After a few too many questionable buffets on package holidays to Greece in my teens, dining at Amsterdam restaurant De Griekse Taverna was the culinary equivalent of a bosom hug.
On the surface, the menu at De Griekse Taverna doesn’t seem to hold many surprises - feta cheese, souvlaki, tzatziki and the like feature prominently. Listen to Petros Ioannidas, the charmingly ‘present’ owner who is only too happy to pull up a chair at your table and talk about his native cuisine, explain how many of the dishes are prepared, and it quickly becomes clear that this will be no package holiday dining disaster.
We started with perfectly seasoned minced beef and rice wrapped in vine leaves, and breaded, deep-fried feta with thyme and Greek honey. The latter was more like a fancy bar snack than a starter, but the salty feta cheese and sweet honey perfectly complemented each other.
Where De Griekse Taverna really shines is its main dishes. Moussaka, that oft-maligned Greek classic of minced beef, potatoes and aubergines in béchamel sauce, was rich but not heavy. That's because it is prepared without any oil, Petros explained.
The leg of lamb was reminiscent of a Moroccan tagine: it had been slow cooked to melting perfection in an aromatic tomato-based sauce for two days.
The dessert also came with a twist. We ordered sticky, flaky baklavas (filo dough filled with chopped nuts and honey), served with Greek ice cream containing mastic resin.
When the bark of the mastic tree is cut, it ‘weeps’ a resin that is used not only to flavour desserts but also Greek liquors and festival breads. The mastic resin lent the ice cream a subtle smoky aroma, which cut through the sweetness of the pastries.
De Griekse Taverna’s interior is basic but cosy, as you would expect of a tavern. There is live music some evenings, but for anyone else suffering from post-package holiday trauma, performances are listed on the website so you can book around them.
The restaurant's website also lists dining deals whenever they are running. Prices for a three-course meal can be as low as €14.50.
Telephone: 020 671 7923
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