Having visited dozens of restaurants over the years, the thing you end up yearning for, as a reviewer, is something unique.
Something that comes as a welcome breeze on a hot summer’s day and which at the same time (seeing as I appear to be making a wishlist), is simple and honest and feels altogether wholesome in a way which echoes the way things used to be.
And I’ve found it.
Appropriately, it’s named after a Greek god, Amalthea, who, if you will bare with me for just a moment, was the foremost foster mother of Zeus, king of the gods, after his father, Kronos, tried to eat him. She appeared as a goat and fed him with one of her horns (hence the expression ‘horn of plenty’). One of Jupiter’s moons is also named after Amalthea, as is the subject of this week’s review: a wonderfully refreshing Greek restaurant with a real down-to-earth, honest style, serving some of the best food I’ve had in ages.
When we walked in at about 6.30pm on a Tuesday, we were the first ones in there and although the weather outside was cold, the welcome was warm and friendly. The interior is cluttered, yet neat. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, bare with me. Almost every conceivable inch of wallspace is covered in pictures and other object d’art, most of which seem to have a nautical theme, relating to the island from which this restaurant’s food originates.
Indeed, it prides itself on being one of the few places in the land to offer truly authentic Greek cuisine. Lots of restaurants make such claims though, even some of the big chains but here, I get the impression they really mean it.
General manager and founder, Ioannis Papatzikakis (John), together with co-founder, marketer and chef Eva Chatzopoulou are passionate about the food they offer and say they put great stock in sourcing the right ingredients. Meanwhile, Costantinos Tsapanidis, the head chef, apparently “knew from the age of six that he would be a chef” and he was schooled in the art of cooking by his grandmother, Yiayia Marika, who impressed upon him that any good meal is really an expression of love. In other words, you have to put your heart and soul into it.
Certainly, from the off we were impressed, not least with front of house service, which was civil and sincere. Even before seeing the menu, I asked if they could do some bread, olive oil and balsamic (and olives) and the request was duly obliged.
I love starting a meal with a simple sharing plate: everyone just relaxes and digs in and the conversation begins to flow.
A quick glance at the evening menu and their claim about provenance proves true, the onus being on sourcing local produce, even down to things like eggs and milk. Drinks were ordered: four juices at £2.50 a go, followed by starters, which for us consisted of Revithosalata (£6.80), whole chickpeas smothered in fresh-as-you-like seasonings: I caught garlic in there and lemon juice and the whole thing was wonderfully earthy, not to mention healthy. We also ordered Patatokeftedes: fried potato balls with Graviera cheese and Mediterranean herbs served with tzatziki and also Melitzanokeftedes (£12.80 for both dishes), which was basically the same thing except with deep fried aubergine balls. Out of the two, I’d go with the potato, which just seemed more robust, both in terms of flavour and consistency.
Deciding what to order for our main courses took some time but after perusing the various options (lamb, moussaka, stuffed courgettes, a whole sea bream, et al), many of which appealed to us, we decided to best course of action was to just get one of the huge sharing platters. They have a meat version and a seafood one, both £38, which you might think is costly (because it is) but the question is: is it worth it?
The seafood meze consists of calamari, whitebait, sardines, seafood saganaki, potato balls, taramasalata, tzatziki and pitta bread. The whitebait were delicious, lightly coated in a really delicate batter with just the right amount of crunch, the squid was some of the best I’ve eaten and was completely not chewy (which deserves a medal in my book). The sardines were rich, very salty but great spread on a chunk of pitta bread and tempered by some taramasalata.
So, was it worth it? Hmmm, yes.
Puddings consisted of ice cream with homemade doughnuts (£5.80), which took about ten minutes to come because they are cooked from scratch - they were divine. I also tried semolina cake (£4.80) from the specials board: grainy, silky, ultimately soothing, soaked in pine and fir tree honey and cinnamon, packed with raisins. It was a joy to eat. The final bill came to £85.65. Verdict: this is a super little suburban restaurant run by staff who are clearly passionate about creating the most authentic food they can. Had it not been a school night, I would have lingered much longer and will, doubtless, be returning before long.
Address: 1 The Crescent, off Otley Road, Adel, LS16 6AA
Tel: 0113 267 2888
Opening times: Mon. closed, Tues-Thurs 5.30pm-10.30pm, Fri & Sat noon-11pm