At this time of year, many of us are thinking about jetting off somewhere – perhaps Greece – for a relaxing week on the beach, with a few taverna visits thrown in for good measure. If a Greek holiday isn’t on the cards, you can still enjoy some of the country’s traditional dishes here in Leicester.
The city is already home to The Olive, a very good Greek cafe in Belvoir Street, and now just around the corner in Market Street, is Chris’s Greek Cafe Bar and Restaurant, which launched this week. The new addition looks like a lovely spot, and if it serves up some good food, then I reckon the more the merrier when it comes to Greek eateries.
With the blue skies and sunshine putting me in the mood for a freshly prepared lunch that was a bit more exotic than a sandwich, I decided to check out the new Market Street cafe.
READ MORE: New Greek cafe serving up authentic family food at former Leicester city centre supermarket
More about Chris’s Greek Cafe Bar and Restaurant
Chris’s Greek Cafe Bar and Restaurant has just opened in Market Street, in part of the unit that was formerly a Nisa Local store. Following a 19-week transformation, the space has been turned into a bright, spacious cafe with contemporary decor, and an open kitchen at the rear so diners can see their meals being cooked.
The new eatery has been launched by experienced chef and cafe owner Blebar Topalli, who named the business after his young son, Chris. Blebar previously owned and ran cafes in London – the most recent of which was Top Daily Caffe in Shoreditch, which he sold in October 2021.
Blebar is managing the cafe, while members of his family, who are Greek, are working in the kitchen, preparing the food.
According to the owner, all ingredients, down to the cheese and the olive oil, are sourced from Greece, to ensure an authentic taste. There’s a large selection on the menu, and although I felt fairly confident with my knowledge of Greek food, it was nice to have the different dishes explained to me by the friendly waitress.
The menu includes kalamaki (also known as souvlaki) with pork, chicken, lamb or village (Loukaniko) sausage, skepasti with pork gyros, chicken gyros or halloumi, and wraps with pork gyros or kalamaki, chicken gyros or kalamaki, lamb kalamaki or halloumi kalamaki.
There’s also merides, which includes the same elements as the wraps, but laid out on a plate, rather than inside a pitta. Plus, you get more food with this dish.
Salads, omelettes and burgers are on the menu, as are grill specials such as pork steak, half chicken and lamb chops souvla. With the cafe open from 8am, breakfasts – including a full English, vegetarian breakfast and eggs Florentine, are also available.
I do enjoy a gyros wrap, but as I was feeling particularly hungry, I decided to go for the merides, with lamb kalamaki. Other variants include pancetta, pork gyros, pork kalamaki, chicken gyros, village sausage and halloumi kalamaki.
After about 15 minutes, my lunch arrived, and I was impressed by its appearance. Not only was it a generous sized portion, it was neatly presented and colourful, and made me want to immediately get eating – which I did.
The lamb had a lovely flavour from the herbs, and I particularly enjoyed it when combined with the fresh-tasting homemade tzatziki and the pieces of pitta, which were warm and slightly crisp.
As is often the case with lamb, there were a few chunks of fat, but the taste of the leaner bits made it worth persevering! The chips, served in a metal basket, were excellent – nice and crisp, and with just the right amount of seasoning from the paprika and salt.
The precisely placed slices of tomato and cucumber added freshness to the dish, which also included slices of white onion (for the sake of the people I’d be speaking to later on, I decided not to eat much of this, though!).
When it comes to beverages, there’s hot drinks, cold drinks, and alcoholic drinks, including wine and beer. It’s a shame not to see any Greek examples (such as a nice Mythos beer) on the menu at the moment, but the owner says he is aiming to source such drinks.
Ever the caffeine fan, even on a hot day, I opted for an iced coffee (£3.50) which was lovely and refreshing.
This was a very fresh and tasty lunch, which happily put me in mind of my Greek holidays. The service was prompt and friendly and whilst you won’t feel like you’re sitting in a traditional taverna, the surroundings are bright, modern and clean.
I also like the fact that you can see into the kitchen as your food is being prepared. The price, at £10.95 for the meridas, was fair, given the generous amount of food, although if you’re looking for a more budget-conscious lunch option, I would say that a gyros wrap, priced from £5.95, would be worth a shot.
Our rating: 4/5
Food hygiene rating: Awaiting inspection