mayonnaise; and the Lamb Kefte, minced lamb marinated with aromatic Anatolian spices and served with minted yoghurt. I personally preferred the kefte, but the lamb on the skewers was also very tasty and tender.
For a vegetarian dish we had picked the Tiropitakia, three filo pastry parcels containing two of my favourite things: creamy spinach and feta along with leek. Lovely.
We couldn’t go to a Greek restaurant without trying the Grilled Kalamari, here made with a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade. The calamari tasted fresh with just enough spiciness and they were served with a sweet & sour carrot and cucumber salad which worked well with the dish.
My favourite dish of the night was the Prawn Saganaki, tiger prawns in a rich smoky tomato sauce, with spinach, pickled peppers and sprinkled with feta. This dish was developed for The Real Greek by Tonia Buxton, the Greek Cypriot television presenter of ‘My Greek Kitchen’ and author, and I could quite happily eat this all night long. Just give me a big bowl of this dish, a decent amount of the flat bread I mentioned earlier, a bottle of wine and I would be a very happy bunny.
As side dishes we picked the Saffron Rice, long-grain rice dressed with herbs, olive oil, Greek honey and fragrant Kozanis saffron, which was very good and the Aegean Slaw, thinly shredded red and white cabbage, mixed with sultanas and lemon mayonnaise, to add to our five-a-day, though as we found out, most of the dishes come with vegetable or salad garnishes, so we probably had at least six-a-day.
I would recommend leaving a little bit of room for a dessert and at least one Greek coffee. This Greek coffee is the real thing, tiny cups of goodness, served sweet, medium or bitter with a little Loukoumi – a delicate Greek sweet flavoured with nuts.
For dessert we had the Baklava, home-made filo pastry with walnut and honey. If you only know baklava as the too sweet pastry you find in some restaurants, this one is sweet, but not sickly sweet, with the walnut flavour coming through nicely.
George’s favourite dish of the night was the Greek Filo Custard Pie, for which we had to wait a little while, because it was still in the oven, but it was definitely worth the wait. This is a traditional dessert from Sérres, North Greece, called Bougatsa, and consists of filo pastry filled with a unique custard cream, served warm and topped with vanilla ice-cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon. You have to leave room for this!
Despite every table being occupied, the service was quick, friendly and attentive. And we had a lovely chat with the manager about Greece and our trips to the Peloponnes, Athens, Mykonos and Crete. It was such an enjoyable evening; we were nearly the last to leave.
This restaurant is perfect for casual dining – alone, for couples, with family or friends. The menu caters for vegetarians, vegans and people who are gluten intolerant, so everybody should find something they like to eat. And if you really can’t make your mind up, have one of the sharing platters. Prices are also very reasonable, though it can add up depending on how many of the meze dishes you pick. For other branches around London and England check the website.
The Real Greek
96-98 Dulwich Village,Dulwich
London, SE21 7AQ
(nearest station: North Dulwich)