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Andy’s Taverna Review

Xanthi Barker on snails and why siga, siga is the way forward

Written by . Published on October 4th 2011.


Andy’s Taverna Review

BY some miracle of inner resources, my sometimes-non-existent, sometimes-destructive gardening skills have not yet killed off the peach tree at the bottom of my garden. Instead, she hangs out down there with all the spiky wilderness, like a willful teenager proving that her bad-girl friends won’t lead her astray. All summer she pretended she was doing nothing – hard little bulbs appeared, looking anything but edible. Later they began to swell, but with our arctic summer, it didn’t look like that would make a difference.

The Greeks have a phrase I think the snail’s might enjoy – “Siga, siga”, meaning “slowly, slowly”. This is exactly the ethos of Andy’s Taverna, a Greek restaurant in Camden where a minute becomes an hour in less than a second.

Around mid-August, long after I’d given on any garden-peach fantasies, I happened to be down there and looked up to a sky full of peachy branches. I could’ve kissed her trunk, they were so beautiful. Within minutes I had consumed at least six. Within an hour I had a serious stomachache. When it lasted until the evening, I cursed the peach tree and vowed never to trust her again. 

A few weeks later, my heart full of forgiveness, I ventured back into the undergrowth and discovered her entire trunk was glistening. Silver trails wound round and round the branches, across the leaves and all over the peaches, leading finally to fat-looking snails, smugly drooling at the branch’s tips. Each peach had been nibbled, slobbered on and left. Not a single peach was untouched. The whole tree twinkled with snail-slime. Who knew snails could climb trees? In the next few weeks I followed their progress – each day the missing bits of peach grew. They ate in this careless, haphazard way; no mama snail told a younger one “you’ve got to finish this one before you get any more!” No greedy snail tried to eat a whole peach (or six) at once. Three weeks later, all that hung from the peach tree were the hard, calloused peach stones and a few drops of slime.

Img_0939Chef's selection mezedes

The Greeks have a phrase I think the snail’s might enjoy – “Siga, siga”, meaning “slowly, slowly”. This is exactly the ethos of Andy’s Taverna, a Greek restaurant in Camden where a minute becomes an hour in less than a second. Dinner is like a snail’s banquet, you eat so slowly you might forget you are eating, and table manners are simply uncouth. Lifetimes pass between courses. Presentation means putting food on the table, not turning it into the Venus de Milo. Your fork fumbles from plate to plate and somehow turns up in your mouth. Four hours later, you are dazed and drooling. Sliding slowly out of your chair, you will wish for a shell to curl up in. 

Wanting to try as many dishes as possible, we went for the Chef’s Selection Mezedes (£17.95 pp), which includes a phenomenal seven cold starters, three hot starters, two main courses and a salad. I figured that would mean a few scoops of each on a plate, but not here. After staving off our hunger with olives for at least an hour, seven plates arrived one by one and soon we were surrounded. Houmous, babaganoush, tzatziki were all heaped onto not-so-tiny plates. Beetroot, potatoes, and gigandes – tomato covered butter beans – provided a sprawling alternative to dip. Some casual-looking dolmades proved the inadequacy of Delphi’s corner-shop lookalikes. And then a basket of hot, fresh bread to scoop it all up. Like snails we worked our way around the selection. A little bit of this and that and who cares if there’s some left over? It’s not going anywhere. The plates disappeared as slowly as they’d come.

Img_0966Calamari

The hot starters arrived just in time to remind us we were still in a restaurant – calamari, halloumi and lountza. My friend was convinced this was the main course – that is how full we already were – but I think her memory had been wiped by the Retsina. Two more plates drifted over to our table and proved me right; a Greek salad and a kebab that was as salty, oily and herby as only the Greeks know how. I figured the salad counted as main course number two and waited with relief for some dessert. But then the kleftiko arrived – the shoulder of a Herculean-looking lamb – and the snail-method began to make sense. ‘Siga, siga’, it’s the only way.

Img_0998Desserts... err, dessert plates

Since our stomachs had been so slowly stretched, dessert was not to be groaned at. But the simplicity of Vienetta-like ice-creams (£3.95) was not unwelcome. Nobody was rushing us to leave, one waiter even insisted on bring us shots of chipper, a Greek spirit that until recently was only available if you knew a dodgy enough policeman. Finally, just before midnight, we made it out the door, as satisfied and spaced out as a pair of snails who had just devoured a tree. With so many timesaving devices, we better start figuring out what to do with all the extra. Here are my two suggestions: talk so much you forget you’re eating, watch a snail eating a peach.

 
Andy's Taverna
81 Bayham Street
London, NW1 0AG

Rating:        14/20

Breakdown:  6/10 food
                   3/5 ambience
                   5/5 service

 

 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.
 

 

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