What To Order... At A Greek Restaurant

By Hazel Last edited 159 months ago
What To Order... At A Greek Restaurant

Greek food tastes of sunshine and parched hillsides sloping into clear blue seas. As a series of islands on the edge of the Mediterranean, Greece can "do" seafood extremely well, offering lots of fresh fish and shellfish to the diner who likes that sort of thing - and keep an eye out for the best use of octopus and cuttlefish this side of Japan (look beyond the tired calamari prostituting itself under Starters for the good stuff).

There's an enormous amount on offer for vegetarians in the guise of grilled cheeses, roasted vegetables, bean stews and dips and mouth-watering salads (lots of salads, lots and lots of different kinds of salads...) Mixed in among the signature Greek dishes are hints of southern Italy appearing in some dishes in the use of lemons and herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage on simply grilled or stewed foods, giving a light touch to food intended to be eaten in hot, dry lands. And then there are the deeper notes of Turkish cooking seeping into the menu from the other side of the map, with the many slow-cooked lamb dishes and prevalence of chickpeas, tomatoes, aubergines and spices giving away the exact location of Greece and its cuisine.

With such a mouth-watering array of things to choose from once installed at a Greek restaurant - should one nibble at a range of small mezze style dishes or would a freshly grilled fish and seafood platter be better, or perhaps a feast of souvlaki (lamb, chicken, vegetable or cheese skewers) straight from the grill be best? Read on for for your guide to what to order in a Greek restaurant...

Note: when you spot "cheese" on the menu, it will be Greek cheese, which means strong, rich, smooth white cheese usually made with goat's milk. Steer clear if you're not a fan - indulge yourself if you are! For the flesh-eaters, you'll find pretty much anything you can want: rabbit, beef, chicken and pork are common enough but it is the lamb you want to go for and it is lamb that will appear most often on a menu. The ocean-oriented diner won't be disappointed either: in all decent Greek restaurants there should be good fish and seafood options, keep looking if there is not. And for vegetarians... well, it's rare to have such a good range of things to choose from - hot, cold, small, large, spicy, rich, light, heavy etc - but here it all is. Enjoy.


Tzatziki / Sadziki - combined yogurt, cucumber and garlic eaten with bread

Melitzana Salata - aubergine salad, like babaganoush from the middle east eaten with bread

Tarama Salata - dip made from carp or cod roe eaten with bread

Capari Salata - caper salad eaten with bread

Tiro Salata - Greek cheese salad, strong tasting and sometimes spicy eaten with bread

Choriatiki Salata - commonly known as Greek Salad, a combination of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, olives, feta cheese, oil and vinegar

Lakanika - cabbage salad

Gigandes plaki - butter beans served either with oil and lemon or with tomato sauce

Vegetable / vegetarian dishes

Keftedes - deep-fried meatballs with varying ingredients, either chickpeas (like falafel), tomatoes or fish

Kolokithikia Vrasta - courgette seasoned with oill, lemon and sometimes vinegar

Patates Tiganites - fried potatoes

Briam - roast vegetables, containing potatoes, onions, courgettes, aubergines, garlic and tomatoes

Spanakopita - spinach in pastry

Rivithia - chickpeas ooked with onions and tomatoes

Fava - dip or stew made from yellow split peas that can be eaten with bread

Horta - warm greens

Dolmades - vineleaves stuffed with rice and herbs

Anginares - artichokes in lemon and egg sauce with potatoes

Tirokafteri - spiced puree of matured cheeses

Tiropitakia - feta and spinach in pastry

Casseri - soft cheese like mozzerella

Saganaki - fried cheese, sometimes served with tomato sauce or lemon

Htipiti - feta cheese marinated with pepper and red onions

Non-vegetarian dishes

Psito - leg of lamb roasted with potatoes

Brizoles - steak

Khirini - pork

Souvlaki - marinaded cubes of lamb or chicken (kota) grilled on skewers

Loukanika - sausage

Kokoretsi - lamb offal wrapped up and roasted on skewers

Kontosouvli - chunks of pork cooked on skewers

Moussaka - layered aubergines, minced beef or lamb and potatoes baked with tomato sauce and topped with cream and cheese

Pastitsio - similar to moussaka but made with pasta instead of aubergine


Rega - smoked herring in olive oil

Psarosoupa - fish soup with potatoes, lemon and egg

Astako - lobster

Garides - prawns

Soupia - cuttle fish

Midia - mussels

Octopodi - octopus

Kalamarikia - squid

Sardeles- sardines


Retsina - wine flavoured with pine resin

Ouzo - clear, strong, aniseed flavoured liquor, fiery and potent. Turns cloudy when mixed with water: tread carefully with this stuff!

Good places to try for Greek cuisine are The Real Greek that can be found in Clerkenwell, Hoxton, Putney and Bankside, also Cafe Corfu in Camden.

Last Updated 25 October 2005