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The real greek at home

17 August 2004

The opening of the Real Greek restaurant in Hoxton Market several years ago was one of the more uplifting, refreshing and significant London restaurant debuts of the past decade. I am glad to say it is still going strong and Theodore Kyriakou, with his new backers, continues blazing along the trail with his latest and excellent Souvlaki & Bar concept.

Kyriakou has almost single-handedly raised the profile of Greek food and drink in the UK, and I for one am thrilled to witness this impressive achievement.

I was similarly pleased by Kryriakou and Charles Campion's first literary collaboration, Real Greek Food; but I must confess this most recent offering, The Real Greek at Home, left me somewhat underwhelmed. It struck me as being rather hastily put together - the practice of cribbing several identical recipes from their earlier book illustrates this - and at least one of the recipes I tried (baklava) simply didn't work for me.

Perhaps I was being especially ham-fisted, but if you can successfully cram all the ingredients for this recipe into the size of baking dish suggested, you are a cleverer cook than I.

Jason Lowe's photography is first-rate and his images combine both atmosphere and clarity. Kyriakou's reminiscences of a halcyon Greek childhood are a delight, and his thoughts on the inextricable connection between Greek food and the seasons and festivals are illuminating - I would have preferred far more of this.

But to suggest in the section on souvlaki that shop-bought pitta is an unacceptable addition to a good Greek wrap, and then not provide a recipe for a flatbread, is unhelpful. (There is, by the way, a good discourse on the subject of flatbreads in Diana Henry's excellent book, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons - also published by Mitchell Beazley.)

What prose there is provides upbeat and diverting reading, and I enjoyed learning that, traditionally, Greek fishermen kill a freshly caught octopus by biting it between the eyes - if only restaurant critics were as easily dispatched.

This edition will make a welcome fixture to any coffee table, but for me it lacked insight, research and depth, and was ultimately as light and frothy as an avgolemeno sauce, the recipe for which brings the book to a fitting close.

It is a perfectly agreeable effort, but I had expected more given the high calibre of the individuals involved.

Bruce Poole, chef-proprietor, Chez Bruce, London

The Real Greek at Home
Theodore Kyriakou and Charles Campion
£20, Mitchell Beazley
ISBN 1-8-4000-851-2

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