Monday, 26 March 2012

10 Greek Street is easy to find but not as easy to forget

Middle white pork with parsnips and spinach
Last week we checked out the newish 10 Greek Street in Soho. I'm all for restaurants naming themselves after their street address, unless perhaps you're located on Shoot Up Hill a suburb away in Kilburn. Heroin chic is so 90s, right? While a street-named restaurant may reflect a little poorly on the imaginative prowess of the owners, it is instead doing the diner a favour by making the destination all too obvious.  That comes in handy if you have friends like some of mine who lose all sense of direction the minute they step out of a tube station.


So with the location of 10 Greek Street sorted out, the next thing to do was hope for a table as 10 Greek operates a no-booking policy at dinner. But despite the popularity of this newish joint and the pedigree of the team, we had no trouble getting a table for two. That may be because we arrived at the pensioner hour of 5.45pm. Not being a pensioner, I don't generally eat at that hour but last night was out of necessity as the Donmar was waiting for us at 7.30pm. Be warned though that the 28 seats were full by about 6.15pm, so plan accordingly. Even the chef of Pearl, Jun Tanaka, was turned away.

Buttermilk squash and cimi di rapa soup
Logistics aside, let's turn to the food. I started with a butternut squash and cimi di rapa soup, while Mr B had a wild boar and new season's garlic risotto. Instead of pureed, the squash was served in chunky cubes and topped with some grated cheese. It was lovely, but I thought a touch under-seasoned. Despite this, I think this dish reflects the general philosophy of the chef. This was hearty, rustic food done without pretension. The strong flavour of the wild boar sausage was appreciated but maybe overshadowed the young garlic a bit. Still, it was a beautifully cooked risotto.

Wild boar and new season's garlic risotto
I'm quite fond of duck, so for our main courses I went with braised duck, sweet potato, kale and poached quince while Mr B chose the Middle White pork, parsnips & spinach. Mr B was quite taken with the pork, calling it better than the roast pork at Moro. Now to me that's a big call because to my mind Moro serves the best pork in London from its wood fired oven. My mouthful of the dish was pretty good, but I think the jury might still be out on this one. I think another trip to Moro might be in order to settle the argument. The duck was beautifully cooked.  Tender and easy to pull away from the bone along with a super crispy skin. Hearty flavours enhanced by the kale and quince. I really enjoyed this.

Braised duck, sweet potato, kale and poached quince
Feeling pretty stuffed we were close to skipping dessert altogether, but there was a pavlova on the menu and being Australian...well, come on, we had to order it. It was topped with some poached rhubarb and spread with lemon curd. It sounded delicious but was actually a bit of a hot mess partly because the meringue was overcooked and crunchy all the way through. We practically had to chisel through it. My perfect pavlova meringue has to have a crunchy exterior and a slightly soft, dare I say squidgy, interior. Pick up a copy of Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion for the definitive recipe. I also didn't get the spread of lemon curd, although the rhubarb was nice enough and inspired us to buy some at the markets. It is in season after all.

A dodgy pavlova
Service was very friendly and efficient. Our waiter suggested a lovely Austrian red (a Blaufrankisch) when we asked for something not too heavy to compliment the food. After all, we had a two and a half hour play to sit through. The total bill for 2 courses each, a shared dessert and a 375ml carafe of wine was £61 without tip. That's pretty good value, right? Plus, this is one of the few restaurants that doesn't add the obligatory 12.5% service mark up.

Even with one dodgy dessert, 10 Greek St is the sort of place I wish was in my neighbourhood. The menu changes so regularly that you could be assured of having something different and interesting to eat every week. Sure the lack of ability to book for dinner may tick a few people off. You might consider the approach egalitarian if you are either early or lucky, or just bloody annoying if you don't want to plan an evening around a meal. To be honest, I don't mind a bit of tactical planning if it means I get to eat well.

10 Greek Street on UrbanspoonAnyway, all this talk of booking policies reminds me that I should tell you about the time that Keira Knightley (yes, that one) was in the queue behind us at Barrafina. She didn't queue-jump, but the wait must have worked up her appetite because she totally devoured that quail. I don't blame here either, it's bloody delicious.

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