THE GREEK EXPERIENCE....
The very mention of Greek food in Oxford and immediately the thought process homes in on the 'Greek Taverna' in Summertown. With Greece being so popular and the food so varied and so tasty, it is still a mystery why the Taverna is still really the only choice. In contrast, you will find endless Italian, Indian and Chinese, with a small number of French and countless others all vying for trade.
The fact that the choice for Greek restaurants is so limited was borne out recently as our foursome continued their adventures. At 8.00pm on a Saturday evening, the place was almost full. As we entered, some people were leaving with a very satisfied look on their faces! We were shown to our reserved table and immediately found the Taverna's atmosphere lively and buzzing. It was also a welcome sight to see provision for younger children in the form of a high chair, which was occupied. Obviously, the occupant of this chair was satisfied with the food as there was hardly a whinge, groan or scream all evening! On our table sat a bowl containing olives and four juicy green chillies. Rather a pity that only Adie was partial to chillies.....the water we had previously requested went down well!
The wine board marked 'Taverna Special' was advertising French red and white, but relief was at hand when we looked at the wine choice within the menu! A bottle of Kouros Nemeas was ordered @ £12.95. All agreed very smooth, very Greek and a trifle expensive for Greek plonk! And here to the gripe of the evening. We became annoyed at the over attentive waiter who constantly ensured our glasses were always full. Before we knew it, one bottle was drained and immediately we were asked if we would like another? Slightly before were ready for it, we ordered another and still the waiter was overpowering in his approach. When this bottle was emptied some little while later, It became rather irritating the number of times we were asked if we would like even more wine even though we had said no several times. We were also aware that one of our glasses was left almost empty (deliberately?) a suspicion of this being a ploy to make us buy another? This approach was unnecessary and were all unhappy with it.
And now for the food. Much deliberation followed as to ordering the starters. All very mouth watering and all very Greek. As we wanted a truly authentic experience, we asked the waiter for a mixed platter we could all share (Meze style). We thought he had understood and we were impressed with the friendliness and the apparent flexibility, but in a short time, 4 identical plates arrived, each containing a stuffed vine leaf, humus, tzatziki, Taramasalata, a small sliced sausage, 2 quarters of tomato, 3 pieces of sliced gherkin and something pink! We are still not sure what this was! In addition, a basket of warm pitta bread was served. However, on receiving the bill at the end, the charge was £5.85 each plate - ouch! However, the starter was agreed as 'quality'.
For main courses, Josey chose the traditional Mousakus, which she declared light, tasty and yummy! Tony, having chose the 'Arni Kleftiko' advertised as leg of lamb was not quite what was expected, but nonetheless, authentic and quality. Marie chose the 'Moshari Stifado', which was declared truly gorgeous - so much so that we all had to try it, and agreed! If ever a true Greek dish, Stifado is the one! Adie's choice for the main was a chicken Athina - 3 kebabs of chicken, onions, peppers and mushroom. Superbly cooked and surprisingly very filling. We accompanied our main course with two Greek salads, although a surprise addition to the 'Greek Salad' was lettuce! However, it was crisp and fresh.
As Adie was still feeling rather full, he decided to pass on the pudding! One of us had to take the Baklavas, and Marie happily obliged! This is the mother of all Greek sweets and was as authentic as could possibly be. In Marie's wards - "light, syrupy and yummy"! Adie's apparent "I'm too full up for pud" soon disappeared and he happily shared the Baklavas with Marie! Tony' choice was Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts, which he declared as "very good, creamy and full of flavour with body". Josey elected to choose the 'Pears and Ice-cream Santorini', although Josey was disappointed that there was "not a lot of pear, but lots of ice cream". And here to the second gripe of the night. Since when has the dreadful 'squirty cream' been part of the Greek cuisine? Lashings of this awful, foul tasting mass of chemical are used to provide bulk and make the puds look bigger than they are. What a let down compared to the rest of the menu.
We ended our experience with a cappuccino for Marie, A Traditional Greek coffee each for Tony and Adie, with Tony stating that it was perfect - the mouth being coated in sediment - with Adie in full agreement! Josey decided on a 'standard' coffee, but again another let down, this time the 'motorway services' pot of cream in its plastic container. How difficult would it have been to pour two of these into a small jug?
The evening would not have been complete without Metaxa five star which was eagerly anticipated and we were not disappointed! However at £2.75 for an exact English style measure was disappointing. The disappointment soon dispersed however as another round was offered 'on the house', with the ladies electing for a Greek style Cointreau. The gesture from the owner was a nice touch.
And so to our marking. Each category could score a maximum of twenty points.
Value for money:13
TOTAL: ............59 out of a possible eighty.
The timing between our courses was perfect, provided by a friendly and attentive service which was slightly spoiled by the over zealous wine waiters approach to drown us in red wine. We agreed that further competition in Oxford to challenge the Taverna would be a good thing as we received our bill, which was a little over £120.00. As Josey stated, "This wasn't a meal, more an experience".