There is nothing quite so engaging as stumbling across a new dish – and the possibility of trying out a new recipe. It is, of course, even more surprising when you meet the new in an old familiar place.
I have been coming to ‘Telis’s’ for many, many years. To describe this place as a ‘restaurant’ does it an enormous injustice. When you go to ‘Telis’s’ you go for the perfect presentation of the pork chop – this is a supreme chop-house. You may be surprised at me using this term – quite antiquated in England – but I really think it fits the place.
Telis’ ‘brizoladikó’ (chop-shop) , is probably not in the most salubrious part of town. At the bottom of Evripidoú Street, it is still close to the fashionista street, Ermoú and even close enough to the smart roads leading up from Panepistimíou Street to Kolonaki but it as you walk down past the 11th century church of Pangía Kapnikaréa, and down towards Psyrí, you are definitely moving away from the usual tourist routes.
Central Athens is quite compact; the good and the great, by necessity, rub cheek by jowl with the many. Here too there are the ‘down and outs’, seen all over Europe in the last eight years or so, but there are also plenty of ordinary folk, just going about their business along with the well-heeled, business set.The centre of Athens isn’t just a high class shopping zone or playground for the wealthy. Downtown Athens still has at its heart a vibrant market – meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are traded daily from the ‘Varvakios Market’ off Athinas Street. This is not a market for restauranteurs and professionals – or even the domain of fashionable foodies – this is a real market where everyone goes to buy the best of fresh seasonal produce. This is a european city where you undoubtedly feel that you are finally ‘somewhere else’. Anyway, after a busy morning shopping in the great spice shops on Evripidou, we couldn’t resist a visit to ‘Telis’.
The thing I love most about this place is it’s uncompromising simplicity. When you sit at one of the basic formica-top tables you are asked only three questions – ‘What are you drinking?’, ‘What salad?’ and, of course, ‘How many portions?’. And a portion isn’t just one perfectly barbecued and seasoned pork chop – a portion is a plateful of perfectly barbecued and seasoned pork chops!
The salad choice is either finely shredded, raw cabbage, dressed with oil and lemon juice, or a perfect ‘horiatiki’ (Greek salad). All the food, including the chops, is served within ten minutes, giving the term ‘fast food’ a totally different dimension!
As we were waiting this time though, a new dish materialised, un-ordered, on our table; and it was something I had never come across before – ‘Bouyourdí’.
‘Bouyourdí’ is a popular ‘mezé’ from Thessaloniki – the name is Turkish, the word actually meaning ‘an official order’. Bouyourdí is a tasty, spicy mix of baked, finely diced tomatoes, sliced elongated green peppers and feta.
So, now back at home, trying to recapture the ‘Telis’ experience, I had a go at making bouyourdí – I think it worked out well. I’ll leave you to decide.
‘O Telis’ , 86 Evripidou St., Koumoundourou Square, Athens
4 good-sized ripe tomatoes
8-10 long, thin ‘Turkish’ peppers, or, 2 large green peppers ( but not chillies !!) sliced.
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2-3 tabs olive oil – and more for drizzling
120 – 150 gm feta.
Salt and pepper
A little crushed, dried chilli, to taste
Heat your oven to about 190 degrees and put in a large dish to warm up.
First skin the tomatoes. To do this, put them whole into a basin and cover with boiling water. Prick each one once and leave for a minute or two. Drain them and when cool enough to handle slip off the skins.
Cut each of the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Chop the remaining flesh, so that you have a fine dice.
In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and when hot, add the sliced peppers and gently fry for a few minutes. Add the garlic and the diced tomatoes. Add salt and pepper – go easy on the salt, as the feta is salty. Depending on which type of peppers you have used, you may have to add some dried chilli flakes. What you are trying to achieve is a warm spicy dish – hot enough to make it moreish, but not so hot it blows your socks off!
Now put your tomato, pepper mixture into the dish, warming in the oven, crumble over the feta, drizzle with a little oil, and return the dish to the oven.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the feta has softened.
Serve as part of a mezé selection.