Thursday, July 8, 2010

TZATZIKI and The Vineyard

3 Camberwell Grove , London, SE5 8HA

Raf and I decided on an impromptu dinner last week. I’m usually pretty strict about these things and tend to cook at home. Because it’s my job but also because everything is cheaper at home. But going out for dinner has some very appealing merits: someone else does the washing up; you are the consumer and you decide; I always learn stuff about the way other people cook.

The Vineyard has been going for years and is a classic no frills local Greek. The owner sits in the corner, sipping his beer, and keeping a watchful eye on the stream of gorgeous young waitresses, giving nods and gestures to clear tables and take orders, more like a booky at the races than a restauranteur. The food is predictable but mighty good. Kleoftico, Tzatziki, Calamari and all the other things that you make you feel more like Shirley Valentine than your bog-standard self.

The dish that really struck me at the Vineyard, was the Tzatziki. I suppose I make posh stuff – bunches of fresh mint, thick yoghurt and lots of cucumber, and all the other variations. But here, and I totally trust that they are authentic, they use dried mint, thin yoghurt and a smattering of grated cucumber. It’s interesting to see how much we turbo-up dishes that are actually very simple and plain. Brits do the same with Curries. In India, they use one or two leaves of coriander on top of a dhal, but we chop in whole overpowering bunches. I don’t think either is better. But they are notably different.

For the Vineyard’s Tzatziki, buy live natural yoghurt, add a couple of teaspoons of dried mint, crush in a garlic cloves and grate in a little cucumber. They serve this with good pitta. For mine, use strained Greek yogurt, a sliced spring onion, ½ a finely chopped chilli and a diced, deseeded cucumber. I could eat this little treat with anything. Try it with baked sumac courgettes or with a rack of lamb, or as I did at the Vineyard, by dipping deep fried white bait in, like cru d’etes with humous.


  1. I really love dried mint. I've been making a little onion salad to accompany curries for years now and it is an essential ingredient. The fresh stuff is too strong. I think it is very under-rated as an ingredient. Will definitely try it in my tzatziki!

  2. God I love tzatziki - it reminds me of so many amazing holidays in beautiful Greece! I love the little dried tzatziki mixes you can get there so you can attempt to recreate it back home. Your recipe sounds like a tasty twist though... will have to give it a whirl.

  3. I love the Greek restaurant, sitting outside on a warm evening with authentic tablecloths, music and local Greeks - you can't beat it. The taramasalata is also great.