10 Greek Street

No sooner had I walked out the door of 11 Greek Street (see last week’s review), than I was back on virtually the same spot, walking in through the door of 10 Greek Street and requesting a table at this generally well received and reviewed recent addition to the Soho restaurant scene. I am nothing, if not predictable.

The wait for a table was fine – an hour, during which we were free to head for a drink elsewhere and await their phone call. I had just been beaten on to the list by a couple of others, so it could easily have been less. I can’t really see why the no reservations trend has caused so much vexation amongst the aged old guard of the food critic circles. It’s certainly not an issue worth dwelling on any further.

10 Greek Street is a smallish room with an open kitchen at the far end of it. The walls are white with blackboards on which the menu is (literally) scrawled. The tables are neat, the chairs are great, the lights follow the now typical low hung, low wattage Soho mould. It’s the kind of place that fosters chatter and is totally enjoyable to be in. All of the front of house guys were charming, helpful and savvy. The wine list is interesting and affordable – £16 to £32 pounds for a bottle, all carafes exactly half the bottle price, all wines available by the glass. I basically wanted to love the place and certainly had a good evening.

But …

Unfortunately the food was disappointing – underwhelming, underseasoned and at times undercooked.

10 Greek Street serves resolutely uncomplicated, understated but modern food. The daily changing menu features four or five starters (cold cuts and salad, soups, stews, pastas), five or six mains (a braised, grilled and seared protein, usually a whole fish for two to share), and four or five desserts (puddings, tarts cakes, ice cream) all featuring seasonal well sourced ingredients. Nothing wrong with that. In fact I like eating at this sort of place.

But if it’s simple stuff, then I think you’ve got to nail it. Every time.

40 Maltby Street’s menu is on pretty much the same theme and they absolutely nail it. Elliot’s in Borough Market are similar and kind of do too. Polpetto is Italian food, but definitely runs by the same principles and delivers. 10 Greek Street doesn’t. At least not on the night I was there.

A couple of slices of rare Welsh beef were tasty and served with nice enough beetroot, horseradish and rocket. Not bad. But not difficult either and ultimately much better after a pinch of sea salt (on which more later). Smoked swordfish carpaccio was also OK and definitely enlivened after a squeeze of the orange slice served on the side. But it was not a huge portion for £8 and the inclusion of a few chunks of inedible pomegranate pith amongst the frugal sprinkling of seeds suggested the guys in the kitchen were getting a bit tired.

The mains followed a similar, slightly lacklustre theme.

I’d been cooking duck all day and was intrigued to see what their braised duck leg would be like. It was a good size, and appeared to have been well cooked – tender and falling off the bone at the press of a fork. The plating was rustic but nice, with the duck sitting on top of firm white beans, sweet potato and butifarra sausage. All promising. But I’m not convinced the braising stock had been particularly flavoursome. Moreover, if I’d presented the dish to my chef tutor, she would have eaten a bit, looked at me, raised one eyebrow and said “have you seasoned it?” I would’ve been lying if I’d said I had. It was really, really under seasoned. A big shame.

A shallot tatin dish was the same: it should have been lovely – balsamic shallots in a fine pastry case, creamy burrata on top and wild mushrooms and rocket skirting it – but the whole dish was virtually devoid of salt. However, given we had a pot of Malden on the table, the bigger shame that the neither the shallots nor the pastry case were quite cooked through.

Also disappointing was a dry and undercooked slice of bread and butter pudding served with fairly tasteless poached pairs that we shared for pudding.

I think that eating out is almost as much about the occasion as the food. For that reason I sometimes rate restaurants where the food is just adequate, when others seem to be more ambivalent or even critical. To judge on the food alone is short sighted, and I’ll happily argue my case. But for a time at 10 Greek Street I found myself questioning my approach. Because whilst a couple of excellent glasses of Sauterne rather masked the disappointment of dessert, as a decent carafe of Pinot Noir and pleasant atmosphere had helped earlier on, there came a point at which I realised that the food was objectively just not very good.

Maybe it was an off night. I hope so (though reports from other friends have been of a similar vein – save for an apparently top notch risotto nero one night).  Because my tendency to place a premium on atmosphere and intention still prevails; in spite of the cooking, I left with the impression that 10 Greek Street is a charming little restaurant, run by well-intentioned, hard working new restaurateurs who sell good wine and a more than reasonable price. It’s not somewhere to dislike, and it would not be difficult for them to improve on the food that we ate.

Simple food is fine. In fact, in the right surroundings (which I think these are), it can be great. You’ve just got to do it well and shouldn’t leave the seasoning to your customers.

10 Greek Street in 3 words

Underseasoned yet enjoyable.

The Bill

Affordable. £5-8 for starters. £12-18 for mains. £5 desserts. Good value wine.

10GreekStreet.com – W1D 4DH – 020 7734 4677