Wanna Go Greek This Summer? There’s No Need to Leave London

Words by Christina Dean

There may be some tension over the fate of the Elgin Marbles but when it comes to food, London is in love with all things Greek 

Though there are records that show Greeks arriving on these shores before the Roman period, significant emigration from Greece and Cyprus to the UK began in the 19th century following the Greek War of Independence (late 1820s) and the British Empire assuming control over Cyprus (late 1870s). From then on and well into the 20th century, Greek communities in London sprung up in Bayswater, Soho, Camden and Fulham, while Greek Cypriots clustered further north around Southgate, Wood Green, Tottenham, Harringay, Palmers Green and Green Lanes.

And where the people go, the food isn’t ever too far behind, as proven by the tavernas and Greek bakeries dotted across these neighbourhoods. Though there’s a strong Greek contingent here and the country remains a popular holiday destination for Brits, Greek food hasn’t achieved quite the same prevalence or appreciation as say, French, Italian or Spanish cuisines. 

Package holidays to Greece in the 70s and 80s certainly have something to answer for, leaving travellers with a taste for gyros, pitta, hummus and astringent retsina. And the less said about the food at party strips like Faliraki, Malia, Kavos and Laganas the better. So yes, there are some stereotypes about Greek food – it’s just kebab and chips, taramasalata is a weird shade of pink, vegetarianism is an unknown concept (thanks to My Big Fat Greek Wedding for that one) – that have lingered, obscuring the fact that it’s actually a really rich and diverse cuisine intrinsically linked to the country’s culture. To be Greek is to be an eater and a feeder.

The tavernas of north and west London, and stalwarts like Lemonia, OPSO and Mazi, have been giving Londoners a proper taste of the motherland for a long time. But now we’re seeing Greek food being done across a spectrum, from small and indie joints to flashy high-end restaurants, and across the city. 

Maida Vale restaurant Tsiakkos & Charcoal, much-loved for its traditional Greek Cypriot dishes, popped up on the other side of town with Tsiakkos N1 last year, bringing beetroot salad, halloumi, kleftiko, moussaka, chargrilled seabream, and pork souvlaki to Islington. After finding success in the street food world with Souvlaki Street, founders Evi Peroulaki and Conor Mills graduated to bricks-and-mortar by opening Evi’s in East Dulwich in 2023. Their Greek wine list and classic dishes, like grilled meats, sardines, courgette fritters, beans, salads and hand-cut chips, produced with a deft touch quickly won over locals and critics alike. 

As co-owners of OPSO, INO and Pittabun, Andreas Labridis and Nikos Roussos are well-versed in operating Greek restaurants in London. They expanded their empire last year with Kima, a seafood-focused spot in Marylebone that showcases a different side to Greek food with its fin-to-gill philosophy and fish butchery and dry ageing techniques.

Dubai-based Gaia also landed in London late last year, opening in Mayfair (where else?). Hefty price tags, lots of tableside service, an abundant seafood display with six different preparations of fish available, and plenty of truffle and caviar sprinkled across the menu prove that Greek food can be flashy.

If there’s anyone who could outdo Dubai, it’s Richard Caring, and he’s outdone even himself with his Greek-Italian playground Bacchanalia. Martin Brudnizki’s OTT interiors at the Mayfair restaurant include hand-painted ceiling murals, huge Damien Hirst statues, a floor-to-ceiling interpretation of ‘Romans In Their Decadence’ from Gary Myatt, an array of ancient Greek and Roman artworks, toga-inspired uniforms, and ostentatious loos. You’d be forgiven for forgetting food is involved in Bacchanalia although the £50 coconut, pistachio and raspberry dessert in the shape of Medusa’s head should remind you. And if you’ve still got money burning a hole in your pocket, there’s also the option to add black truffle and caviar to everything and drop four figures on a bottle of wine – it’s what the gods would want.

With his recent Borough Market double header of AGORA and OMA, the former a boisterous Athenian street market-inspired spot centred around a souvla rotisserie grill and the latter a more leisurely restaurant riffing on the Greek isles, David Carter has ensured that Greek food is on London’s mind (and in its belly).

And there’s still more Greek goodness on the horizon. After swapping Peru for Greece with Zephyr in Notting Hill, the Pachamama team is at it again with Effie. Taking up residence at the monster new Bayswater development The Whiteley, it’ll be serving a menu of mezze and chargrilled meat and fish dishes inspired by the Aegean coast. Boutique hotel group Ergon House is opening its first property outside of Greece, complete with an Agora marketplace showcasing the best Mediterranean farm-to-table produce, in Covent Garden next year. We may not have the whitewashed villas of Mykonos or the sunsets of Santorini here in London but we’ve got enough good Greek food to keep you going… until your next holiday at least.