Greek week at the Cookbook Cafe

No, the Cookbook Cafe at the Intercontinetal Hotel on Park Lane wasn’t overrun by a bunch of frat boys and sorority girls last week (thank god). Rather, the Cafe had imported a Greek chef, Alexandros Illias Oikonomidis from the Intercontinental Atheneaum Athens to take up residence for 10 days here in London to showcase the delights of Greek food and wine.

The Cookbook Cafe is a sleek and modern while at the same time, comfortable place to have lunch and it was decorated with touches of Greek decor to get us in the mood for a Greek repast. I was invited down to sample their Taste of Greece with a twist…menu. Now, I’m a wine blogger not a food writer but I went because there was promised some matching Greek wines to sample. How could I pass that up?

To start there was the market table groaning with typical examples of Greek meze including the best hummous I’ve had in a long time as well as authentic dolmades, taramasalata and a very tasty seafood salad along with various salads and not too salty feta cheese cubes along with various other cold dishes.

from the market table

 For the mains, on offer were 3 specials, Lamb Shank Kleftico, baked Sea Bream and a potato courgette filo tart. The lamb was cooked down to tender, succulent chunks, by far my favourite dish.

 To finish there was a buffet of greek desserts, including fresh figs(!) and the most light, delectable baklava I’ve had in a long time. Usually baklava is syrup-heavy and leaves me feeling weighted down – which would have nothing to do with the half dozen I usually scarf down in a sitting.For me though, the most interesting bit of lunch were the wines. I had the opportunity to try a 100% Savvatiano (2008). This varietal is usually blended with other grapes to make retsina but this was Savvatiano all by itself. It was fresh, soft but not flabby with excellent minerality and lovely figgy notes but not figgy pudding! 

Another white on offer was 100% Assyrtiko from Santorini. Thalassitis 2007- again very fresh and vibrant with plenty of lime and citrus notes. I paired it with the sea bream and it was an excellent companion, clearing my palate of the meaty fish.

There were a couple of reds on tasting but the best match was the Gaia Estate 2005 Agiorgitiko. Cedar and spice on the nose with red and blackberry intense core of fruit, very tasty- round, soft tannins with a medium to full body and a dark chocolately finish. It was a nice match to go with the lamb kleftico.

Chef Alexandros

The Cookbook Cafe has these food fests 5 times a year, flying in chefs and produce from the designated country and starting at £15 for four courses, it’s a great deal. The last one was a Columbian menu, wish I could have gone to that one! I’ll be on the lookout for the next one, no word yet on when it is or what the cuisine will be but I’ll let you know. Many thanks to The Intercontinental for inviting me to partake of their Greek Menu with a twist!

4 Comments

  1. Miguel /

    Sounds like a great evening Denise! I will keep ann eye on their future dinners. Great tips on the wines, I can not wait to visit Greece in May! I can bluff now! How was the alcohol on the wines? I always think they will be big on flavour and alcohol???

    • I may be going to Greece in May as well, hoping to tour the vineyards of Santorini! As for the alcohol, I believe there were around 13- 13.5% which is not bad for such a hot country. The wines certainly didn’t taste or smell alcoholic but I gather from other comments that the wines I tried were some of the best. When you go to Greece, be sure to try something other then retsina. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. I am so glad to read about this food and wine event of Greek products in the UK. The pictures you took are stunning! As for the wines, a number of excellent modern style Savationos are being produced nowadays that have nothing in common with Retsina. Gaia is one of the finest Greek estates, and they are equally successful in both Santorini (Thalassitis Assyrtiko) and Nemea (Estate Agiorgitiko). BTW, white wines are often released early in Greece and a number of the 2009′s are available now. This was a brilliant vintage for Assyrtiko in Santorini, I can only recommend to look out for these wines.

    • Thanks for the tips! I always enjoy finding new wines from regions that people do not normally associate with wine. I know Greece has a long history of wine making but ask most people and retsina is what pops to mind first and foremost. I quite enjoyed the whites especially! I can see them being a perfect accompaniment for a hot summers day by the beach. Thanks for stopping by!

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