this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.

The Real Greek


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Restaurant Review: The Real Greek

I find when many people write reviews about places to eat out, they seek out interesting cuisines and wonderful décor and presentation. I love ogling the resulting photos showing amazing things that I would never think of doing with food. When I eat out however, it’s usually because I have been terrible at planning and I’m too tired to cook. It’s often also a bit later than the average supper time, so I’m not really looking for adventure, it’s more a question of having a night off from cooking in a comfortable setting.

So with that in mind, my top priority for places to eat are where I know I can relax, and trust the restaurant staff to be generally attentive and friendly. Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else find the service in restaurants has not been all that great for a while? And I’m not talking about highbrow places where I could be accused of lowering the tone of the restaurant with my half asleep look. I hope you don’t think I’m asking for much – it’s just that someone who delivers the food or gives you the bill as though they were holding a grudge against you doesn’t usually do much to aid digestion. I wonder if perhaps the recent trend for restaurants to slap the 10-15% “service charge” automatically on the end of your bill doesn’t help. I’d like to think this isn’t the only reason. Perhaps diners have also become less polite in recent years.

However, the restaurant I am about to tell you about still does it the old fashioned way. In fact, you aren’t even allowed to enter a tip on the card machine. If you have no change, you can’t tip at all – much to my disappointment, the first time I visited.

The Real GreekThis restaurant is not particularly spectacular in terms of credentials. It is not tucked away in some hidden alley, serving amazing fresh produce grown from a drainpipe. No amazing stories to tell there. In fact, it is one in a chain of six in London and I have no idea how authentic the food is because I have never been to Greece and I do not know anyone who is really clued up about real Greek food. It is in fact one of the food outlets at the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, next to the now slumbering Olympic Park. Nothing at Westfield can be called a bargain, but this is one of the less expensive restaurants on that side of Stratford. I thought I would review it since it is a place I have been served well on three occasions. Incidentally, if you have a voucher for any chain store/restaurant, check before you try and use it at Westfield. You will notice that some offers are not valid there.

The Real Greek

On this occasion, we ordered the Tabouleh Salad, Loukaniko Country Sausage and Dolmades which came on a tiered sharing platter. We also had some saffron rice and Tiropitakia because I can never pass on cheese wrapped in delicate pastry. On other occasions I have tried the Greek Flatbread with Olive Oil & Dukkah, Htipiti, Gigandes Plaki, Lahanosalata and a set basket of wraps which I cannot find in the online menu. All of the offerings were very reasonable and in good sized portions. It is impossible to take good photos in the restaurant in most of the areas, because the evening lighting is not designed to aid food photography. My apologies to the restaurant as the one half-acceptable result may not look all that appetising to all, so here’s a link to the menu so that you can better imagine what I ate. I think you will agree however, that the lamp shades are rather nice and cheerful. As with all of the Westfield shops and restaurants, the design and layout is really nice. I especially like the pretty doors to the restaurant and I must also point out that they serve tap water in lovely cobalt blue enamel jugs.

The Real Greek

Bearing in mind the context of my requirements and limited experience of Greek cuisine, I have thrice been a happy customer. The staff have been cheerful and relaxed at all times (on this occasion, there was a rather rowdy lively birthday party going on) and I have been served in good time with tasty grub. This is one of the few restaurants where I can also leave after the meal without having to resort to performing a rain dance to attract somebody to take my money. And since my first experience, I have made sure that I have cash in my pocket before I sit down so as not to have to leave a few sad coppers languishing on the table after paying the bill.

I guess this is a post about one branch of a chain restaurant that seems to be doing things right on the service front. That does tend to go a long way to sending me home happy :)

Franco Manca


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Sourdough Pizza

I revisited Franco Manca for their simple but delicious “slow-rising” sourdough pizza recently. I had been raving about it for weeks to anyone who would listen, so it was inevitable that one of my friends eventually suggested I take her there, if only to shut me up!

Franco Manca

Two halves: the meat special and the wild mushroom, mozzarella and buffalo ricotta pizza.

The Franco Manca menu is simple, offering only six choices of pizza plus two daily specials options, although you can customise your toppings. You can also order a couple of sides and the obligatory olives and bread of course (the olives are of the awesome variety, you may be able to see from the photo).  While your pizza is being prepared, you are treated to the view of pillows of sourdough waiting in wooden crates for their turn to be stretched out and decorated before being thrown into the wood burning oven for a short hot blast.

What ends up on your plate is a beautifully springy pizza that you really should eat with your hands rather than a knife and fork, for that gentle tug-o’-war between your teeth and fingers. If you are partial to a doughy, thick-based pizza, à la Pizza Hut, then this is definitely not for you. However, I love a thin base with simple fresh toppings, and the give and stretch as you bite and tear a piece off a Franco Manca pizza is nothing but YUM!

Thank God for these simple pleasures and for wonderful eating companions.

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