Anyone mind if I start with dessert? Nope, didn't think so. Diners sometimes approach the sweet stuff as a guilty afterthought, but if you visit the newly-opened Zeus Street Greek at South Bank (a course of action I highly recommend) be sure to abandon your diet and order the chocolate loukoumades. These Hellenic-style doughnuts drizzled with hazelnut, chocolate and walnuts are deliciously, deliriously good. If there's room, try the restaurant's bougatsa too - a picture of innocence featuring delicate cinnamon-dusted filo pastry wrapped around vanilla bean custard so unsullied and tender it practically trembles on your tongue.
There. Now that we've got my lusty recollections of dessert out of the way, we can move onto the rest of the menu. And I have to say that Zeus Street Greek just rocked my world. Having lived and worked in Athens, I've long considered Greek food one of the most underrated (and unexplored) cuisines on the planet. Refreshingly, though, the Zeus Street Greek menu is not mired in moussaka or bogged down in baklava - rather, its pared-back philosophy gives Greek cuisine serious and long-overdue street cred.
Zeus has the market all wrapped up. Image courtesy Zeus Street Greek.
Front and centre at Zeus Street Greek is the pita menu. As owners Costa Anastasiadis and George Kyrprianou say, the essence of Zeus is humble street food and a sense of sharing. 'To share the table with your friends, your family ... this is one of the oldest Greek traditions there is and it is very important to us,' says Anastasiadis.
Wander in the direction of the kitchen and you'll see traditional anchors such as such as pork, lamb and chicken, being licked by spit-roasting flames. Your selection of meat is nestled in pita (a flat, slightly leavened bread), paired with super fresh salad ingredients, sexed up with signature flavours such as golden pepper salsa and rolled, wrapped and delivered to your table. Seriously, you won't be able to resist these fellas.
Unless, of course, you're vegetarian, in which case I say: don't stress. I savoured the Stavros Stavrou pita which combines grilled haloumi with Aegean slaw, olive tapenade, caramelized onion, tzatziki, tomato and parsley. Substantial and flavoursome. There are also a range of salads on the menu, including the traditional horiatiki (with tomato, cucumber, onion, oregano, olives, feta and lemon dressing), the green bean (tossed with fig, feta, herbs, roast almond, balsamic and olive oil) and the beetroot (with feta, walnuts, honey and mint).
A restrained range of sides are on offer too - including a wonderfully flaky spanakopita (homemade spinach and cheese pie), roasted corn cobs with grated kefalotiri and lightly fried calamari with preserved lemon mayo. The latter two options are among several gluten-free items on the menu . And, pleasingly, my companion reported that the gluten-free pita option is actually an option (that is, comparable to the real deal).
Keep calm and cob on. Image courtesy Zeus Street Greek.
The Zeus Street Greek interior offers the same, contemporary vibe as the menu. In other words, if you're looking for the same tired old taverna themes - whitewashed walls, potted geraniums, photos of feral cats against an impossibly blue Aegean sea - you won't find them here. And thank Zeus for that.
I think you are right about Greek food being underrated. There are not that many restaurants (relatively speaking) that are specifically Greek cuisine. There are plenty of general restaurants that serve some Greek style dishes, but it usually tends to be the same mainstream ones, so that the food that people really do eat in Greece does not get seen that much.