Thursday, 4 November 2010

"I Got Bored of Pastitsia & Mousakades"

Its been a while since I made a one-in-a-million discovery.

I mean, when i think of 'George the discoverer'... 'Going where no man has gone before'... 'Venturing out of the main stream to bring you the very best'.. etc etc... i think of hidden little shops; dark alleys; no bright light; no queues outside going round the corner; only the freshest of ingredients, prepared the most honest of manners. Food & drink for the sake of food & drink.

So a curry & kebab shop located on a narrow pedestrian alley, paces away from the epicenter of the 2008 Athens Riots, owned by a Greek elderly restauranteur, has either the makings a major flop or something truly great... I'm pleased to report, and was happy to confirm, that the second it is!!!

The shop that impressed was "Μπαρμπά Τζορτζ" which loosely translated means 'Old Man George', and at this point, and after my prolonged introduction I have to admit that I can't take credit for discovering the place. It's been around for eight years and was featured on AthensDailySecret where a friend of mine run into it. Of course it took very little convincing on his behalf to get me to go there for a Saturday lunch.

On arrival, we were taken by the size of the place. Only a couple of tables outside and maybe a couple more inside. We sat down - and just as we did, a senior man with a slight limp came to us from inside; no doubt old man George. We asked for the menus at which point he disclaimed "we only serve Indian food here." "Of course" we said, "that's why we came". "OK, because we get some people that come and don't realise it". We laughed at the thought that someone could not notice the sign outside: "Indian Kebabs". He continued to give us the best description he could of the items on the menu. We didn't interrupt him to tell him that we were Indian food veterans.

The menu was - in a nutshell - perfect. Nothing extravagant about it. A few kebab options, a few starters and a few curries, naans and rices. And if anything "few" is a sign of good things to come. When I see a small menu I know that everything on it has a reason for being there! The only curious thing was the "barbecue" kebab option. Not strikingly authentic, but, note to self, I have to try it out of plain curiosity...

We did wonder how a very traditional looking gentleman ended up with an Indian shop, and were convinced he must have been a sailor in his younger days. We imagined him working his way across the Indian coast. So, next time he came out to take our order we asked with conviction if he had a sailing background. We were wrong. He told us he had a background in the food service industry. "So how come you decided to go Indian" we asked. "Well, I just got bored of Pastitia and Mousakades". Turns out he had some friends in the Asian community and they decided to go for it. I was sold before I'd even sunk my teeth in anything.

We ordered a kebab each and a curry to share. My money was on the curry: a chicken vindaloo. And boy was i spot on. I mean, the kebab was good. Really tasty. But the curry struck a weak spot, reminding me of my days in Manchester and the Curry Mile, where there was shop after restaurant after take out, and every place had its own recipes. And some of the recipes used prepared sauces and prepared pastes, but others you knew had been prepared from recipes passed down through the generations. Maybe I'm an idealist or maybe just naive, but my vindaloo tasked like it had been made from tomatoes and spices, and the pilaou rice tasted or saffron and cardamom- and I count the days till I can return and try the rest of the curries!

View Μπαρμπά Τζορτζ in a larger map

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