Review: Santorini, John Street, Sunderland
With a pre-cinema hankering for houmous, we headed to our favourite Greek place Olive Affaire only to be told that they were no longer serving after 6pm.
It was looking like a Greek tragedy until we wandered a few yards down the road to find that the former Grand Didyma Turkish restaurant had gone all Hellenic.
Previous visitors to this John Street restaurant will be familiar with the decor, which is fairly similar to its previous guise with its stone-effect wallpaper, raffia hut features and Arabian-style lighting.
Aside from the signage and menu, the only other giveaway that the restaurant has a new identity is the Greek flags festooned about the place.
Early doors on a Saturday night and we were the first diners through the doors, but the welcome was as warm as the Aegean sunshine and the new owners seemed enthusiastic about their venture. They’ve certainly got the Greek hospitality bit right, but what about the food?
The menu fills a Greek gap in evening restaurant trade in the city centre and offers a substantial range of small plates and main courses inspired by the shores of Santorini.
Think plenty of dips for dunking, spinach pie, seafood and skewered meats.
We chose some small plates to start, which were well priced at £2.50 for houmous, £2.50 for tzatziki and £3.95 for olives served with feta cheese, accompanied by a large basket of unleavened bread for tearing.
Presentation was simple, with not a novelty wooden board or roof slate in sight, but humble plates did the trick. The houmous was a little more watery and gloppy than I’m used to, but managed to still have that distinctive tahini flavour.
I preferred the tzatziki which managed to be both light and creamy and had a satisfying chunkiness. The olives were certainly good value for money with the addition of two slabs of fresh, verging on crumbly, feta.
There’s a great choice of mains, ranging from classic kleftiko (£10.95) to moussaka in vegetarian and meat form, priced from £7.95.
I was pleased with my choice of chicken shish (£11.95) which was served lightly marinated and had that satisfying smokiness you only get from the chargrill. It comes served with rice or chips and salad for added value.
The Greek pitta wraps – or gyros – are cheap as chips too at only £3.
The drinks menu was a little more limited than the food version when it came to wine and spirits and my choice of G&T was a pretty basic version, but the addition of a Greek Mythos beer is a nice touch and will be familiar to anyone who’s sprawled on a Greek sun lounger, beer in hand.
Grand Didyma lasted little more than a year, but maybe the Greek gods will smile more favourably on Santorini.