Test Drives

roomA look inside - we were sat up on the mezzanine at the back. 

What can you tell us about Ampeli?

This restaurant comes from Athens-born founder Jenny Pagoni - this is her first time opening a restaurant. She's brought in head chef Oren Goldfeld (who was previously at Nopi, Brother Marcus, and Tel Aviv-based Toto) and Lorraine Abrahams as Front of House manager, who comes from the Corbin & King restaurant group. They've all teamed up to launch a restaurant that focuses on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine as well as offering a wine list that's strong in Greek wines. 

Where is it?

It's in the heart of Fitzrovia on Charlotte Street - taking over the space that most recently held Senor Ceviche - so your nearest tube is Goodge Street. 

Where should I go for a drink first?

There are a good few pubs in the area, any of them will do if you fancy a pint. Otherwise, the Vagabond wine bar across the road has proven very handy for us on a number of occasions. 

And once there, where's a good seat?

There are three floors - so it's quite sizable inside. There's a bar at the front but that's really best for a quick drink if you're waiting for your table to come free. We think that the mezzanine area at the back of the restaurant offers the best seats. We were sat on the edge of that, looking over the railings into the dining room downstairs and we think that's the best table, so grab it if it's available. 

roomTomato & goat’s cheese fritters, pickled okra tempura with Greek yoghurt (£9.50) - your ideal snacking food while you're perusing the menu - we suggest ordering these immediately.

What's the set up of the menu?  

It's broken down into snacks, hot and cold "social plates", large plates and dessert. Maybe focus on snacks first - order those and then work out what you want from the rest of the menu. There's a lot to recommend in the hot/cold social plates section - so if you want to make the most of that, you might want to order in phases (our usual small plates ordering rule) to avoid too much arriving at once. 

And what did you have on the night?

We went for two snacks, two social plates and two large. That followed by a shared dessert is probably good for two people. Here's a selection of what we tried. 

roomSpiced potato burik with runny egg yolk, brown shrimp, harissa mayo (£9) - a pretty glorious burik (best described as a crispy pancake) - the addition of brown shrimp makes this a winner. 

roomBraised short ribs with date molasses, dried Moroccan peppers and quince (£23) - the molasses give the shortribs a gloriously sticky and sweet coating. 

roomGrilled lamb chops with Baharat and skordalia, red onion, herb salad (£22) - pretty generous on the chops (there are three of them) and phenomenally good seasoning on them too. Best dish of the night.

How about vegetarian dishes? 

As is the case in many Eastern Med focused restaurants, a significant portion of the menu is vegetarian (there was only one vegan dish on the menu when we visited, but a few can be adjusted to be vegan if needed). So a lot of our choices turned out to be vegetarian:

roomManti with seasonal greens, Naboulsi cheese, yoghurt sauce (£11.50) - little Greek dumplings, these were stuffed with spinach on our visit. 

roomBarrel-aged feta saganaki, cherry tomato jam (£8) - we have to admit never having had cherry tomato jam before, but by god it's great. As for the sagakini - what's not to love about fried cheese?

roomJosper-smoked aubergine, tahini, walnuts (£7.50) - the josper really imbues the aubergine with a strong smoky flavour.  

Anything else worth recommending?

Looking through the menu, on another visit, we'd definitely consider the lamb sweetbreads with Jerusalem spice mix and almond sauce (£11) or maybe the salt cod croquettes with samphire and yoghurt tartar (£8.50).

And what about desserts? 

As you can see - we made quite a dent on the menu - and on reflection only needed to share one dessert. We did miss out on the Chocolat Mahlab Mousse, which comes recommended - and instead shifted to:

roomLoukoumades with mountain tea syrup, poppy seed custard (£7) - frankly sharing these between two would be fine as your one dessert - and we'd say they're a must-order. We're not sure about the poppy seed custard - but you'll be dipping these again and again in the tea syrup, for sure. 

roomSemolina cake with cardamom syrup, pistachios, caramelised pumpkin, yoghurt mousse (£6.50) - probably the only miss of the meal, this was a little dry for us. 

What about the drinks side of things?

The wine list has a strong focus on Greek wine, curated by Greek Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis and a judge at the 2019 Decanter Wine Awards. His Indigenous list has a very strong selection of wines from Greece and the surrounding area, including Greek sparkling wines, sweet wines, a selection of natural wine and retsina. That means there are a few great Assyrtiko wines on the list, our favourite wine of the moment and one we always gravitate to on any list. Bottles start at £27 for a white Semeli, Feast 2018, Moschofilero (or £25 for retsina). Prices range up to circa £100, most around the £35-£45 mark.  

Overall thoughts?

We enjoyed our visit to Ampeli - the food is just what we want to eat at the moment, there's a pretty unparalleled (in London) selection of Greek wine and there was a great buzzy vibe when we visited. We think this will do well. 

 

More about Ampéli

Where is it? 18 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LZ

How to book: Book online

Find out moreVisit their website or follow them on Instagram @ampeli.london.

 

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