Friday, 18 March 2011

Lemonia, Primrose Hill, NW1

There's a reason I originally called this blog 'Hungry in Camden', and not something suffocatingly twee like “Nancy’s kitchen” or "My little cookery blog" (lol).  I've done a tiny bit of food writing before for a website run by my colleague, frequent a tonne of brilliant food blogs (which is intimidating to say the least), and love keeping up to speed as best I possibly can with all the various culinary-themed goings on – so want to start writing about restaurants in North London and beyond.

(But yeah, I'm not planning on dropping any side-splitting witticisms or clever, clever writing puns a la some critics, or come up with any groundbreaking new insight. And bear with my incredibly amatuer attempt to take photos without a flash in a restaurant. AlI that aside though, I can certainly tell what I like and what I don't…)

And I can definitely tell you that Lemonia, in Primrose Hill, I liked VERY much. I tend to find that Greek food, for me at least, has been a disappointing mishmash of boney fish (for some reason I always ordered the fish - idiot), lemon wedges and cloying feta. I've obviously never had properly nice Greek food. Which is a shame as I'm wild about Greek cheese, minty-citrusy flavours, yoghurt, hummus, pitta, charcoal - all that good stuff.

Enter Lemonia, widely-popular and massively well known.  We'd been planning to go to this one for over a year, but somehow never got around to it. We even got close enough to cancel a booking! Oh GOD how I wish we'd been sooner. On Wednesday, looking for somewhere un-fancy and relatively cheap but still special to celebrate our anniversary,  (we've just come back from Berlin so really no need to go all out in the slighest) we remembered Lemonia and sorted a table for the next night. Very little planning went into it - and isn't that always the way with the meals you enjoy the most? The NOPI soft opening was so rigourously planned by myself, booking online as soon as the system was announced, and all that jazz, but in the end it was just a little on the side of underwhelming in terms of a dining experience, although the food was marvellous (and massively overpriced if it had been full cost.) This was just a kind of, meh, we’ll see how we go endeavour, and oh boy, we went well.

Quick bit of research beforehand turned up this review from the very even-handed Jay Rayner from 2008, recommending to ignore most of the menu and just get the mezze for two, £18.50 each. Great advice – definitely do this. The menu is bloody massive and you’ll never get to sample so many of their excellent dishes.

Within 10 minutes of sitting down, having polished off some lovely olive and carrot nibbles, we were tucking into a wide array of cold dips. I'm always a bit safe in restaurants, I like to choose my favourites, but if I'd done that, I'd never have had this oily, smokey aubergine dip before (and if you remember my sweet potato ratatouille post, I'm pretty anti-aubergine so this was a revelation to me.) And the weirdly-unpink but astonishingly delicious taramasalata, MY GOD, it was incredible. We were eating it with a fork by the end, having run out of pitta. Tabboleh, hummus, tzatsiki - everything was delicious. Although, I think I’d have preferred a stronger-tasting shop bought hummus, which I'm sure is sacrilege.
Five minutes into the cold starters, I realise I should have taken a picture.  
Onto the hot starters, which arrived swiftly like the cold starters. I love it when you're presented with an array of plates, tapas is one of my favourites for this reason. It just feels so brilliantly greedy and indulgent - clink, clink, clink, each plates goes down, and it's all for you, all for you! (And maybe the person you're eating with.) The hot starters included some slightly disappointing chewy calamari, which could have done with a crisper batter and a little more seasoning for me but I'm not the biggest fan of calamari anyway - plus deliciously zingy whitebait, sausage, halloumi, spanakofita (which had a weird beery taste, but it seems that may have been just me. ). Plenty to keep swapping from dish to dish, although not as universally delicious as the first course. Starting to get quite full at this point we realise we still had the mains to come. Shit! Oh well, we decided to 'power through', as the phrase goes.

The final course was thankfully simple and a reasonable size - a Greek salad that had a lovely, creamy feta which made my boyfriend go slightly mad with delight, a deliciously seasoned bulghar wheat side, with what I think were sliced onions, and a plate of chargrilled meats. Chicken kebabs, minty pork burgers and little lamb chops, all fantastically smokey. I feel the intense need to have a barbequeue now as soon as is humanly possible.
Main course
The food itself was pretty great, especially the cold starters, but the other main thing I liked so much about Lemonia was the atmosphere, the staff, the interior. On the cycle back from the restaurant (we were feeling daring - managed not to die on Camden Road) we passed Sardo Canale, a well-reviewed restaurant which we ate at but couldn't remember much at all other than that it was absolutely empty, silent and they sat the only other couple there right next to us. CRINGE. Any chance of having a nice meal, for both of us I'd imagine, ruined. But at Lemonia, the staff were wonderfully warm and attentive (we fell a bit in love with our grey-haired waiter because he was so nice), the entire central area is dripping with greenery and plants and feels airy and authentic, and the noisy chatter makes for a relaxing eating environment. 

And did I mention the price? £68 including service charge for a not-bottom-of-the -list bottle of Greek wine, tea and coffee, and enough food that we could burst, plus complimentary turkish delight and olive nibbles. Not bad, not bad at all.

Check it out. They don't have a website, but trust me, give them a call, order the meze (needs two diners at least though). I'm still thinking about that heavenly taramasalta. Oh jeez .They do lunch deals as well... argh.

Lemonia, 89 Regents Park Rd London NW1 8UY - 020 7586 7454

View Larger Map


  1. God I want some Taramasalata now. OM NOM GREEK FOOD

  2. Loved your post! This looks awesome. What could you use to dip only pita?

  3. I went to Lemonia having read Jay Rayner's review as well and thought it was great value. Better than Vrisaki as well which is similar but quite a hike out of North London. PS thanks for the link I clicked on it to see which blogs you recommended and was very flattered to see mine as one of them!

  4. Ooh, thank you for the comment, it made my night last week and I just realised I didn't reply!

  5. This looks great, I've been passing by Lemonia a couple times but somehow never gotten around the trying it out - you've got me convinced to go now. Just found your blog, very pleasing to the eye!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...