Saturday, March 27, 2010


This past year the term “staycation” was all the rage. It was used here in the UK to describe people who holiday on this island instead of traipsing off to another part of the world. Of course Americans do this quite a bit, taking it one step further by taking time off of work and just staying at home, enjoying their daily surroundings.

With A in France and H finished with work we’ve been having our own verion of a staycation. Sure, I was still going to work every day but this week I vowed to work a normal UK workday and not accommodate other timezones in the evening and it has been heaven. H has been enjoying cooking at a leisurely pace and the kitchen is an absolute disaster because of it. I’m at peace with that because one, what’s the point of being too neat as we tear the house up to pack and two, who’s gonna complain when you sit down and a bowl of homemade Jerusalem artichoke soup and sandwich on homemade bread is handed to you for dinner?

Gordon Ramsay has a television show here called The F Word and this season one of the components of the show was a viewer-nominated favourite local restaurant competition. We rarely go out to dinner, but seeing Retsina in Belsize Park featured on the show made us take note and make an exception. Thursday night was my Friday night so off we went to north London.

The Freud Museum is somewhere along the way to the restaurant. I had to stop and take a picture of this statue because at night it’s pretty creepy.

We took our chances and didn’t book a table. It was packed when we got there but we were told to come back in 30-45 minutes and there would be a table for two. I am not quite sure how it all worked with reservations because there seemed to be no reservation book. You just walked in and whatever member of wait staff was closest to the door came over and asked how many.

When we arrived back, a couple had just gotten up from the table that was smack dab in the middle of the noisy full house and once a new table cloth and flatware was added, it was all ours. Every time H said something to me my response was, “What?” The noise wasn’t annoying though. Looking around there were two big parties celebrating birthdays and a few other groups. Everyone was having a great time. I picked spanagopita as a starter and H got a mixed starter. They brought out some carrot sticks, olives, and peppers and pita with some homemade tsaziki that was divine. As soon as I tasted the dolmathes on his starter I was taken back to my youth. My uncle Bill made homemade stuffed grape leaves and they were delicious. My original choice of lamb souvla as a main was sold out so I went for the stifado. H got a mixed grill. As we were eating I told H that no meal since we had been in the UK made me think of home as much as that meal did. His response with a smile was, “Which home?” Of course I meant where we grew up in Chicagoland where going to any local restaurant you could have a Greek classic for breakfast lunch or dinner if you wished. Oh how I’ve missed that. The only time the noise in the restaurant failed me was when I didn’t hear what H was feeding me off his plate until I began to chew and realized it was liver! The flavour was good but the texture of liver, yuck.

After the mains H went outside to smoke and ended up talking to the owner who we recognized from television. They talked shop, lamb especially. H asked him if they had a boost in business after the F word and he said that they were always busy. Looking around I believed it.

For dessert, I had a Greek coffee, thick like mud and some baklava. Again that brought back childhood memories. We had a neighbour who honestly as I think about her I don’t know if she spoke English or just Greek. She would bring us Greek desserts on occasion and one of them was baklava. Baklava is one of those desserts that borders on being so sickeningly sweet but good baklava doesn’t cross over that line. H had some vanilla ice cream for dessert and dipped pieces of my baklava in it proclaiming that combination to be the best dessert. It probably was good but when I eat baklava I want the full effect.

As we were waiting for the bill we noticed Zeta, the owner’s mother who also cooks and was also featured on the F Word. As she walked through the restaurant she smiled at me and patted me on the shoulder as she passed. She sat down at a table close to ours as the night began to wind down. Rather than looking completely exhausted, which is what I would imagine every member of staff felt at the end of this super busy night she seemed like a woman who was enjoying being a part of a place where people gathered for good food, drink, and celebration.

1 comment:

Poodlebugz said...

I love The F Word! I especially like the opening sequence where he takes off his shirt...ha!

The only times I have been not so thrilled with the show is when he raises something and then takes it to slaughter. The ones with the pigs did me in...I understand that it's important to know where your food comes from, but it was just hard to watch. I think I laid off bacon for at least 2 weeks after that. : )