Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Retsina, Belsize Park - Restaurant Review

Last Sunday evening, as I was struggling to pull myself out of bed and into the kitchen to fix a quick and lazy meal, I was interrupted by a call from a friend. It was another one of those impromptu dinner plans that tend to come together when a couple of my friends from University bump into each other (we go back a long way - eight years and counting (sigh that makes me feel old!)). On most ocassions, I play the role of party pooper by choosing my warm duvet over warm company. This time, I decided the other way round and ended up at a family run Greek restaurant, Retsina, later that evening.

We chose Retsina at the recommendation of a friend, who swore that it was the "best Greek restaurant" he had been to in London. I wouldn't go quite as far as that, but the food was certainly of a good quality. What really struck me though, was the excellent service that we enjoyed during our meal at Retsina, such a rarity in London. The place had the warm and friendly air that I have often experienced at good family run restaurants. A smiling silver haired plump lady appeared to be the commander-in-charge of the waiters. She was certainly good at her job.

Enough said about the food. Here are a few pictures of the food, all of which was appetisingly presented. 

Feta cheese

Chicken souvla
I am not a huge fan of feta cheese - I find it overpoweringly salty, especially when eaten by itself, so let me move swiftly on to what I thought was the star of the show, for the non-vegetarians anyway: the chicken souvla. I am familiar with chicken/lamb "souvlaki", which is basically a Greek dish of grilled meat. "Souvla" is new to me. Wise wiki tells me that "souvlaki" is simply a diminutive of "souvla" which means "skewer" in Greek. Just had an "aaah, now I get it" moment.

My experiences with souvlaki have been hit and miss. Many restaurants use chicken breast for their souvlaki leading to a tough and far from enjoyable outcome. Retsina made no such rookie mistake. Their souvla was tender, moist and absolutely delicious. It came with tzatziki and a "tamouli" salad, both of which were exemplary.

The vegetarians also seemed happy with their main courses, although the few quick bites that I sampled did not leave me particularly satisfied, mainly because the flavours seemed too bland for my liking. I must add though that the moussaka was quite impressive. Unlike other moussakas that I have tried in the past, the cheese only played a supporting role in Retsina's version with the aubergine and potato really shining through in lead roles.

Vegetarian gemitsa - stuffed roast vegetable


 In all, I'd give Retsina 7 on 10 for the food (with an extra 0.5 for stellar service). If you happen to be in Belsize Park and have a craving for Greek food, try Retsina. If you do, say hello to the silver haired smiling lady and the friendly waiters from me.

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