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Yialousa Greek restaurant
Yialousa Greek restaurant
Fri, 16/09/2016 - 15:10
Published:15 September, 2016
by TOM MOGGACH
NEVER judge a book by its cover” states an online review of Yialousa, a Greek restaurant in Bloomsbury.
I found the review while surfing for background information, as Yialousa is not the most obvious destination for Londoners to eat out.
The exterior, as the review suggests, is unpromising – a solitary location just south of Tavistock Square.
This is not a lively patch of London, unless you count the heavy traffic. Directly opposite is a nondescript pub called The London Pub. The Royal National hotel is next door, beloved of itinerant coach parties.
Yes, this is tourist central. And these visitors form the bulk of Yialousa’s clientele.
We visited on a sultry evening and sat outside. The restaurant was busy; the staff smiley and keen. Sitting here was rather magical, in fact, the view tinged by the coloured lightbulbs strung under the awning.
With no landmarks in sight, I could imagine we were eating out in any European capital.
From the outsider’s perspective, however, London must be an especially forbidding metropolis. The sheer size is daunting. Journeys take hours. No wonder many visitors, tired after a day of sightseeing, drifted over to peer at the menu.
Yialousa serves Greek food with a few popular classics stirred in for good measure – spaghetti bolognese, chicken schnitzel or trout meunière.
Inside, it’s a large white space with ornate cornices, the walls decorated with large paintings of Greek villages and classical tableaux. A pair of almost life-size statues of maidens guard each side of the bar. Full marks for the fresh yellow and peach roses on each table.
We both ordered meze, a collection of dishes priced at £15.95 per person. It started gently: a pot of decent olives, a dainty potato salad, a trio of dips with warm pitta bread.
Next, a large Greek salad and warm starters, arranged in an artful fan on the plate. The halloumi was cut thick – more slab than slice – just as I like it.
We easily dispatched the stuffed vine leaves, grilled slices of cured pork and thin Loucanica sausages spiced with orange peel.
But then the pace of service picked up: a square of cheesy moussaka and pot of afelia, a slow-cooked stew of tender cubed pork cooked in wine with bay leaves and coriander.
Finally, a huge plate of kebabs and meatballs – so vast we barely managed a mouthful.
Portions are generous for the price. In most restaurants you’d pay £15.95 for one measly main course.
After a brief pause, we even attempted the tiramisu, which was a huge doorstep of booze-laced sponge and cream.
The cooking here is basic but well done – the chef clearly cares.
Yet for Londoners Yialousa remains a strange destination and not one the majority of use are likely to choose. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves: on a hot night a meal here felt like a mini-break abroad in our own city.