by Mick & Di Barker
Back in the day when Mick and I used to “island hop” around the Mediterranean, we fell in love with Greece and managed to visit 29 islands, which has given us an enduring affection for the country, it’s people, it’s food and it’s “take-your-breath-away-views”. Imagine our surprise when driving down a small soi in Pattaya we spotted the familiar blue and white colour combo of Greece and the restaurant sign, El Greco.
This family taverna is run by husband and wife team Angel and Nick. A charismatic couple who, although leaving their homeland behind, have created an Hellenic home in Pattaya not only for themselves but for everyone who walks through their door. Angel is a qualified restaurateur with many years of experience from her businesses in Athens. What she doesn’t know about Greek food wouldn’t stuff an olive.
The ambiance is sheer Greek: blue and white painted tables with comfy cushioned seating and a spectacular mural of beautiful Santorini watching over the activities. Going out to eat is part of the local culinary culture in modern Greece, even in times of economic crisis, and already a table of half a dozen Greek food lovers were tucking into their hearty dishes and discussing spiritedly the way of the world.
We left our order completely in Angel’s capable hands, Meze style, and awaited the pageant of dishes. First up a ‘welcome’ dish of the legendary tzatziki appeared, served with some Kalamata olives doused with fruity olive oil. Has there ever been a more under- estimated dip than this cool, creamy yoghurt appetiser mixed with cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, dill and garlic? It’s so versatile and will happily complement grilled meats or fish in addition to being a tasty dip for bread or vegetables. Stuffed green chillies were the next plate to arrive. Fried to a tasty blister and filled with tomato sauce and Feta cheese, we loved them. Next to hit the table was the famous Greek salad (B. 220 or B.110). Known and loved around the world, it always tastes best when at its simplest, red ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onion, perhaps cuttings of green pepper, the best olive oil and that creamy, briny feta sprinkled with herbs.
We were drinking the house wine (B.60 per glass). Retsina was sadly unavailable but as soon as a new consignment arrives we will be back; it’s just so reminiscent of those sun-soaked long taverna lunches way back when. Stop me if you know this, Retsina is a Greek white resinated wine which has been made for at least 2,000 years. It’s unique flavour is said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels with pine resin in ancient times and the flavour literally stuck with the happy imbibers.
A substantial portion of mousaka was the next to be served. Much loved, this traditional Greek recipe contains luscious layers of minced lamb cooked in a tomato based sauce, layered with aubergines and creamy béchamel sauce before being baked until golden in the oven (B.230). This came accompanied by its brother dish, pastitiso. Another very traditional baked recipe, but instead of aubergines, pasta is used with minced beef before being baked. Both are major stalwarts of any Greek kitchen. A minced kofta kebab came next, the herby, spicy flavour was enhanced by the use of lamb and beef in the kebab giving a much deeper flavour.
There’s a veritable treasure of time honoured dishes here. Kleftico is slow cooked roast leg of lamb with garlic, lemon and herbs served with roast potatoes, gigantes Plaki (B.190) are giant butter beans simmered in tomato sauce with onion, garlic and parsley, Souvlaki (meat kebabs), fried squid, feta or spinach cheese pie layered in filo pastry, meatballs, stuffed cabbage, spicy Greek sausages, the list goes on. Plus there’s a full Thai menu , including spring rolls, noodles, tom yum goong, curries and the like.
Our very substantial Greek metzedes ended with two iconic desserts, namely baklava and kataifi. Both nut based pastries made from filo pastry with the kataifi pastry closely ressembling shredded wheat. Both are saturated with honey and scented with cinnamon and clove. They’re absolutely delicious and enjoyed with a cup of Greek coffee, the perfect ending to your food odyssey. Just time for a toast with a glass of Ouzo, the country’s aniseed-based any time drink with a Greek cheers, “yasou” and it’s time to go.
327/331 Moo 9 Soi Bongkot
Nongprue, Banglamung, Chonburi
Open daily from 12 noon till
Tel: 038 422 035 or 092 467 9123
Directions: Turn off Pattaya Tai onto Soi 16 and it is about 500 metres on the right. Map on website. Off street parking where you can find it.