Going Greek on a Friday night is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, the traditional mezedes spares the embarrassment of having to tell your waitress her highly recommended manouri and ladotyri cheese balls failed to satisfy; regrettably not enough distinction in a cheese-heavy opening round of dishes at the Hungry Donkey.
But when the accompanying soutzoukakia (cumin and paprikainfused lamb meatballs cooked in tomato sauce with metsovone cheese) is mouthwateringly good, it leaves you guzzling the lot at the expense of your dining partner.
It’s a dicey game but probably the safest way to get a proper taste of a country steeped in rich culinary traditions and powerful flavours. The Wentworth Street eatery is mightily authentic, and despite an early reservation people were in the door in a steady stream, an unmistakable salute to the restaurant’s ability to produce a menu that suits all comers. Guests going down the mezedes route should kick off simple; don’t underestimate the appeal of pita bread before – and during – an absolute storm of combinations.
Tzatziki, htipiti and melitazanosalata dips – seasoned yoghurt, roasted red pepper and feta (more cheese!), and eggplant – provide the foil for the array of dishes that follow from the kitchen, the first two hitting the mark with the eggplant pushed around the plate before the fun really starts. Roasted aubergine, rich tomato sauce and, you guessed it, more feta make up the papoutsakia; a light contrast to the out of place spanakopita (in English a spinach pie with that secret ingredient feta); pastry just too heavy in this exercise of micro portions.
But by the beard of Zeus the plaudits must go to the chef for the lamb meatballs. There are no words, just try them for yourself. Galaktoboureko, aka a fluffy custard cream filo pastry soaked in syrup, followed for dessert; not quite plate-smashing material, but the accompanying scoop of kaimaki ice cream won the nod of approval.
Meanwhile, pita wraps and kebab skewers supply more hearty meals for those wanting to really get their teeth stuck in. And when stomachs had filled the take-away bags came out – a touch for diners on the dash. The only real blemish on the Hungry Donkey’s resume is its Wentworth Street address; meaning a notable schlep for diners from City central wanting to avoid an after dinner hike home.
Hungry Donkey Greek Kitchen, 56 Wentworth Street E1 7AL