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Portrait - 10 Greek Street

One of perfume's great noses James Craven visits Soho's cult `10 Greek Street

Written by . Published on May 28th 2012.

Portrait - 10 Greek Street


James Craven is one of London's great perfume noses...here he tries his hand for the first time at another kind of sense and sensibility.

10 Greek Street is great on wipes and wiping. You feel you're being genially entertained in some fabulous and relaxed cook's flat; with the informality and light-heartedness of the old-time stockpot, and the generosity of feeling and high spirits of the much-regretted Scoffs on Kensington High Street.

Beetroot risotto - a lordly dish like a huge overblown crimson rose - a Darcey Bussell or a Gertrude Jekyll

Another novelty and bonus is you can hear what you and your companion are saying. I'm not yet deaf but usually find with the jabbering, music and crush in the average popular restaurant I cannot hear a thing. Here the acoustics are excellent.

So, to pick up the threads, this was an early lunch with a kind companion at 10 Greek Street, a venue I gather that everyone is raving about. Now, I'm not surprised.

Greekmenu10 Greek Street - menuFor lunch they take bookings: in the evenings you have to queue, which seems a ghastly idea as the idea of a chancy wait puts me terribly on edge - stilted conversations in the line, fretful companions, and a great worry about trains or just getting to bed. Though evidently not everyone, thank Heaven, thinks like me or no restaurant would have this policy.  I don't honestly find any restaurant worth queuing for. Not even this little beauty, which in nearly every other way I found just perfect. A discovery, all right.

First of all it's attractively small but the tables are well-spaced, and on a boiling day it was cool, fresh and airy. I was there 15 minutes early at 12.30 and a lovely smiling Australian girl, easy and gracious, confidently checked the reservation (rare and wonderful in itself) seated me and brought drink ("tap water, ok?") in an old milk bottle. Also a basket of toasted oiled bread.

GreekrisottoGreek Street - risottoThe water itself was fine; and it was marvelous not to have the usual silly fuss over tap v mineral, sizes and whatnot; but I wasn't sure about that bottle. I wondered all through the meal whether it wasn't a little too self-consciously no-nonsense and cute: but after two hours I was so impressed by the warmly sensible attitudes, that the milk bottle seemed to fit aptly into the general practical arrangement of things. There's an appealing modesty about the whole establishment and absolutely no nonsense. The relief.

The chairs are comfortable and you don't stick to the them. The tables are wonderful: wipe-down brown Formica with a sort of dishwasher cutlery basket sunk into them containing MASSES of knives, forks and spoons PLUS your own pepper mill and bottle of olive oil which stays with you for the duration.

There are incredibly marvelous practical napkins, like old fashioned absorbent tea towels: thick and large. My father would have at once pocketed a couple: he was a great collector of such things. So I tucked this napkin well into my shirt and not a drop of beetroot fouled me, nor was my companion splashed by his fish stew (well-starred with huge prawns and mussels in the shell: little bowl provided for the wreckage, you'd not get that refinement everywhere) - and as fish stew it was billed.

No tarty names and no fiddly menu: the day's catch is all chalked up on boards. There's not a massive choice (good!) but it's imaginative and appetizing and inclusive (grilled quail, lemon sole, brill; even pickled herrings - a rarity these days: vegetarians catered for).

There's thought and talent in that menu and we were so intrigued by it that we shared a crumbed lamb as a kind of savoury - crunchy, juicy and comforting. It came complete with mustard sauce, and broccoli, perfectly underdone (not an easy trick, like cooking that risotto so perfectly) so I bet those costly veg are all pretty good.

To start I had beetroot risotto - a lordly dish like a huge overblown crimson rose - a Darcey Bussell or a Gertrude Jekyll - with watercress leaves and haws of candied walnut, hot, pleasantly grainy and delicately aromatic, the sweet pungency of the beetroot helped along with maybe a touch of mace or nutmeg. I have to be careful with nuts on account of my fillings but these were delicious if sucked and chumbled, and contributed to the medieval opulence of the conception.

The smiling welcome segued into wonderful service - attentive without fuss (they catch one's eye with aplomb); light-hearted, helpful and polite; just normal and friendly and charming, like new friends met at the start of a party, rather than the cheeky, dead-eyed or obsequious staff as so well known. How rare and lovely. Dear little lavatory downstairs with Aesop hand products, a good mirror and excellent pile of THICK paper towels.

Pudding: I made a mistake and chose the lemon sorbet with vodka. Couldn't taste the alchohol and sorbet too sweet. Plenty of lemons in it, though: distinct, definite.

GreekchocolateGreek Street - the chocolateBut my vis-a-vis's chocolate and caramel tart with sea salt to sprinkle and slightly sour creme fraiche was a dream of bliss and textures. Wine came in pichets - crisp cool Languedoc rose and Hungarian Sauvignon. The only bit of old-time chi-chi was the miniature scroll detailing the very extensive range: but looking a bit too much like the proposed menus on Come Dine With Me.

And I didn't after all leave hungry: chef knows best. Those portions were perfectly judged, exquisitely digestible and they felt healthy and nutritious. 10 Greek Street is a little gem: fresh and happy and enjoying itself, conditions which are highly contagious to the lucky clientele.

I let my friend the professional mark it (click here) and I couldn't agree more with the results.

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