Ask anyone with a management consultancy career, and I’m sure they will all tell you about the long hours, the intense workload, the inevitable instability, and other arduous tales and anecdotes – even if they, (like me), love what they do. But one of the best parts of the role can be the clever, dynamic and interesting colleagues that you work with every day; when you’re fortunate, they become great friends.
I have always believed that one of the best ways for teams to bond is by breaking bread, sharing a lunch or a dinner away from a screen, and getting to see each other as people rather than just work associates. So, when the opportunity arose for a team member and me to enjoy a shared dinner together I naturally jumped at it, and took the liberty of finding an inspiring little restaurant that was on both of our lists to try: Santorini Restaurant.
I wouldn’t have normally ventured out towards Bayswater for dinner, but but once I saw the high ratings, the stunning photos, and the authentic menu options for Santorini Restaurant, it seemed well worth the travel time across London for it anyway. After all, Greek food – the authentic kind that is more than just food for the masses – isn’t easy to find in London. I have huge expectations for Greek food (if you’ve read my review of Candouni, which I called one of my personal top 5 best restaurants in the world, you’ll understand why), as well as a huge love of it – and as I’m not prepared to hop a flight back to Santorini just now, this is an inviting compromise.
We arrive by taxi, and I am instantly excited: I have already perused the menu in advance and so I was already anticipating great food, but the little Greek touches in the restaurant helped to create the mood. The interior is relatively bare and a little stark, it must be said, but it retains a style that is very authentic to the island of Santorini, with its colour palette, the stones, the furniture. As a mid-priced restaurant it falls in line with expectations.
The menus were brought to us by our waitress, a lovely Greek lady that helped to reinforce the idea of an authentic experience. There was a vast menu, not to mention a ‘Catch of the Day’ menu, and we were spoiled for choice. And so, shameless gluttons that we are, we ordered three starters to share, which would be followed by our individuals main dishes.
The first starter to arrive was the dish I was most anticipating and which would ultimately be my favourite. I could not believe it when I found the typical Santorini dish of fried Saganaki Cheese with honey and sesame seeds! One bite and I was transported back to the island. I would return to Santorini Restaurant for this dish alone, and have it for starter, main and dessert. Served simply, the flavours did all the work without a need for complex presentation. Needless to say, I am a fan.
The second starter to arrive was from the Catch of the Day menu: the sardine bruschetta was surprisingly tasty and served with quite an abundant portion of sardines. It was light and fresh, and I enjoyed it immensely for what it was – though I had to suppress my inner Italian to avoid critiquing the bruschetta itself from the perspective of the bread quality and consistency. I’m picking at details, but if I don’t call it a bruschetta and avoid the Italian associations of how a bruschetta should be served, I found this to be delicious.
Our third starter was the spanakopita, and what a spanakopita it was! We hadn’t expected such a large portion – but when spinach, feta cheese and filo pastry come together in such a warm, heavenly combination, it really isn’t a hard task to clean your plate. It was full of flavour and there is something to be said for serving it in this large manner, as opposed to the common, small pastry-style servings in so many London restaurants: the filling-to-pastry ratio is more balanced, and probably healthier too. We both really enjoyed this.
In all honesty, we probably could have ended the dinner there… but no, we were there to make the most of it! Our lamb kleftiko was next to arrive. Admittedly, presentation left a little to be desired (which could be said for the dishes that preceded this one as well), but there is also something to be said for a serving that recalls home cooking and feels relaxed. The lamb itself was exactly as you’d expect: so tender that it fell off the bone. Full of flavour, we didn’t leave a bite – including the roast potatoes which accompanied the dish.
Stuffed as we were, we couldn’t possibly resist the calling of backlava for dessert! And as they say, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’! Luckily, we decided to share one between the two of us, because we hadn’t expected such a large portion – which also came served with vanilla ice cream and topped with honey.
It’s worth noting I am rather particular about my baclava (again, read my review of Candouni and you’ll understand!). I did enjoy this dessert; however, I found that the chef was a little too generous with the spices when he made this baclava. I couldn’t quite point out which one in particular, but my colleague and I both discerned that it was most likely an overabundance of clove, unfortunately. Also, what would have truly taken this dish up another level is if the baclava was served slightly warm, as if just out of the oven, which would have contrasted nicely with the cold vanilla ice cream. Regardless, we wouldn’t have ended a Greek feast any other way.
All in all, the evening came to an end with two friends were who were very happy and full. Santorini Restaurant was charming, and when I can’t get to Santorini itself, I will keep this delightful restaurant in mind to quell my cravings in the interim.
*Calories: Honestly, I was shameless on this particular evening. I didn’t bother tracking with any accuracy; I just assumed 2,500 calories and worked to compensate for several days later.
Food taste: 3.7 / 5 (I enjoyed everything overall; the backlava slightly missed the mark and the bread on the bruschetta wasn’t quite right… but I’m very particular on both. Overall it was delicious and I loved the saganaki dish.)
Food/table presentation: 3.2 / 5 (Above average points for the nod to traditional Greek themes; however, presentation isn’t their strong point. If you assume a meal served as if by a Greek grandmother instead of a restaurant you can make accommodations.)
Service: 4 / 5 (Friendly service, recommendations were helpful, and didn’t rush us away. )
Atmosphere/decor: 3.8 / 5 (It’s a bit bare, but the nods to the island were appreciated.)
Value for money: 4.2/ 5 (Considering the 3 shared starters, main lamb dish, and shared dessert, a total of less than 70 GBP for the both of us is very reasonable. )
Overall rating: 3.78/ 5