Get To The Greek!

Croydon

1 Dec 17

The Greek poet Archestratos wrote history’s first cookbook some 2,300 years ago. Yeah, just like virtually everything else to do with the Greeks, their food traditions go way back (it ain’t called ‘ancient’ Greece for nout).

Ditto with street food. One of the earliest documented dishes served from the food markets in Athens was lentil soup, as rustic and as basic as those who sold it, followed later in history by some quite frankly uninspiring items, such as baked carrots and boiled corn. Eventually came bougatsa, a filo pastry filled with custard (much more like it), and modern takes on souvlaki, where Greek street food really hit its peak.

Souvlaki is meat grilled on a skewer, often folded inside a grill-blistered pita with onions, tomatoes and tzatziki (yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and mint) – all yours for €1, provided you’re happy to go looking down Athens’ side streets.

Since its origins (one theory is that Alexander the Great’s army had a thing for roasting meat on sword-like skewers over fire pits), souvlaki and dishes like it have become one of the most recognised street foods in the world. Wander down your local high-street at 3am on a Saturday morning, past the chippies and kebab shops, and you’ll see why.

It’s late-night sustenance, absolutely, but some folks are taking the concept back to its roots. That’s to say: whacking the volume back up to 11. Witness The Athenian – two guys from Athens and Cyprus who in 2014 opened up Londoners to the world of fluffy pitas and succulent lamb, side-kicked with fresh tzatziki, bolstered by some impeccable sourcing and, should the mood allow, oregano-flecked fries.

It’s a wonderful combo few can match, unless you’re someone like Greek On The Street, who consistently pull a queue for their sumptuous Mediterranean spin on souvlaki – one which involves humus, pickled cabbage, and all the allures they entail. Unlike the typical British-high-street variant, it’s the sort of thing the Greeks like to wolf down day and night. Maybe, with the help of a few traders, it’s a concept we Brits could also get used to.