I have been living in London for 12 years so far and have been looking for a Greek restaurant with food that actually feels Greek. Sure, there is ‘pretend’ Greek, in the same way, I imagine, that there is ‘pretend’ Italian and ‘pretend’ Chinese – i.e. the British market’s interpretation of those national cuisines. Not always a bad thing but being Greek the situation with Greek restaurants irks me.
The most infuriating thing on the menu of ‘pretend’ Greek restaurants is houmous. I was born and raised in Greece and the first time I had houmous was in London. Take it from me, houmous is not a Greek thing. I am baffled by its existence on ‘Greek’ menus. The same goes for olives (we don’t eat Spanish olives, they are *not* the same), tzatziki with mint (we *never* do this) and pastitsio with minced lamb instead of minced beef (that one is bloody sacrilege).
Fortunately none of that exists in Ergon. Their dishes felt like Greek cooking – which is hard to achieve. They also go one better and create lovely dishes based on traditional ones. Ergon opened a few months ago in London and I had heard good things. A pretty important Greek chef is behind it the menu, Dimitris Skarmoutsos but I am not impressed by chefs on a general principle and so I’m just mentioning it to show that this is not intended to be your run of the mill Greek taverna.
We went with some mates, including Nik of Conrad’s Beer.
The space is light and airy. On that day the huge glazed patio doors were wide-open, giving a wonderful sense of being outside while being inside. The tables have good spacing and you don’t feel squashed (another one of my pet hates).
I was misinformed that portions were small (they are not) and so we ordered mountains of food. Not that I am complaining, you understand.
The spreads and meze (it’s not called tapas, no) were in the main really good. I especially loved the eggplant salad (need to remember to do a video recipe of this) and the pastries filled with pastourma – what an absolutely brilliant idea. The fries are also great, none of that pre-cut pre-fried nonsense. The ntolmadakia were somewhat disappointing on the other hand, dry and tough.
You would be safe if you went and just ordered spreads and meze, most things were delicious.
On to the mains and we felt they were a somewhat disappointing second act to a great first. You get a huge portion of homemade gyros but it’s not actually cut like gyros and it has far too much paprika. Yes, gyros is supposed to be spiced but this is going overboard. The chicken souvlaki was very dry and the most yummy thing on that plate was the rice (a number of souvlaki plates were not finished on other tables too). I personally loved the slow cooked lamb shank which was very tender. The s.o. noted that “it was just normal lamb, as expected” but he has not had to deal with lamb cooked English – style (see tough and still bloody) for nearly as long as I have.
Happily, the baklavas with that dark chocolate was amazing. I’m still thinking about it and would gladly drop in to have some more. The Greek coffee however was hastily brewed and the coffee granules would not sit at the bottom no matter how long we waited and so drank a bit of muddy coffee. They really need to look into that.
If you drop in, do go downstairs where you will find their deli with yummy Greek products difficult to find elsewhere (unless you live in North London that is). I will try to do a post on Greek delis at some point in the future, there are at least three I know off in London now and they stock some great stuff.
I am being tough in this post, I know. But I try to be very specific and honest whenever I write about a place so this is no different. Overall it is a very good restaurant with some dishes that are pure gems. It tastes like actual Greek food – very rare in London. However, I do think that a bit more overall attention would elevate Ergon to a whole different level.
Disclosure: We went to Ergon on 01 June 2014 and paid for our meal in full. No prior discussion with the restaurant took place.
16 Picton Place
Tel: 020 7486 9210
Why not check out:
Ergon Restaurant & Deli: A Taste of Greece in London on The Lost Londoner
Ergon on Hungry Bee Maija