If you’ve never had Greek-Australian fusion food – and we’ll take a wild, stab-in-the-dark guess here and say no, you probably haven’t – then here’s your chance. Because that’s the idea behind one of the best new pop ups in London.
And, perhaps ironically, the flavours are anything but spartan.
It’s called essi (the lower case is intentional), and it’s the work of Greek-born, Australian-raised restaurateur Kostas Vais. He is the endlessly energetic life & soul of the restaurant, happily chatting away with diners, breaking down the menu, and whisking dishes to the table with giddy excitement. You get the impression that he loves food about as much as life itself. Here, he’s hired head chef Sal Galasso (who’s spent the last decade working at some of Oz’s finest restaurants like Rockpool and Rosetta), and they’ve settled into TT Liquor for a long-term pop up to show off their culinary mashup.
TT Liquor, unlike most cocktail bars, is housed within a former Victorian police station. And unlike most Victorian police stations, this one had a really nice space at the back that was perfect for pop ups. The Orangery is an L-shaped with time-worn wooden floors, scattered greenery, and cast-iron window frames that blanket the space with gorgeous light. And the best bit? It’s all tucked away upstairs and away from the main road out front …meaning that, yes, it’s technically out back.
Now, the food. You can start with a small hill of creamy white tamara (as opposed to the luminous pink supermarket variety that most people grew up with) draped in zhoug & scooped up with crispy potato skins, or a slow-cooked medallion of osso buco covered in crispy shards of roasted corn flakes, and nestled into a bed of whipped feta & avocado. Then, going larger, there’s a straight-off-the-coals pork souvlaki wrapped in a fluffy house-made pita; some lamb ribs (which quite literally fall off the bone) covered in Australian ‘desert dust’ spice mix; and a rabbit pie with Kalamata olives and rich butter pastry.
But the best bit? That might be the dessert, which includes a wedge of frozen olive oil parfait covered in brightly flavoursome confit lemon aspen berries (foraged in Australia) and a sprinkling of Murray River salt. It’s intensely creamy, beguilingly tasty, and totally unique.
As for the drinks, well, you’re already in one of London’s best cocktail bars, so there’s that. And Kostas has managed to source – if you can believe it – a tzatziki sour beer from a South London brewery. That definitely goes well with the rooftop BBQs (with whole lamb spit roasts) that take place upstairs on Sundays.
NOTE: essi is popping up in TT Liquor for the foreseeable. You can find out more, and book a table at the website right here.
TT Liquor | 17b Kingsland Road, E2 8AA
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