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Estia, Greek Restaurant, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield finds the best MCR Greek food in convenient but weird location

Written by . Published on October 28th 2013.


Estia, Greek Restaurant, Reviewed
 

Category: Restaurants: casual-dining. Score 15/20 (Full breakdown below and score explained. Venues are compared with similar venues and measured against the best examples in their category.)

I'VE been eating the wrong Greek food all my life. I've had little flurries of culinary love in Dimitris years ago and similarly Kosmos in Fallowfield.

Forensic food writers and bloggers dissecting every nuance of a chef's work make me queasy like people obsessed by the mechanics of sex rather than the emotion. I suspect they're ill in the head.

Even in Greece I've never found myself head over heels. The problem is I've been trapped in holiday resorts during family celebrations.

The food in predictable, bouzouki-bashing, tavernas on boiling promenades has been derivative, dull and perfunctory.

The Greek Cypriot holiday hell of Protaras occupies the distinction of the town with the worst food I've ever eaten in, and that includes Barnsley. Mediterranean resorts prove you can only live in a postcard for so long before you realise two-dimensional life is impossible. 

Fava

Fava Santorinis - yellow split peas from Santorini, with red onions and caper, served with extra virgin olive oil

Because of all this, Greek food has never occupied a place of honour in my hypothalmus. It's been sidelined, turned into a cul-de-sac called Well-If-There's-Really-Nothing-Else Road. Along with Polish food. And Russian.

This is down to pure ignorance.

I'm a writer that often writes about food but for such a person to pretend they know even one percent of what they could about global food would be foolish. There's always much to learn.

In fact I often tell 'bloggers' when they occasionally ask for advice the most important thing in a food review is the writing. It's about keeping people entertained. Don't jump in nose-first like a hog in a truffle hunt through the undergrowth of a dish, but describe it, judge it and get the hell out. 

Forensic food writers and bloggers dissecting every nuance of a chef's work make me queasy like people obsessed by the mechanics of sex rather than the emotion. I suspect they're ill in the head.

Back to Greek food.

I have a new Greek hero. My Perseus is Vasilis in Estia in Old Trafford but he's no myth. He's turned me with the freshness of his grub and its liquid, oily, health-boosting, strong, rich flavours. He's even shown me a quality I did not expect in his country's food, its unexpected subtlety. 

The mezze platter (£11) summed it all up.

The vines leaves had a freshness from the herbs that lifted body and spirit, the tzatziki was light but full-on, the tabbouleh effortlessly easy to devour, the kebab-like sausages with paprika dip delivered harder textures and the vigour of sturdy meat. 

Perfect platter

 

Perfect platter

The sausages reminded me how meat is less of the main event in Greece than in other traditions. The topography of hard, stony, ground, dominated by mountains with few plains means meat is often a sideshow that helps define the thyme, rosemary and oregano laden food. Herbs love those sunny mountain crevices. 

Even in Estia's moussaka (£8.50), exquisitely delivered here, the meat is an element but never dominates the aubergine, potatoes and bechamel.

Another dish with meat, the soutzouki saganiki (£7), tomato, mince and herbs all covered with a thick layer of cheese, emphasised this lack of flesh dominance and was so unusual, yet simple, and lovely I want all Confidential food lovers to take the tram to Trafford Bar and eat it now.

Doesn't look much but it's gorgeous

Doesn't look much but it's gorgeous

Crazy saladCrazy saladNearly everything worked on the two visits I've made to Estia - which means 'hearth and home'. Even the weird looking beetroot salad with its flourescent and scary beetroot and yogurt dip (£6.50) was a treat. None of the in-house yoghurt dishes failed, nor did the fava dips - split pea collations. Calamari for £6 was more predictable, but came not encased in tomb-like batter but honest deep-fried butter.

The one big meat dish, the amaki fournou lamb (£10.50) was oven-cooked, after being marinated with thyme, oregano, rosemary, lemon and served with thyme rich roasties. It was a tender joy. The 13-year-old son savaged it with caveman passion. 

Cracking lamb and spuds

Cracking lamb and spuds

A dessert of yoghurt, rose water and honey (£3.50) was lovely, indulgent and rich. The rose water recalling, along with the spices such as paprika, cinnamon and cumin in other dishes, how Greece was under Ottoman Turk rule for centuries and trade was dominated by the East. 

One dish didn't do it for me. A limp cod was uninviting and flavour free while a garlic mash potato accompaniment, was so garlicky vampires right across Europe were screaming everytime I exhaled. 

The Lantides wine, Greek, never more than £18 for a bottle of red or white, is an excellent addition to the meal in a dining room that is sharp and clean with nothing fancy. 

Excellent brew

 

Excellent brew

The fascia to the street is wrong though and looks pure take-away, doing the restaurant a disservice. But as Vasili says, takeaway and deliveries to the 9,000 strong Greek ex-pat community, is what keeps him going. 

He'd be doing much better in another location. He'd be packed.

Estia is in nowhere-land.

Ruth Allan recently reviewed Lily's in Ashton with its grim and God-forsaken surroundings and thought it one of the best Indian dining experiences in the North.

I contend the view of Stretford Road including five sets of traffic lights occasionally populated by people in steamed up double-deckers being carted zombie-like to The Trafford Centre is worse. In the background is a concrete wall topped by scraggy shrubbery, nobody's even bothered to graffiti the wall.

Earlier this year we did a Best of MCR Dining With A View, I'm thinking of doing another one called Best of MCR Dining With A Crap View. I fear I may be overwhelmed. 

Img_4435

 

Simple space

What enhanced the whole Estia experience was the surprise.

I'd been with friends to the Manchester Science Festival art show at the Victoria Warehouse Hotel (next to the Warehouse Project), Old Trafford. The show is called Synthesis and is on until Sunday 10 November. We loved Luke Jerram's work, a series of beautiful blown glass sculptures of viruses - the e-coli was particularly good. 

E-coli at two metres long in blown glass

E-coli at two metres long in blown glass

It must have been that which made us hungry.

So David Gledhill, another artist, and one who lives in Old Trafford, suggested we try Estia a short walk away, for a post-show meal. I expected the worst and instead found a golden fleece of splendid cooking and a sudden love of fresh Greek food.

Instant delight. It's how life's supposed to happen.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.  

Estia621 Stretford Road, Old TraffordM16 0QA. 0161 637 0032

Rating: 15/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below - so in this instance we're talking Greek casual dining)

Food: 8/10 (mezze 9, calamari 7, lamb 9, soutzouki 9, salad 8, cod 5, pitta 8, favas and yoghurts 9, honey dessert 8, halvas 6.5)
Service: 4/5 
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Psita Lahanika

Psita Lahanika - halloumi veg salad 

Spanakopita ArxiSpanakopita Arxi - back in the kitchen the trad spinach pie with feta cheese is coming on

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32 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 28th 2013.

M16 0QA

2 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialOctober 28th 2013.

Thanks. Very laconic

AnonymousOctober 29th 2013.

fluorescent

Simon TurnerOctober 28th 2013.

Got to better than Kosmos, Fallowfield which is dreadful.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Steve5839October 29th 2013.

You must have had a bad meal, I think its great!

Steve5839October 29th 2013.

Looks like a tram from Oldham and a new place to try.

Simon TurnerOctober 29th 2013.

I've had 2 bad meals there. Shouldn't have gone back

LovemezzeOctober 28th 2013.

Can't wait to try this

TractorOctober 28th 2013.

Sounds great this place. And I live in Old Trafford

NorthernGeezerOctober 28th 2013.

Typical Mancon piccys, that starter platter looked like something i threw up last Sunday morning after a particular heavy Saturday night of 10 pints and a donner.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 29th 2013.

Shame they stopped asking me to photograph the food ;-) No point bringing a knife to a gunfight, same with photography, to 'shoot' food, you need the right equipment, and that includes lighting Oh well

Mark GarnerOctober 29th 2013.

don't recall ever asking anyone to shoot the food other than the the writers?

grangeOctober 29th 2013.

it is pikeys you pikey

AnonymousOctober 31st 2013.

Mark, you paid me to shoot the food several years ago, then it all went quiet. How quickly you forget Chris Keller-Jackson !

AnonymousOctober 29th 2013.

Is that Rozafa on Princess St any good?

Northside SteveOctober 29th 2013.

Rozafa is overpriced Cant wait to try this one though Thanks for the heads up

lukeunabomberOctober 29th 2013.

great stuff johnathon. ps i always rather liked Kosmos

lukeunabomberOctober 29th 2013.

chaps you really should review Sultan in Withington too...consistently wonderful...lebanese vibes.. a hidden gem...asethically not great but fresh peasent food that is always outstanding

Antonnis AntoniouOctober 30th 2013.

Wow its fantastic food definately going again!

IzeOctober 30th 2013.

Yeah thanks for the tip off & exposing a lovely hidden gem. Also will Try sultan as recommended above. Agree about kosmos. There is a reason it has remained a stalwart in the good food guide all these years.

lukeunabomberOctober 30th 2013.

yes sultan is awesome. really is

Paul LowthOctober 30th 2013.

Hellas Taverna in Handforth is a great Greek Restaurant. They are due to increase the covers due to their popularity.

KatyOctober 30th 2013.

My favourite middle eastern restaurant is Aladdin in Withington. Looks a bit like a dodgy takeaway from the outside, but the foods great, cheap and it's BYO booze.

Jonathan MoranOctober 30th 2013.

Katy you are spot on I dined at Aladdin -was utterly fantastic as always. P.S Most of the Greek resturants in town are not Greek and are in fact owned/run and staffed by Albanians.

Jonathan MoranOctober 30th 2013.

*At Aladdin last night

Richard AthertonOctober 31st 2013.

Ate here last night after the review and agree with everything Jonathan has mentioned. Service was warm, friendly and informative and we will certainly be eating there again!

IanOctober 31st 2013.

why are 3 of the photos good and the rest terrible?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialOctober 31st 2013.

Camera phone v real camera. Guess which won?

IanOctober 31st 2013.

so .... use the real camera for all?

lukeunabomberOctober 31st 2013.

aladdin is great damn too ... i think sultan tops it with the original chef from aladin setting it up.. hey who knows . try both

AnonymousNovember 5th 2013.

The Best Greek Food :)

ChrisNovember 10th 2013.

definately going back, lovely food!! :)

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Latest Rants

Raj Patel

Shhh. This is right next to my office. A gem of a place for a tasty (& healthy) lunch. Don't tell…

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Anonymous

I think that was meant as a suggestion rather than referring to this location.

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Calum McG

It's nowhere near Kro or the gardens... Check the address...

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Anonymous

Pita Pit and KRO next door, plus a view of the scrotes on the gardens? That's the perfect combo.

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