GREEK DELIGHTS

Deconstructed baklava

Deconstructed baklava. Or perhaps reconstructed. Whatever, nothing like the traditional baklava you know and love

NIKOS (COALGRILL GREEK)
54 Adelaide Tambo Drive, Durban North
Call 031 007 0375

Nikos offers hearty, tasty food that is perfect to share. Great place for a celebration, writes Ingrid Shevlin

Nikos is a fun and vibey place to eat. It  was pumping the day we lunched there – and that was four days after its opening. Diners poured in and out in an endless stream and staff rushed around madly like headless chickens. But there was an order to it all and our food came out the kitchen surprisingly quickly. Too quickly in the case of our mains, which arrived while we were still eating our starters
But no matter. The food is so mix-and-match that all the flavours blended together seamlessly. For instance, I topped my chicken souvlaki with dollops of htipiti dip and loved it.
I was lunching with friend Meleney Cunniff, the daughter and the granddaughter. Lovely Lilly may only be six months old, but she is already a seasoned diner, even if she does bring her own food. In this case pureed butternut, carrots, sweet potato and chicken.
Eating out with a baby can be challenging and Nikos is a little too crammed and frenetic to make it a comfortable place to take babies or toddlers and all their paraphernalia. Remember that. But we coped, thanks to our waitress, Bridget, who was outstandingly efficient and patient.
But Nikos is not without its peculiarities – and it’s far from being fine dining.
Serving food in enamel dishes, for instance, is charming. Up to a point. And if you are going to offer tea, get some teapots.

The soutzoukakia ciabatta

The soutzoukakia ciabatta

Chicken souvlaki

Chicken souvlaki

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Hummus unloaded. Delicious!

THE MENU
Nikos serves Greek earthy food that relies on coal grilling to add depth and flavour. And it works. Presentation is rudimentary, but I doubt their customers care.
The menu is divided into sections like “little eats”, which includes baked feta and phyllo pastries drizzled with honey and topped with sesame seeds, thyme and grapes (different!); fried calamari; cheese pies; pumpkin pies; and hummus with spicy lamb mince.
There are two salads and a dips section which ranges from tzatziki and tarama to Turkish ezme salsa. Oddly, pitas are not served automatically with the dips. You have to order and pay R7 per pita. Then there are plated souvlaki (grilled kebabs) which are served with chips, pita bread, a modest tomato and cucumber salad and a  dip of your choice. Meat options are chicken, beef or pork.
A yiro section follows. This is pita bread filled with either beef, chicken pork or  lamb (meatballs or kebabs) and different fillings. For instance, paphos is spicy lamb kofta (meatballs), which comes with green tzatziki, tomato and red onions.  The limnos yiro is filled with a meat of your choice plus roasted brinjal, tahini, tomato and red onion. There are also falafel and chickpea yiros.
The meat section offers up skinny lamb chops, pork chops, bifteki (pork and beef mince patties), a Greek burger and soutzoukakia spaghetti with pork/beef meatballs.
Price are mostly under R100 unless you order the larger portions to share- which is an option.

WHAT WE ORDERED
The daughter started with “hummus loaded” with pomegranate, feta, red onion, and pine kernels, R45. The portion was huge. A soup plate size. Definitely not for one. This was delicious – nothing like any commercial hummus you’ve bought.
Meleney ordered a dip, the htipiti, made up of red pepper, chilli and feta. R24 for a small plate. Nice flavours, though she thought there was too much feta and too little red pepper, which meant the dish was over salty.
I opted for the roasted spicy cauliflower, R45, which didn’t seem particularly Greek. Still, it was rather nice, but far too large for one unless you are not ordering anything else. Or are greedy.
For my main I ordered a plated chicken souvlaki (two skewers) which came with excellent chips (a little oversalted), salad, pita bread and a hummus dip.  R100 for two chicken skewers, R120 for three. Chicken was nice enough and the hummus dip delicious. Even though I had only two skewers it was a hefty portion.
Meleney opted for soutzoukakia ciabatta, R70: Three pork/beef meatballs in a Napoletana sauce served in a ciabatta roll with Emmental and Parmesan cheese, and served with chips. The meatballs and napoletana sauce were very good, but there was too little cheese to make any flavour impact. The daughter had a falafel yiros with tomato, red onion, tahini and fresh coriander, R50. The falafels were well flavoured and soft, but she felt there was too much tahini. She didn’t like its bitter taste.
For dessert we ordered the corrugated baklava, R55 which was a deconstructed version of the classic Greek dessert. Not particularly successful I thought, but Meleney liked it because it wasn’t too sweet.
What I did enjoy, though, was their karathopita, which is a flourless, walnut frangelico cake served with Greek Yoghurt. But R60 was a mite pricy for such a small portion.
Nikos’s food is filling, tasty and satisfying and while it’s unlikely to win any gourmet awards there are some surprisingly interesting flavours.  And their pitas are made fresh and served piping hot. Also great chips.
Decor is fresh, contemporary and cheerful.  – March 24, 2017 

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