Friday, 5 April 2013

El Greco, Stratford-upon-Avon

This is, mercifully, not a kebabs-and-plate-smashing establishment where copious amounts of runny tzatziki are ladled on every dish. It is bright, fairly spacious with reasonable access, but furnished in a modern chrome, glass and black palette. Ambient Greek music but, thankfully, not Zorba on a loop. This is ideal if you are tiring of the endless cream-tea-and cupcake Cotswold offering, and feel ill at the prospect of another round of organic sausages and artisan cheeses. Also good to bring friends as a way of advertising your foodie credentials without worrying whether you actually like chipotle goat's cheese burgers, or what skordalia actually is. The menu is helpfully annotated for ignoramuses like me, to save the embarrassment of pretending you know what you are ordering. With the added bonus of comically mispronouncing Spanacopita as 'Spamopticka' and giggling hysterically at 'stifado'.

All four of us opted for the Prix Fixe menu, a bargain at £18.50 for three courses. I had the kalamari which came served with a generous portion of rocket salad. I might have been disappointed with the portion only being three rings; but since we had also ordered the tri-kala with pitta bread there was, in the end, almost too much food. The tri-kala itself was made up of taramasalata, hummus and tzatziki. Three dense, firm helpings - by which I mean not the usual claggy sludge sometimes offered. The kalamari were amazing. Breaded and deep fried with a satisfying crunch and a good chewy texture, though by no means rubbery. Drew opted for the dolmades, three portions of vine leaves stuffed with beef and rice. They tasted fresh and sharp, and were served warm with a tomato sauce. My main course was salmon with a dill and lemon sauce. The portions are certainly generous. The salmon was rose pink, glistening with a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture, slightly crisp at the edges. The vegetables were roasted, just ever-so-slightly chargrilled with loose skin and a soft crunch. The accompanying new potatoes were baked rather than boiled. Drew had the chicken souvlaki, of which he was full of praise - tender chicken, chargrilled on the outside but not so much as to overpower the marinade. We sampled someone else's chips, served thick cut and golden with an oregano coating, lending them some pungency, although that quickly dissipates. Good, spicy flavour, though, without the prickle on your tongue left by chilli-coated chips.  I opted for ice cream for dessert; Drew had the combination called 'Sugar and Spice' a trio of baklava, kataifi and honeycomb ice cream. All the requirements for a dessert - hot and cold, sticky and sweet, cloying on the palate and enough sugar to induce a fatal MI. Lovely.

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