This purveyor of poetry and proper Greek food deserves to thrive, says Gerry Corner
GREECE. Recovering bankrupt, saviour of Shirley Valentine, home of Homer; birthplace of Nana Mouskouri, and Nana’s nana.
Not to mention rightful resting place of the Elgin Marbles, priceless Greek treasures we nicked off them a couple of hundred years ago and which they’d like back if it’s all the same to us. I know how they feel. My marbles went awol sometime in the seventies and I still haven’t recovered.
“I’m not Greek,” she informs us. “I’m from Old Swan.”
Such thoughts come to mind in Greekosophy, a rather charming addition to the London Road end of the city, which, for all its regeneration and refurbishment, can still struggle to pull a crowd.
Nevertheless, Greekosophy’s pavement tables on adjoining Stafford Street are fully occupied as we arrive, a good sign at the back end of a Thursday lunchtime. Inside there is a cheery counter section doling out pittas, Crosby Coffee, organic teas, and all manner of Greek cheeses, herbs, pulses and preserves.
Straight on for comfy armchairs and a bookcase filled with the translated tomes of Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis, including the one we all know, Zorba the Greek. Off to the side, the dining room proper is a smart mustard-coloured space with simple, neat tables and chairs and a wall dedicated the work of 19th century poet Constantine P. Cavafy, son of Greek parents and former temporary Liverpool resident.
We wonder in which corner of the Aegean our willing and helpful server has honed her accent. “I’m not Greek,” she informs us. “I’m from Old Swan.”
Our young Old Swan waitress may not hail from the Hellenic Republic, as it calls itself when it’s being posh, but she knows what she likes, and when we warily wonder if we should order courgette balls (£4.80), her face takes on a dream-like quality as she exclaims. “Oh! How is it possible to make courgettes taste this good?”
Ten minutes later we are asking ourselves the same question about bundles of grated courgette and feta mixed with a handful of fresh herbs, lightly floured and fried to a gently crisp, luscious finish.
What Maray of Bold Street does for the humble cauliflower, this place does for the courgette. Unlike Maray’s creation, Greekosophy did not invent courgette balls (or kolokithokeftedes as they call them in Crete) but they are proper Greek and authenticity is central to the philosophy here.
Hence, they don’t do hummus, which originated some way east of Athens (hummus being Arabic for chickpeas); instead they serve skordalia (£3.40), a creamy moreish blend of bread, nuts and lots of garlic, which we scoop with good pita bread.
A colourful, lightly dressed salad (£7) comes with barrel aged feta, creamy and subtle, and smoked Cretan pork.
Before they opened here Greekosophy was – and indeed will still be – serving filled pitas to matchday crowds at Anfield. Here they come in regular (£4-£5) or large (£7-£8), stuffed with chunks of meat cooked on skewers, a pile of fresh finely sliced tomato, pepper and red onion, a dollop of tzatziki, clean and cool, and, these being authentically Greek pitas, there’s a handful of (bog standard) chips in there too.
Free range chicken and lamb pieces have flavour and bite and come courtesy of the brilliant Edge’s Butchers of New Ferry, cuts above the average. The matchday crowd like to shove some paprika sauce (50p extra), tomato rich and flecked with paprika, in there too.
Dinos tells us they “are like a baby crawling, teething”
This day’s special, imam baildi (£6), is strictly speaking of Turkish origin but not surprisingly found its way into Greek kitchens in the course of four centuries or so of rule from Istanbul.
Legend has it that imam baildi, which translates as “the imam fainted”, was named from an ancient cleric who was overcome as a result of its sheer deliciousness. It doesn’t quite knock us out but it isn’t half bad: a meaty aubergine half filled with tomatoes and onions and a dash of cinnamon, sweetly caramelised in plenty of olive oil, and on top the salt-hit of feta, a block of the stuff baked to a melting softness. Tip: order some tzatziki to go on the side.
It’s early days at Greekosophy; general manager Dinos tells us they “are like a baby crawling, teething”. New dishes are being worked on, a drinks licence is sought.
Stafford Street is not the best location in town for a restaurant but, a few doors down, Kane’s Tea Room, former haunt of Alan Bleasdale, was around for years, so proving that a friendly, well-run, good value restaurant which sets store by quality can not only survive but thrive there.
Greekosophy, 29 Stafford Street, Liverpool, L3 8LX Tel: 0151 271 2236
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: put the kettle on instead, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: made by God him/herself.
courgette 8, skordalia 7.5, salad 6.5, pitas 7.5, imam baildi 6.5
Charming and helpful
Bright and attractive