EatGreek: 'I thought the saganaki delicious - simple, perfect'
EatGreek, 19 Prospect Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9. (01) 538 7002
A few weeks ago, a colleague e-mailed to suggest a new restaurant that I might visit to review. He explained that he is married to a Greek woman, and that EatGreek was the restaurant that the Greek community in Dublin had spent 15 years waiting for. He went on to describe some of the dishes that he'd tried and urged me to go. It was, he said, the real deal.
Like most Irish people, I first encountered Greek food on a student holiday. We went island-hopping at the end of our first year in college and I loved the thick, creamy yoghurt with honey that we ate for breakfast each morning, the feta-laden salads made with tomatoes that actually tasted of tomatoes for lunch, and the oily moussaka for dinner. Granted, after three weeks the unchanging menu became a bit repetitive (maybe I was just unadventurous, as I don't recall eating any fish during that holiday), and I never did develop a taste for retsina. Which may be just as well.
Later, living in London, there was Anemos on Charlotte Street ("Where Greek holidays were re-lived and plates and punters smashed," as Fay Maschler wrote in the Evening Standard) and Jimmy's on Frith Street in Soho, where the repertoire of Greek dishes that I tried expanded to include spanakopita (a spinach and feta pie that can include onions and egg) and kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb with garlic, lemon and herbs, and potatoes to soak up the juices). I may even have partaken in the odd late night ouzo… Although of this I can't be 100pc sure.
The only Greek food that I recall eating in Ireland was at Akis and Susan Courtellas' lovely Tree of Idleness in Bray, which closed after 24 years in business back in 2003. So, the news that there was a new and authentic Greek restaurant in Dublin - the owner is George Stamopolous from Athens - was interesting.
On a Thursday lunchtime, we were the first customers through the door and although the welcome from the staff was warm and friendly, the premises were anything but. Please, EatGreek, turn up the heat, put it on earlier, and do something about the wind howling through the door when anyone drops in to collect a takeaway. (Ideally, of course, one would be eating this food outside, on a balmy summer's evening, but this is Ireland so we have to make allowances...) Temperature aside, the interior of EatGreek is simple, modern and pleasant, done up on a budget but with an amount of style.
As is typical of many Greek restaurants in Greece, the food is pre-prepared and kept warm under the counter, which makes it easy for customers to point at what they would like to eat, but there is no pretence that the food is cooked to order. Of course, this is true of any slow-cooked dish in any restaurant, Greek or not, but it's not usually as in your face as here.
We began with spanakopita and kefalotiri saganaki, each priced at €5. The filo pastry of the square slice of spanakopita was as light and flaky as it should have been, the filling generous and tasty. And the saganaki - a large tranche of organic kefalotiri, a hard, salty white sheep's milk cheese - fried just the right length of time to develop that gorgeous, melting chewiness. With a squeeze of lemon juice, I thought it delicious - simple, perfect - although my lunch companion found it too greasy. Both starter portions were substantial, and either one would have made a lunch on its own.
By way of main course, beef kokkinisto (at €12, including a portion of chips, the most expensive dish on the menu) was excellent: good-quality, flavoursome meat cooked long and slow in a rich, deep-red tomato and red wine sauce flavoured with notes of clove and cinnamon. Maeve's chicken gyro came with chips and 'sauce' in a wrap. To us, the sauce tasted like salad cream, and it dominated the whole thing - it wasn't what we were expecting and it wasn't great. A tzatsiki-type dressing with yoghurt, garlic, herbs and cucumber would have been preferable.
On the plus-side, the chips are good, and most customers will be pleased to know that the chicken is all breast meat, layered onto the rotating spit with herbs and spices that cooks away all day. (The only provenance information on the menu says that the beef and chicken are sourced from Irish farmers.) A Greek salad was generously proportioned, although winter tomatoes are never going to make this dish as good as it would be in the summer.
We took away a couple of desserts: baklava made with filo pastry and a paste of nuts (pistachios?) and honey, and kataifi, the shredded-wheat-like pastry wrapped around a filling of nuts and soaked in syrup. Both were quite delicious. Lunch for two, with far more food than we could finish, and a couple of soft drinks, came to a fraction under €50 before service. You could eat well at EatGreek for far less, and I'll be back for dinner just as soon as either the restaurant or the weather warms up.
PS: The best place to leave your car is in the pay-and-display car park of the pub across the road. I wish that I'd known this before I had driven three times around the island on which EatGreek is located beside Cross Guns Bridge.
8/10 value for money
ON A BUDGET
The portions at EatGreek are substantial, so a couple of starters and a shared salad would be enough for lunch if you weren't very hungry, and the cost would be under a tenner a head.
ON A BLOW OUT
Dinner at EatGreek is never going to result in a huge bill, but starters, mains and desserts for two, with a bottle of Greek wine, would come to about €75.
THE HIGH POINT
Authentic Greek food at keen prices.
THE LOW POINT
It was a cold day and EatGreek was decidedly chilly.