It has become something of a trend for smart London restaurants to open their own delis – but they often seem like an afterthought, or a badge of fashion. Not so with Ergon. This Greece-based brand took premium ingredients as a starting point; and from their deli business, their restaurant empire grew organically. Showcasing the award-winning products in their chefs’ dishes is the point of their restaurants. So Ergon (which means ‘vocation’) is essentially a deli with a restaurant attached, and not the other way round.
The chain, highly acclaimed and popular in its home country, recently opened its first international branch in London. Located in a small side street behind Selfridges, the compact deli is housed in the basement of its cosy two-room restaurant. It’s owned by Thomas Douzis, who belongs to a family from Thessaloniki with three generations of experience in the food sector.
Here, traditional products based on old recipes have been sourced from small, independent producers all around Greece. They’re grown or created by people who’re experts in their field. This is very much the central philosophy of Ergon: every beautifully packaged item showcases ancient values, skills and expertise with a contemporary aesthetic, and each has a distinct history. Many of the ingredients have either EU’s Protected Designation of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication status; or are organic, or even grown in the wild.
With wooden bench seating at its centre, the stylish, modern space is modelled on traditional food shops of Greece, whose numbers have dwindled over the years. All around are shelves laden with ingredients like Greek pastas, beans, lentils and grains; plus varieties of rice, such as medium-grain from Serres (£2.10) and long-grain from Thessaloniki (£1.85). There’s also their renowned tuna from Alonissos (£8.95), and fish spreads, including salmon (£3.45) and cod roe (£3.35).
Additionally, you’ll find savoury vegetable-based spreads and condiments like feta cheese with red peppers, black and green olive tapenades, and assorted tomato-based sauces. The selection of olive oils and vinegars is particularly strong. And where would the sunny, colourful cooking of the Mediterranean be without roasted red peppers and aubergines, pickled cucumber, green tomatoes, small spicy marinated peppers, and anchovies? There are also caper tops, caper leaves, and capers in syrup.
One of the managers, Nicole Lapouridou, immediately drew our attention to tubs of ‘sweet cream vanilla’ (£2.60), a unique Greek confectionery made from mastic (a type of resin from trees grown on the Greek island of Chios). Water is added to it, and it’s eaten with a spoon “like a lollipop”, with the remainder of the water drunk afterwards. “It’s commonly known as ‘submarine’ as it’s submerged under water”, she says.
Mastic, widely used in Greek cooking, appears in many other forms, including as powder, in sparkling waters, soft drinks and liqueurs. There are many sweet treats, too, like raw carob, chocolate and cocoa powders; deliciously moreish ‘sesame wafers’ (like grown-up version of sesame snaps), loukoumi (Turkish delight), and several candies in assorted fruit flavours. And if you’re cutting down on sugar, try the attractively packaged sugar-free chocolate.
Ergon’s first products were honeys, so it’s no surprise to find a good selection in varieties like thyme, fir tree and orange (£8.50). There are many different jams, marmalades and preserves traditionally served as ‘spoon sweets’ in Greece, in a spoon, with a cup of coffee or tea and a glass of water on the side. We were particularly charmed by rose petal preserve in syrup (£8.10), which we’d tasted in a dish when dining at the restaurant a few days before our deli visit.
You’ll also find a notable selection of fruit syrups with honey (£7.50) in flavours like sour cherry, blueberry, blackberry and pomegranate. “My grandmother made these types of syrups at home, mostly in the sour cherry flavour”, says Lapouridou. “She added cold water and ice cubes to make summertime drinks.” During our visit, we were given a large glass of own-made pink lemonade from the restaurant, coloured and flavoured with hibiscus flowers. Exceptionally refreshing, it’s set to become one of our drinks of the summer.
Greek saffron and wild truffles in olive oil (£20) are not so easy to find in London; plus there are ‘frumenti’ and ‘trahana’ dried soup mixes (traditional broths made from grains and yoghurt or fermented milk – a lot tastier than it sounds). Tucked away at the back is a small range of Greek wines, ouzo and tsipouro (brandy made from grape residue, sometimes flavoured with anise).
You should definitely pop down to the deli if you’re eating at the restaurant – but it’s worth visiting in its own right. After all, you won’t find some of these products anywhere else in London.
Ergon, 16 Picton Place, W1U 1BP. Tel: 020 7486 9210
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Note: businesses featured in this series are chosen editorially, and not as part of a promotion.