If you live in my neck of the woods (or you are partial to hopping on the High Speed train from London at the weekend) I've found your new favourite Greek restaurant. I gave myself a day off last week for a little bit of shopping in Canterbury (a trip to Lush was required as I'm a little obsessed with their special edition Lover Lamp bath bombs), I needed a new tube of mascara, and managed to pick up a beautiful Max Mara skirt in the Fenwick sale) followed by lunch at Zeus, a great Ouzeri and Taverna down Sun Street which opened in August.
While we went over the menus, we had glasses of iced Greek mineral water for the table, and a carafe of the house Cypriot red wine for those of us who were not driving. It went great with the food, and had a wonderful deep flavour. It made us both want to seek out more Cypriot and other Greek wine, too.
After a lot of deliberation looking at the equally delicious looking a la carte and set lunch menus (okay, and a fair bit of arguing!) we decided to go for a whole load of mezze dish to share so we could try lots of different things, and one of the set lunch plates (for us to share, or so I mandated, obviously!)
First to the table came a dish of pretty pink taramasalata with warm, oiled, herbed and griddled pitta to scoop it up with, as well as a cold chickpea salad. Taramasalata is one of my favourite foods. I've been known to eat and entire tub with hot toast to dip in in the space of about a day. In my expert opinion, this taramasalata was fantastic, and I need a master class in how they make their super addictive pitta. The chickpea salad (flavoured with peppers) was great too with those super delicious chickpeas you only get from soaking them rather than buying them in a can, though while I'll be ordering the taramasalata and pitta again, I might see what their Greek salad is like next time I visit.
Next came the stand out dish for all of us, the best couple of bites of food any of us put in our mouths that lunch time, and the one thing on the menu that I'm telling you that you simply have to order. Sheftalia are a Cypriot minced meat delicacy packed with herbs, before being chargrilled into little bursts of rich, juicy flavour. Seriously, we should have ordered more of these, and I seriously recommend that you do too.
Next up (the food arrived as it was ready, rather than all at once so you could get each dish at its best) came the 'Octopus On Sand' (grilled octopus with capers and a 'sand' made with garlic, olive oil and molecular gastronomy) and our meat filled dolmades. The octopus was well marinated so had a great flavour, and was perfectly cooled so it was not at all rubbery or chewy, which is a big no when it comes to octopus or squid type situations. Based off of this, I'd be happy to order their kalamari in future. The 'sand' was really interesting and a lesson in texture. I'm not sure if I'd like to eat it again, but it definitely makes you think! The dolmades were good, but somewhat overshadowed by Zeus' fantastic tzatziki. One of the best tzatziki's I've had in a long time, and something I think to also order as a dip with more of that excellent pitta.
I've wanted to try Prawn Saganaki since Rose posted a recipe for it on her blog from her time in Greece. King prawns, cooked in a delicious pepper, garlic, ouzo and tomato sauce, scattered with feta and fresh herbs. These were really good, and really messy. Luckily they provided a finger bowl, and I really wish that we'd had some pitta (honestly, order extra!) on the table at the time to mop up some of those wonderful juices.
Finally in the savoury section, from the set lunch menu we ordered No. 1, where for £10.50 you get a chicken or pork (which we opted for) souvlaki skewer, Greek chips, mixed grilled vegetables, a little pot of tzatziki and more of that amazing pitta. We liked the Greek chips (something a little different), and the grilled vegetables were simply wonderful; another dish you should definitely order in the sides department. Finally, the meat. I loved the souvlaki, rich, moist and very more-ish.
While we loved the mezze, I think the lunch plates are fantastic value, and I think I'll be ordering these next time I visit (obviously with a few mezze plates on the side, and extra pitta!). No. 4 sounds like a good call, £11.45 for Greek meatballs in tomato sauce, Greek chips and a Greek salad.
Moving onto sweets, the one thing you want to know what is like when you visit a Greek restaurant for dessert, is how is their Baklava. I'm not really a baklava fan (I know) so this was not really my department, but I was informed that it was a decent specimen. I was all over the masticha cream it was served with though, very addictive if you like that slightly resin like flavour. Not to everyones taste, but I love it.
We also ordered a selection of loukoumades, little doughnut like Greek fried dough balls, some doused in chocolate sauce (which were nice), and some in warmed Greek honey (which were to die for). Crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside; wicked without being too overly fatty or greasy. Order some of the honey variety for the table. They have iced coffee on the menu, and that would make a great combo.
Finally, I did not think we should leave until we also sampled some of their delicious looking Greek yogurt offering. You can have a small (above) or large bowl, and there is a choice of salted caramel, mint chocolate, deconstructed baklava, honey and pasteli and strawberries and masticha, which we went for. It was lovely, fruity, thick and creamy. The masticha was very very subtle (but not lost), so this a great bowl to enjoy for entry level masticha connoisseurs. Our waitress (who was absolutely lovely by the way, so attentive but not too much so, and happy to stop and talk about the food - 10/10 for service) also told us that frozen Greek yogurt is on the way - can't wait to try it!
We really, really enjoyed our meal at Zeus; it is a fantastic addition to the Canterbury food scene. I've recommended it to a fair few people since, and I'm looking forward to going back. Click through for more of my Canterbury foodie recommendations.