In December, The Real Greek opened its first site in the North at the Corn Exchange in Manchester.
The new 200 cover restaurant (130 inside, 35 in the covered forecourt and 35 al fresco) is The Real Greek’s 22nd site, and features a light blue and white colour scheme inspired by the Mediterranean.
It promises diners a contemporary Aegean experience that allows guests to enjoy the flavours, passion and warmth of Greek generosity.
We couldn’t wait to check it out.
The Real Greek menu features a choice of traditional and contemporary Greek meze dishes, flame-grilled meats, souvlaki wraps, and salads.
There are options for everyone, from meat-eaters and pescatarians to vegetarians and vegans.
The creative direction in the kitchen is led by Tonia Buxton, a celebrity chef and the face of Greek food in Britain. Tonia brings a passion for authentic Greek cuisine, born from an early apprenticeship in her mother’s kitchen in Cyprus.
Wanting to try a bit of everything, we tried ‘Tonia’s selection’, a set menu priced at £36 for two to share.
The selection offers eight dishes, with a choice for each: crudités or Greek flatbread; houmous or spicy feta dip (htipiti); Santorini fava or melitzanosalata; Tonia’s prawns or halloumi and vegetable skewer; spinach tiropitakia or grilled aubergine; BBQ chicken wings or gigandes with spinach; lamb meatballs or falafel; and saffron rice or chips.
Dishes are brought to the table on tiered platters, afternoon tea style, and designed to be shared.
We also added on a couple of extras – because who can resist halloumi popcorn, or classic Greek moussaka?
The halloumi popcorn is an instant winner, the squeaky salty cheese fried until crisp and golden, served with a Greek honey dip flecked with chilli flakes.
Also superb is the htipiti, a popular Greek dip using a delicious combination of roasted red peppers, feta cheese and chillies and scooped up with well-seasoned flatbreads.
It’s not surprising the dishes are so good when you learn that the restaurant sources core ingredients directly from the finest suppliers in Greece.
The honey is made by bees on the island of Ikaria, which is renowned for the longevity of its people, while the feta hails from a region in Northern Greece called Epirus.
Olive oil, which can be found in everything from the houmous to the salads, is pressed from an ancient grove in Crete, home of the world’s oldest living olive tree.
Our melitzanosalata is a light and zingy blend of smoked aubergine, garlic, shallots and lemon, while halloumi makes another appearance, grilled and skewered with peppers and courgettes and served with fresh minted yoghurt.
Spinach tiropitakia sees three crisp filo pastry parcels stuffed with a creamy leek, spinach and feta filling, handmade daily, while gigandes is a dish of giant beans and spinach, cooked in a rich tomato and garlic sauce, soaked up by the fragrant saffron rice.
The lamb meatballs are huge and handmade, grilled and topped with Greek yoghurt, tomato sauce and onions, and once we try it we’re glad we also ordered the moussaka (£7.35), hearty and rich with generous amounts of lamb mince.
It’s a filling selection – but you absolutely must leave room for the Greek filo custard pie (£4.75), a traditional dessert from Sérres, North Greece, called bougatsa.
The crisp filo pastry is filled with a grin-inducingly good creamy custard, served warm and topped with vanilla ice-cream and aromatic cinnamon.
When it comes to drinks, The Real Greek’s wine list pays homage to the ancient Greeks, who pioneered new methods of wine production.
The variety of wines use a diverse range of grapes from across different regions in Greece, and also feature a number of vintages from winemaking communities in Europe.
Beers and cider, fresh juices, and Greek coffee and tea are also available.
With relaxed, friendly service and authentic food and drink, The Real Greek has brought a taste of sunshine to the Corn Exchange.