The only thing that doesn’t quite hit the mark is the rabbit leg. And it’s probably not the fault of the leporine itself; after all it’s often sinewy and a little chewy. But it’s the only slight miss in an experience that is an interesting addition to King’s Cross’s dining quarter.
The Greek Larder is, as you might expect, a Hellenic restaurant and food store. The brainchild of experienced chef Theodore Kyriakou – founder of Livebait and then The Real Greek – it’s located on York Way, just above the canal. This time around, he’s chosen to feature the regional produce and the culinary history of the Aegean, with the focus on traditional eastern Med recipes and the “street food” of Athens.
Invited to visit at lunchtime, we are surprised at a space that is studio-bright with big windows letting in more light than you’d expect on a gloomy November morning. Inside is a striking counter, open kitchen, immaculate “taverna”-style furniture, with low pendants and stylish produce piled on shelves: olive oils, cheeses, charcuterie, pulses, beans, and coffee, and lots of wine. Staff flit about in Farrow & Ball green-grey lab coats.
Wine arrives in a hyper copper-coloured aluminium wine carafe with no spout and accompanying tiny glasses. It’s fun, but requires a delicate balancing act to avoid spillage, and we wonder, with amusement, how the more boozed-up weekend customers might cope. But the retsina (Ritinitis Nobilis) itself is delicious: an easy drinking Peloponnese, all foresty pine and vague memories of Greek islands.
We share some meze. A meaty dark pink octopus tentacle straddles fava (yellow split pea puree) attractively; the aforementioned breadcrumbed rabbit leg comes with a sweet, glutinous, moreish parsnip skordalia, a method of combining a root vegetable with a garlic base and olive oil.
Single estate strained tomatoes make for a satisfyingly sweet-tart dip for excellent sourdough. And a particular highlight is sardine, anchovy and caramelized little gem, a sort of Greek take on a Caesar salad, but packed with oily piscine flavours and sticky sweet lettuce. A hit.
If anything, the mains impress even more. From a short list of half a dozen seasonal dishes – mostly cosy casseroles and fish stews – we select venison, sliced appealingly into half a dozen red-rare discs, with an addictive and earthy chestnut pilaf. It’s a case of perfect portion sizing, both manageable, delicious and easy to finish (and even leave us wanting more – a good thing). Best of all? A simple and unlikely casserole of artichokes and the most meltingly tender cuttlefish, bursting with fragrant dill and the sort of dish you would high-five about, if you chanced upon it, on a trip to Greece.
The Hellenic wine list is an adventure too, and our house red (Thiassos, another Peloponnese, £6.80 for 250 mls) is as light and promiscuous as a Pinot Noir, working with both mains. There’s also a house beer range and white wines from the fertile volcanic soils of Santorini.
We were less keen on a heavy wedge of baklava dessert with herb-packed mountain tea ice cream, which didn’t feel as effortless as the succession of earlier dishes. And an accompanying Greek coffee, while undeniably unique, is an acquired taste that would need repeat attempts.
Overall though? This is a treat to be filed next to Caravan, Dishoom and Grain Store.