In very many ways I am an extremely lucky man. The most precious way this shows itself is that I have four or five close friends which is four or five more than I deserve.
One of them, many years ago, had a joke that he used to repeat to everyone he met which was funny the first time but grated a little the more you heard it. He would say that he could speak every language in the world but for some reason he just could never master Greek. When someone asked him to say something in Russian or Chinese, he would reply that it was all Greek to him. What put me in mind of him was my visit to Trinity Kitchen to suss out the latest crop of traders in the street food section. I had been informed in the promotional email that there was a Thai, burger and even a Canadian stall from Sunday, 15th October but when I arrived at 12.30pm on Monday 16th the only two places ready to serve me were both from the same country. This meant that Thai, American and Canadian were in fact all Greek to me. As I said, I am a very lucky man which manifested itself in that the two Greek food vendors provided savoury and sweet dishes.
The first port of call was Greek Street Food which is a purveyor of salads and gyros with various fillings. Being a chap who can sense a bargain, my eye was immediately taken by the blackboard offer of a pork or chicken gyro and a Greek beer for a tenner. I opted for the pork and am so glad I did. I am happy to believe that the chicken was equally as good as it is a relatively easy meat to get right, but after a disastrous lamb encounter at the last changeover of traders here I wanted to sample something a little more challenging.
A gyro is one of those large, vertical, rotating skewers you see in kebab shops but instead of the normal lump of unidentified frying object, these contained stacks of pork and chicken served on what was described as warm Greek pitta bread, which was thicker and much softer than the stuff which comes in a cellophane bag in the supermarket. It came spread with tzatziki. For those of you who might not know, is yoghurt, garlic, cucumber, salt, lemon and olive oil. After I had eaten and revealed my identity to the owner as being a reviewer who thought that this element of the meal was excellent, the lady who served me seemed to grow about six inches in height whilst informing me that she had made it fresh this morning. The pork was small strips of meat which was on the well done side and mixed with lettuce, tomato and red, green and yellow peppers. It was truly delicious. I was given a choice of Greek beers, none of which I recognised, but asked for a Fix just for fun. It was very palatable, but having to drink it from a paper cup probably didn’t do the flavour any favours. Chatting with the owner revealed the pride he had in the enterprise. All of the ingredients except for the salad are sourced from Greece and quality rather than price is the sole criterion on which the decisions are made. It shows.
My next stop, for dessert and coffee, was Meli Greek Cakes. What more do I have to say? Quite a lot really because as well as the traditional Greek sweetmeats such as baklava and other filo based goodies, there was a large selection of patisserie style cakes which I was informed by the young lady who served me were what Greek people would eat in 2017. I was not going to argue and asked for a pomegranate and cream creation. After a chat she suggested that I try the strawberry and raspberry cake instead. Again, this took me back to the days when my dad would take me to one of his tailor friends and we would be measured for a suit. You told the chap what you wanted and he told you why you would look ridiculous and then suggested what you should have and he was always right.
The cake was packed with fruit flavour and, just as the gyro had been, was light as a feather. I had a black filter coffee to accompany it and again it was delicious, as good as any I have had before. The cake was £3.95 and the coffee £1.85. The only thing which seemed incongruous was that this outlet was in the street food section. If this is a sample of Greek street food cakes I am booking a flight to Athens tomorrow to sample an up-market coffee house.
Apart from the wonderful food, the thing which struck me about the two places I visited today was the passion of the owners. They both just wanted everything to be as good as it possibly could be, without any regard to cost.
Photography by Stan Graham