In a prime location on Peel Street, new restaurant Santorini is offering up some authentic Greek cuisine. With Souvla as one of the only other Greek restaurants I could think of, I was keen to try out this welcome addition to the limited Greek dining scene! Santorini is a small space with a slightly rustic feel about it (a contrast from its flashier counterpart). The relaxed atmosphere teamed with the music, dim lighting and easy-going ambience almost make you forget you’re in Hong Kong… the perfect place for a secluded dinner, bang in the heart of Soho.
Owner Lina and her husband (who heads up the kitchen) have come straight over from Greece, and have brought with them a good amount of quality Greek products. Hailing from Santorini, this couple are trying to bring a taste of their former home to Hong Kong, with home-style cooking and a great selection of Greek wines.
We started off with a platter of dips with pita bread. The pita bread was pretty standard… but the dips were an ideal tasty starter! The Taramasalata wasn’t overly fishy and had that creamy, hummus colour we like to see (not the bright supermarket pink!). The Tzatziki was refreshing and the Eggplant Dip was smoky and positively moreish. My favourite had to be the Fava Bean Dip from Santorini though, as it was slightly different to regular hummus and was a great example of the restaurant using genuine Greek ingredients from their namesake.
A generously large salad of thick, green asparagus, artichokes, pine nuts and oven baked Parmesan crisps then arrived. This was a meal in itself and would be the perfect hearty salad for a main course with the warm, colourful vegetables and the drizzle of high quality, nutty olive oil (all the way from Santorini, of course!).
Next came the zucchini balls with feta and a yoghurt dip. This was another pleasant little dish that was surprisingly light and lemony considering its rather deep-fried appearance. However, these were surpassed by the Syglino, a dish of smoked pork from Crete in a caramelised onion Vinsanto vinaigrette, on a bed of Santorini fava beans. The flavourful chunks of pork and the almost mashed potato-like fava beans made this a hearty and filling dish, great for hungry diners! Even though it was quite heavy (I still can’t believe it was a starter!), it was just what I could imagine the locals of Santorini eating as a homemade dinner during the winter. It felt really authentically Greek, despite being an original creation of the chefs.
We were already getting full when the mains arrived. The fillet of chicken stuffed with spinach, gruyere cheese and raisins did have potential, but unfortunately the chicken was quite dry and overcooked. The flavours were interesting though, with the raisin sweetness cutting through the heavy, creaminess of the gruyere and the accompanying potato mash.
The octopus with Critharaki (a Greek pasta) was also a bit of a disappointment, with the octopus being quite tough. I found this odd, as the other seafood dish we tried, the grilled squid with eggplant puree and a vinaigrette of apple vinegar and Santorini’s Visanto wine, was outstanding! The squid was perfectly cooked and soft, its chargrilled saltiness perfectly balanced by the smoky sweet eggplant.
Finally we were lucky enough to taste three desserts (safe to say we were waddling out the door!). The festive dessert of baked rose apple was beautifully presented, and was sweetly perfumed, light and spicy. We also sampled some of the rice pudding, which wasn’t too sweet and made for a comforting creamy concoction with a hint of cinnamon.
The star of the desserts has to be the classic Greek baklava. I can honestly say that this is the best baklava I’ve ever had! Homemade, this huge triangular piece was not too dry or sweet, and had that lovely pistachio flavour that was perfectly complimented by the strong Greek coffee we had afterwards.
Overall, I had a really relaxing and enjoyable evening at Santorini… and Lina couldn’t have been a better host! Throughout the meal, she paired dishes with different wines for us, which showed that a lot of thought had gone into the wine selection. Her passion for Greek produce, and the little facts she told us about Santorini really made the restaurant, so it’s a shame that the other waiting staff didn’t have the same enthusiasm. If all the staff showed the same knowledge and care as Lina, this would be a true winner for service. Hopefully if this little restaurant irons out staffing issues and the consistency of the food, then Santorini will go on to be a unique, alternative addition to Greek food in Hong Kong. Don’t forget to order the baklava!
Santorini Restaurant G/F, SOHO Central, 51 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong