The ‘Lazing’ tour through Stratford-upon-Avon reported on AlphaLuxe HERE and THERE were nostalgic journeys revisiting Shakespeare’s hometown after more than 30 years. Much had changed and yet, not unsurprisingly, much of the ‘bardolatry’ remained the same. Three decades ago, we were also annual visitors to Greece, staying in the same village each autumn.
When we saw a Greek tavern across the street from the Old Thatch Tavern during our Lazing Pub Crawl, it was inevitable that we would graze with nostalgia at El Greco on Rother Street.
The American Memorial Fountain is an easy landmark across the street.
Another landmark is the White Swan Hotel next to the restaurant, which should not be mistaken for any white swan in Stratford-upon-Avon.
On the map, it is located near the No.2 red hotspot.
El Greco Restaurant
Bearing in mind the general ambience of the town is ‘black & white’ Tudor and mock-Tudor, it is unsurprising that this restaurant embraces the monochromatic theme. In the evenings, they add a modicum of warmth with candle lights and inexplicable balloons.
With my schoolboy Greek, I attempted to revive memories of sultry nights in Crete and was pleasantly surprised to discover the personnel were really Greek and not Cypriots with British connections.
Most tourists are familiar with the concept of mezedes or meze as small plates of food served with ouzo since in Greece it is customary to eat while you drink. Ouzo is never served without mezedes, even if it is only a token dish of nuts at a tourist trap. Our taste runs more towards tsikoudia, tsipouro and raki which are similar spirits but without the aniseed liquorice flavours. The Greek way is to not to get raving drunk by drinking slowly, eat meze and in between every bite, they are talking, listening, watching or reflecting.
Faced with the nostalgia from three decades ago, we had to go for the Signature El Greco Tasting Menu with 22 different items for £26 per person (minimum 2 diners).
Domaine Hatzimichalis Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Domaine Hatzimichalis is a family owned winery located in Atalanti , Central Greece and the first international variety planted was Cabernet Sauvignon. Thirty years ago, we only had wines from local Greek grapes like Agiorgitiko, Kotsifali, Romeiko and Mavodaphne, which had not done badly in 6,500 years of Greek cultivation.
The colour was bright and deep red with a bouquet of blackcurrant and sweet mint spice. The intense Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics of full body with bold tannins, concentrated ‘jammy’ flavours, oak and persistent finish are intensified by the sunny climate.
- TZATZIKI (v) – yoghurt & cucumber dip
- TARAMOSALATA – ﬁsh roe dip
- HOUMOS (v) – chickpea dip
- FASULIA (v) – giant beans in a tomato sauce
- KALAMARI – deep fried squid
- SPANAKOPITA (v) – spinach & cheese parcels
- HALLOUMI (v) – Cypriot cheese, chargrilled
- OLIVES & PITTA BREAD
Olives, Fasulia, Taramosalata, Houmus
Top L – R: Tzatsiki, Pork Souvlaki, Spanakopita,
Bottom L – R: Olives, Kalamarakia, Fasulia beans
The Greek dips kicked off with Tzatziki that usually accompanies grilled souvlaki (meat skewers) but is just as good as a dip for fried kolokithea (zucchini) and melitzana (eggplant) or bread. Taramosalata and Houmos completed the holy trinity of dips to accompany the Pitta bread.
Fried Kalamarakia (calamari) is served in most tavernas and tourist restaurants but we tend to eat them too quickly.
Saganaki is either grilled or fried cheese for amazing meze that you can easily copy at home. Here, Cypriot Halloumi cheese was deep-fried and seasoned with lemon.
The Spanakopita parcels in filo pastry posed a danger of burning melted cheese that we cooled quickly with tzatziki dip that also served the same purpose on the grilled Pork Souvlaki.
My favourite was the Fasulia beans in tomato sauce to round off the “starters” with Olives and Pitta Bread.
- MOUSSAKA – the great Greek classic
- LOUKANIKA – traditional Greek sausage
- SALATA HORIATIKI – Greek salad with feta cheese
- CHICKEN SOUVLAKI – marinated chicken kebab
- PORK SOUVLAKI – marinated pork kebab
- KEFTEDES – meatballs
- DOLMADES – stuﬀed vine leaves
- STIFADO – slow-cooked beef stew
- OREGANO CHIPS & RICE
All our favourites were brought out for the second round of Mains and we were regretting wolfing down too much of the first round Starters without pacing ourselves!
Moussaka is the most famous ‘Greek’ dish that originated in the Levant, Middle East, and Balkans. Most versions use a milk-based sauce thickened with egg (custard) or flour (béchamel sauce). In Greece, the dish is layered and served hot. In Turkey, thinly sliced aubergine (eggplant) is fried and served in a tomato-based meat sauce. Turkish mussaka may be served warm or at room temperature. It is often eaten cold in Arab countries.
Loukanika (sausages) are a firm favourite with children and adults. What’s not to like with spicy grilled or fried meat?
The eponymous Salata Horiatiki (Greek salad) is a staple of every Greek meal and may even be the main dish with tangy, salty feta cheese.
Top L – R: Moussaka, Loukarnika, Halloumi Saganaki, Rice,
Bottom L – R: Olives, Salata Horiatiki
Top L – R: Olives, Salata Horiatiki, Chicken Souvlaki.
Bottom L – R: Keftedes, Dolmades, Stifado
Keftedes meatballs are a staple of Greek cuisine; in fact, there may be no culture on this planet and in the galaxy without meatballs!
Dolmades (stuffed grape-vine leaves) are also popular with small and big children as satisfying parcels of rice, minced meat, pine nuts and raisins.
Stifado is usually rabbit or hare stew with pearl onions, vinegar, red wine and cinnamon but as at El Greco, beef can be substituted for game.
Of course, we had no capacity for the other Greek classic, kleftiko stew, literally meaning “in the style of the Klephts”, a lamb shank marinated in garlic and lemon juice before slow-bake on the bone.
Klephts (Greek κλέφτης, kléftis, which means “thief”) were highwaymen turned self-appointed armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents, and warlike mountain-folk descended from Greeks who retreated into the mountains when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. They carried on a guerrilla war against Ottoman rule and remained active as brigands until the 19th century. We know the word kleptomania from the same Greek root, κλέπτειν (kléptein), “to steal”.
There really was no room for the fried potato chips and rice side dishes but we made a game effort….
BAKLAVA & KATAIFI traditional Greek sweets served with honeycomb ice cream
Baklava is filo pastry layers filled with nuts and drenched in honey.
Kataifi (κανταΐφι in Greek) is made of thin noodle threads to form pastries such as tubes or birds’ nests, often with a filling of chopped nuts.
AlphaLuxe Two-Tongues Award
El Greco scores highly for service and amiable personnel. The portions are more than sufficient and prices were reasonable. Perhaps it was too ambitious to attempt the Tasting Menu with only two diners but we had to try as wide a range of dishes as we could. In the end, we can give El Greco an easy AlphaLuxe Two-Tongues rating; with a little more taste tweaking, it could reach the next level.
Bear in mind that this was never meant to be Greek fine dining as reported previously on AlphaLuxe about AVRA Madison in New York.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web magazine. He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).