Opso

The Spring heatwave that shone over London in the late weekend of April spelled one thing for me: a plate (or two or three) of Greek food.  The very idea of these dishes conjures up images of Greek islands, rustic villages and blue oceans.  And its light and refreshing dips are ideal for the setting.  And so to Opso, a newish modern Greek restaurant in Marylebone.  With its al fresco seating spilling onto Paddington Street proper and its large open windows, it provided the perfect spot for the evening. Given Marylebone’s international crowd and European ethos, I happily felt like I was out in the Continent for the evening.

Opso had sprung to my mind that week after its shout out in Maria Elia’s recommendations of her top five Greek restaurants in London (here)  highlighting its bar seats, which I agree are always the best in the house.  Fittingly, my companion had managed to secure a couple of seats (and G&Ts) on the stools next to the open windows.  The space is inside (and out) is very effective.  Split over two floors, the ground floor has the feel of a posh kitchen and is dominated by a bar, an attractive cocktail menu and a large semi-communal table with stools, as well as smaller two- and four-person tables dotted around the edges. With its exposed ceiling ducts, it has a slightly industrial feel due to the.

“Opso” is the ancient Greek word for “delicacy”; the restaurant wants you to understand that this food has a higher form than that knocked out by the myriad Greek-Cypriot tavernas across the country. Greek food, they are saying, can be sophisticated.  It seeks to elevate a cuisine, rooted in essentially rustic, domestic, culinary tradition, into something modern and “small plates” esque.  Funnily, it sits across the street from its polar opposite, the Marylebone branch of The Real Greek. But while the menu at the latter consists of mundane mezze and souvlaki, Opso couldn’t be more different. Although its menu is also dominated by sharing plates, its kitchen uses Greek ingredients (with the occasional British twist) in imaginative ways to great effect.

Pleasingly, the menu has a whole “Vegetables” section. First up, we ordered the Skordalia (£5), a Greek dip made with olive oil, garlic spread with toasted crumbled walnuts.  To dip, we went for the Olive Crackers (£3).  The two were an utter joy – just the kind of biting food that you crave in hot weather.  How the Skordalia was so creamy is beyond me – its texture was a cross between hummus and tahini. I later google the dish and learn that it’s made up of potato and garlic.  In any event, I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for this from now.  And not forgetting the Olive Crackers, they were the perfect accompaniment: crispy, fragrant and positively addictive.

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Next came the Beetroot Carpaccio (£8.50) made up of Roasted beets, green beans, more skordalia and walnuts.  The reappearance of the skordalia was very welcome.  Full of flavour, this dish was another triumph.

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We also shared the Dakos Salad (olive oil rusks, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, barre-lmatured feta, capers, red onion) (£10). Refreshing and addictive, the punchy, salty capers and olives were a good match for the sweet, umami tomatoes and creamy, soft feta, while sharp red onions and a scattering of oregano formed the crust of a glorious meld of strong, bold flavours.

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Opso gets 5*s from me for many reasons: the setting, the sharing plates, the weather definitely played a part, and its careful attention to bringing the flavours of Greece to life.  Opso’s modern approach is delightful, playful, inventive and satisfying. Greek food deserves more attention in London. And Opso definitely does.

Opso, 10 Paddington Street, London, W1

Website: http://www.opso.co.uk/

Rating: *****

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