Soho hangout 10 Greek Street is a haven for urban oenophiles, writes Edith Hancock.
At most restaurants, you order your meal, then scour the wine list for a bottle to pair with your food.
At 10 Greek Street, you pick food to pair with your wines.
Owned by wine buff Luke Wilson and chef Cameron Emirali — ex-Wapping Project — this small Soho hangout was hailed as a triumph for the millennial wine community when it opened in 2012.
We originally tried to get a booking at its sister restaurant, 8 Hoxton Square, which opened last year, but despite a string of four-star reviews from the likes of Tom Parker-Bowles, it failed to re-open after Christmas. We headed to the original venture.
You’d easily walk past the entrance a few times before finding it; a small, unshowy restaurant with a vibesy menu, a revelatory drinks list and a team of servers who are truly passionate about their work.
The look: “Intimate” is the operative word. The restaurant seats 30 in a room about the size of my bedroom. The stripped-back bar, meanwhile, overlooks an open-plan kitchen only slightly more spacious than my bathroom.
10 Greek Street follows the current fashion for no-nonsense interiors; neutral colour scheme, no tablecloths, low-lighting, banquettes, unfussy table settings and not a bowtie in sight. In lieu of the ten-a-penny canvasses of fresh fish or wine glasses are three chalkboards which on which the day’s offerings are scrawled.
The walls may be free of artwork, but its more than accounted for in the form of Martin, the restaurant’s shaven-headed manager covered in tattoos from the neck down.
Martin gets the majority of his pieces from a friend who runs a parlour around the corner. Welcome to Soho.
The food: The menu, which features grown-up ingredients like Lamb’s tongue and goat’s curd, changes daily depending on what’s already in or can be ordered seasonally. One thing which puts 10 Greek Street head and shoulders above the rest is the portion sizes.
My scallops were tender and slightly sweet dressed with morcilla (a Spanish blood sausage milder in flavour than our own black pudding), seasonal celeriac and apple. But more importantly, there were four scallops, which was quite enough to be getting on with.
Next up, a whole sea bream, served with sea kelp, topped with fat, juice mussels and swimming in what can only be described as a sea jus — salty, spiked with a little lemon and the perfect accompaniment to delicate white fish.
My dining partner went for the vegetarian option, rigatoni served a little al dente with creamy burrata and hard-to-come-by cardoncelli mushrooms, which more than made up for the lack of protein. Both paired well with a Beaujolais bursting with stewed fruit.
Desserts were equally accomplished, a chocolate mousse doused in pomegranate seeds and slightly caramelised clementine wedges made for a triumphant end to the meal.
In true hipster fashion, the chefs wear their skill with understated cool. The skilfully baked pear and almond tart is served simply with creme fraiche. Mains and starters come complete with a wedge of lemon so you can adjust the acidity to taste. All the right flavours are there, but they’re there to showcase the wines, rather than vice versa.
The drinks: Where to start? You could easily spend a cold winter night working meticulously through the wine list, the vast majority of which is served by the glass. Particular highlights included a Champagne-style sparkler from West Sussex’s Nyetimber vineyard, a 2015 Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch as smooth as butter, and a 2015 Cabernet Franc sure to put hairs on chests.
Few critics will extoll the virtues of Pinot Grigio, but 10 Greek Street’s offering — a soft, floral-nosed thing from Italy’s northernmost wine-growing region — was worth writing home about. Restaurant owner Luke Wilson knows his stuff, having spent three years on on-trade sales at Liberty Wines. The list is constantly evolving, and always has an even balance of Old and New World, grape varieties and expressions.
The true appeal of the wine list is the mark-ups. All wines by the glass come in 125ml measures, ranging from just £3 to around a tenner for the rarer varieties. Your nose might be spent by the end of the night, but your wallet won’t.
Who to know: Martin, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s testament to his dedication to 10 Greek Street that the manager had the restaurant’s name tattooed on his forearm on opening night. You can find him flitting between tables, swapping anecdotes and giving the place a dinner party atmosphere.
Don’t leave without: Asking for the Little Black Book. London is all about its speakeasies and secret bars, and this place has its own secret wine list, updated by hand every day depending on what the owners fancy ordering in.
Final word: It’s a crying shame that 8 Hoxton Square closed its doors at the end of 2017, but the owners have re-doubled their efforts on their original restaurant. The team said they simply weren’t getting the customers in East London, and besides the owners have a few new projects up their sleeves for 2018, including a brewery launching later this year.
My only regret is I didn’t order the 2014 Chablis, which I was eyeing up all night but came in at a slightly painful £10 per glass. It’s the first thing I’m asking for when I return.