3 Greek eateries making waves on the Joburg culinary scene
The Greek taverna trend is in full swing in Jozi. We visit a revamped favourite, a branch of a growing street-food concept and a bustling newbie in Parkhurst
Seasoned restaurateurs Theo Holiasmenos and his chef son Vassilios opened their bustling restaurant, Kolonaki Greek Kouzina, on 4th Avenue in Parkhurst late last year.
It's a beautiful venue with a wraparound balcony, delicious food and excellent, friendly service.
The only niggle? Don't bank on a spontaneous lunch or dinner as one needs to book in advance.
I love sitting on the patio, cocktail in hand, looking out towards Northcliff Hill watching the sun set, snacking on the vast variety of mezze and irresistible hot triangles of pita to soak it all up.
Kolonaki serves a wide array of Greek- and Mediterranean-influenced dishes - and great desserts.
MEET THE CHEF: VASSILIOS HOLIASMENOS
My father Theo was born in Greece and followed his father to SA.
With restaurants in his blood, it's no surprise I grew up in the restaurant industry and have worked in London running the kitchens for our family restaurants and I'm back in charge of the kitchen at Kolonaki.
The idea behind Kolonaki was to do exceptional Greek food.
A lot of our patrons have visited Greece and enjoy the mezze way of eating, which is a fun and sociable style of dining.
I can't cook without garlic, lots of it, fresh origanum and lemons.
Nothing beats a good home-cooked moussaka cooked by a Greek mama.
Favourite items on our menu apart from the mezze are a braised beef stifado (rich beef stew with wine served with orzo - a pasta rice), charcoal-grilled octopus, island-style fish, grilled lamb chops and our Greek yoghurt panna cotta and Greek custard pie.
2. SOUL SOUVLAKI
Soul Souvlaki specialises in "authentic Greek street food", and first popped up at the market in Maboneng. Such was the popularity that owner Dino Vlachos moved it to a permanent home, a funky container-turned-restaurant that has become a welcome spot for Greek favourites in downtown Joburg.
Vlachos has grown the concept and branched out into the suburbs with a knack for sniffing out quirky small places for his eateries — you'll now find Soul Souvlaki branches in Bedfordview, Craighall Park and Parktown North.
Walk in to any one of them and you're hit by an open buzzy kitchen with a large chalkboard featuring many options. Order envy and greediness saw us ordering way too much.
The eateries are big on take-out and small on sit-down so go early for a table.
MEET THE CHEF PATRON: DINO VLACHOS
My folks emigrated from Greece to SA when I was still a toddler.
What do I miss about Greece? Definitely the delicious food, as well as walking around the cafes and restaurants in the old part of Athens, the Plaka, at the foot of the Acropolis.
I learnt to cook Greek food by getting involved with my mother in her kitchen when she cooked our dinners.
My three favourite staples of Greek food are extra virgin olive oil, goat milk feta and the artisanal delicious warm bread.
South Africans love Greek food because it is unpretentious and honest. Culturally, Greek food is a social event, food is life! It offers the opportunity to sit around a table with family or friends and share flavours, tastes and conversations - undoubtedly of course this is usually accompanied by some ouzo or tsipouro (grape husk spirit).
I was motivated by the street food in Athens to start Soul Slouvaki. A take-out in Greece equates to delicious food, so I thought that this was lacking in SA.
At Soul Souvlaki we aim to serve food that tastes "like your mama made it". Simple, delicious tasty food!
The best-sellers in our restaurants by far are the lamb souvlaki and bifteki (burgers) served in pita, and our vegetarian patrons love the grilled halloumi in pita.
Mythos, an institution in Fourways Design Quarter since it was established in 2006, recently underwent a revamp. It's a large, open eatery with tables spilling out onto the courtyard, where the owners welcome you like old friends and can't resist stopping by for a chat.
It's full of happy families enjoying long, lazy lunches, the mood relaxed and friendly and, in a busy city, a place where time stands still. And best of all, the food at Mythos is consistently good.
MEET LIZA BABASAKALIS OF THE MYTHOS GROUP
The restaurant was started by George Kutra and his mother Irene who brought with her a wealth of recipes to bring the concept of an authentic Greek restaurant to life.
South Africans love Greek food as it has a distinctive taste provided it's authentic and cooked right and in our restaurant we have created a "home from home" atmosphere where it's all about family.
My three favourite Greek ingredients are olive oil, origanum and garlic, and my favourite dish is anything with lamb.
The favourite meal served in our restaurant is a village salad with some dips, keftedes (fried meatballs) and spanakopita (spinach pies) to start, then lamb, either kleftiko with our lemon roast potatoes or succulent grilled lamb chops, and ending off with baklava and ice cream.