My Big Fat Greek Kitchen

Taxidi

12/11/17

Brougham Street, Edinburgh

Premises can change very quickly in Edinburgh. My Big Fat Greek Kitchen was already a long-established venue when we first moved here – indeed, we dined there on a friend’s recommendation shortly after arrival, and sampled a decent if somewhat unspectacular meal. Seemingly overnight, however, the place has been transformed – a lick of paint, an attractive alfresco dining area set up at the entrance and a radical change of focus to a cafe/bistro feel. We figure it is high time for a visit, so with two friends in tow, we make the short walk from our apartment on a chilly Sunday evening.

There’s a warm, welcoming atmosphere at Taxidi and the evident love for the Greek food they create here is apparent from the word go. We’re happy to accept the advice of the proprietor and decide to do everything mezze style – all four of us enjoying a little bit of the different dishes we order. The service is prompt and, almost before we know it, the dishes are arriving in quick succession. Such is our eagerness to sample them, that we completely forget to photograph anything, so it will be hard to fully convey the wonders that are arranged in front of us – but when I tell you that each course is more delicious that the last, then you’ll doubtless get the general idea.

We sample Favis Santorinas – a delicious gooey split-pea spread with caramelised onion, sort of like a hot hummus, but way more interesting; Talagani – grilled sheep’s cheese from Messenia, served with rocket and a tangy orange marmalade; Kolokythokeftedes – crispy courgette fritters, as light as you please, and dressed with onion, mint, parsley, dill and feta cheese; Melitzana – grilled aubergines with feta, parsley, garlic, olive oil and served with a thick yoghurt sauce (I’m not usually a big fan of aubergines but these are splendid); keftedes tis giagias Daphenes – succulent spicy meatballs made with beef and pork and also served with that fabulous yoghurt sauce. There’s a generously filled bread basket with a scattering of salty black olives on the side and, of course, plenty of pitta bread – quite the nicest I can remember eating, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and oregano. Everything is freshly prepared and simply but beautifully presented and, after we have fallen upon it like ravenous wolves, not one scrap of food is left on the plates – unless of course, you count the olive pits. Indeed, after a quick discussion, we decide that we can’t find a single thing to fault with any of the dishes we’ve eaten.

Ah, but what about the puddings, you might ask? They can often be the stumbling block that lets a meal down. Well, happily, that’s not the case here. We order four sweets and dutifully divide them up. They comprise: loukomades – Greek style doughnuts with honey and walnuts (if the meal has one standout dish, this is probably it – it’s like heaven on a plate); Ekmek Kantaifi – layers of phyllo, with Mastiha flavoured custard, whipped cream and pistachios; Kazan Ntipi – a rich and creamy Byzantine style panna cotta – and finally, Joanne’s Orange Cake, which tastes a lot more exotic than it sounds, a slice of sponge soaked with orange syrup. In case that isn’t enough, we’re offered a lovely warming shot of Mastika, a Greek liqueur, which we happily accept – and which brings this exciting meal to a suitably warming conclusion.

OK, I need to criticise something, so I will say that perhaps just one choice of Greek white or red wine on the drinks menu seems a little… er, Spartan. Maybe that’s something that might be developed later? But hey, it’s not a deal breaker.

Taxidi offers proper Greek cuisine at great value for money prices – and I would also add that, if you’re vegetarian, or have friends of that persuasion, this is an inspired place to eat – and proof if ever it were needed, that sometimes a change can be for the better.

Go, enjoy. I think you’ll love this as much as we do.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

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My Big Fat Greek Kitchen, Edinburgh

Unknown

01/05/15

We visited this restaurant after a recommendation from a friend. It’s situated on Brougham Street, a stone’s throw from the Meadows. The interior is fairly Spartan and has the atmosphere of a simple taverna. I don’t know for sure, but I’d hazard a guess that MBFGK is a family-run affair and it’s clear from the hugs and kisses handed out by the proprietor to various guests as they departed, that this place generates a lot of return custom. Service, it has to be said, through warm and friendly, was a tad erratic. Our waitress kept galloping about the place to rearrange chairs and tables, even in the middle of taking our order.

For starters, I chose Whitebait, a dish that’s notoriously difficult to find these days. These were somewhat larger than expected and nicely cooked, lightly dusted with breadcrumbs. They came with nothing more than a small bowl of mayonnaise and the traditional slice of lemon. Susan chose Feta Cheese with kalamata olives and that’s exactly what she got – a generous hunk of cheese and a pile of bitter-tasting olives; but the dish needed something more to complete it – a couple of slices of pitta bread would have been a welcome addition. Perhaps some salad garnish?

For the main course, I went with Stifado – a rich and peppery beef stew. It arrived slapped into a white bowl, accompanied by a couple of pieces of dry toasted bread and an almost risible selection of fries – there were perhaps six of them in total, tasting of very little. The stew itself was hearty and satisfying, but once again, the dish felt incomplete and there was no attempt to make it look appetising. Susan’s choice of Lamb Souvlaki was pretty good, I thought, a generously sized skewer of tender meat,  onion and peppers, resting on a bed of rice, but once again, the dish looked rather underwhelming. The chef clearly knows how to prepare the meat elements of the meals, but would do well, I think, to put a little more effort into his presentation skills.

We drank a bottle of house white and I would have expected this to be a traditional Greek wine – an Assyrtiko, perhaps or a Savatiano, but instead we were served a (fairly decent) Italian Pino Grigio. Go figure. Overall, we enjoyed the food, but the name leads you to expect some kind of gastronomic blowout, which this certainly wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong. It was decent food, but with a little more work on the presentation, it would have scored much higher.

3.2 stars

Philip Caveney