The best Greek restaurants in London
Everyone has hazy memories of stumbling drunkenly around a Brit-loaded Greek resort at 2am, following the smell of souvlaki – don’t they? Thanks to this Greek street food operation (which also has a spot in Shoreditch’s Boxpark and runs stalls at various London markets), the sheer pleasure of a smokily grilled meat skewer, wrapped in a fluffy pitta and drizzled with dips, is no longer just a holiday indulgence. Everything is impeccably sourced, while salads and sides (including oregano-flecked fries) are equally tasty.
A low-key locals’ local that packs atmosphere in by the bucketload thanks to multi-generational families chattering away in Greek and big birthday groups knocking back Cypriot Keo beer. The crowds combined with the high ceilings and open-plan layout (the building was once a pub) do make for pretty lousy acoustics, but attentive service and plates of juicy charcoal-grilled meats more than make up for the clatter – try the lamb souvlaki, made with prime rare-breed Romney salt marsh lamb.
Another chain in the making from The Real Greek’s founder, Theodore Kyriakou, The Greek Larder has a lot to offer: modern, warehouse-y good looks with Aegean-green details, a well-stocked deli store and native wines. The menu is delightful, combining surprising, regional Greek dishes with re-imaginings of the Athens street food of Kyriakou’s youth – although a rather hefty bill is the price you pay to enjoy something a little different...
Specialising in Athenian street food, Hungry Donkey’s winning formula is about keeping things simple – its dishes can all be eaten either in the light-filled, high-ceilinged dining room or taken away. Attention to detail is what lifts all the dishes – they’re made with organic ingredients and rare-breed meats; all-Greek wines, meanwhile, are sourced from small producers. Snap up a couple of souvlaki skewers for three quid, or try one of the larger ‘smashing plates’ such as the clove- and cinnamon-scented beef stifado.
Abuzz with gossip, toasts and the chatter of Primrose Hill ladies-who-lunch, this much-loved Greek-Cypriot stalwart has been in operation for more than 30 years – but it’s more famous for the famous people who frequent its vine-clad dining room than for the lengthy menu. Dishes on offer span charcoal grills, seafood, oven-cooked taverna classics, vast mezédes selections and great-value weekday lunch specials – all of which come at slightly higher-than-holiday prices (but with higher-than-average chances of spotting a bona fide celeb).
Like the original deli-café in Bloomsbury, the Soho branch of The Life Goddess bills itself as ‘not your average Greek restaurant’. It’s true: this ambitious venue stands out for its properly Greek menu, which features cooking like you’d find in the country’s smarter resorts or in Athens. Forget tourist tropes and relish instead the likes of pork with delicate lemon sauce or octopus stewed slowly in Greek wine and served with fava bean spread. The all-Greek wine list also changes regularly.
This stylish addition to the capital’s Hellenic dining scene opened in 2012 on the site of one of London’s first Greek restaurants. Its food takes inspiration from the creations of leading Athens restaurants, so purists might be troubled by the progressive presentation: mezédes are served in Kilner jars, while tyrópitta is separated into filling and filo for DIY crumbling. However, the flavours are reassuringly authentic – even in signature dishes such as tender grilled octopus with lemon oil, zhushed up with lentils and yuzu.
Opso matches its modern, slightly Scandi look with a contemporary menu of small plates – mezédes – that are pimped almost beyond recognition. The simpler dishes are the best: ‘taramas cream’ (taramasalata) is a world away from those bright pink supermarket tubs, the pale, delicate-tasting cod roe easily mopped up with olive crackers; while the Dakos salad benefits from the freshest, ripest ingredients. Save room for dessert – all of the baked goods (and my, are they good) are made in house.
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This out-of-the-way gem takes the Balkans as its culinary unifier, so while its acutely seasonal, daily changing menu isn’t 100 percent Greek, Hellenic dishes feature strongly: think feta parcels with marinated beetroot, walnuts and skordalia (garlic and potato spread), or marinated lamb leg with borlotti beans, roasted tomatoes and ktipiti (cheese dip) – plus quirky but rewarding Greek wines. Most of the meat and fish is charcoal-grilled, bringing instant feelgood holiday vibes to the table – a spot on the terrace is perfection in summer.
There’s no doubt that this chain lacks the homely charms that most Greek restaurants in London trade on. But The Real Greek also lacks the amateurish qualities that can characterise the cooking in some of the capital’s Hellenic eateries. Food rarely sparkles here, but order one of the souvláki wraps and you’re in for a reliable, hearty feed. Regional standouts, meanwhile, include the meat pie layered with filo, feta, minced beef and parsley, from the north of Greece.
Just because many of the dishes we associate with Greece are of the snacky variety doesn’t mean they should be any less lovingly made than their haute cuisine counterparts – and this beautiful Soho eatery proves the point, with souvlaki threaded on site every day with carefully sourced meats then cooked over top-quality charcoal on the robata-style grill. The short menu features plenty more surprises, including delicately-dressed smoked eel or pulled pork with orzo and oregano, plus craft beers from Greek micro-breweries.
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