A random Google search whilst visiting London last week had a very positive result. I have to admit that when it comes to making tsoureki – the fabulous Greek version of brioche – I struggle. It’s probably because I am a little impatient – the proving and rising takes forever – or it could be that I am now so nervy about making it, that I am just too stressed. The quantities of butter and eggs involved mean that a baking disaster is a real catastrophe. With Greek Easter in mind, I turned to my trusty iPhone and typed in the search ‘Tsoureki North London’. One result stood out – a new bakery, with the no nonsense name ‘Hellenic Bakery’, that had opened just the day before.
Arriving at the shop on Myddleton Road in Wood Green, you could have thought you were in Athens. Outside the bakery there was a real throng of Greek speaking customers, drinking coffee and chatting – inside the buzz continued with people choosing from the amazing selection of bread, cookies, sandwiches and cakes. And by the door, fresh from the oven were racks of golden, fragrant tsoureki – mission accomplished!
A charming assistant allowed us, in true traditional Greek style, to sample the different types of koulourakia (traditional cookies) and advised us on our selection of bread – we were not disappointed by the flavoursome sourdough. To be honest, we were more than a little overwhelmed by the range of choice and the quality of the products. The trays of baklava looked enchanting and the wedges of savoury pies were very tempting. We succumbed to temptation when it came to the sugar dusted bougatsa (Greek custard pie) and the very Greek ‘kourou’ cheese pies – those are made from a type of shortcrust pastry, rather than flakey filo.
As they had only opened up the day before, they couldn’t take a card payment in the bakery – I’m sure that all be sorted soon – and we were sent across the road to pay at their sister company ‘Hellenic Gourmet’. Opening the door was like passing through some sort of time and space portal. Having walked off a suburban London street, we had entered a neighbourhood ‘bakaliko’ somewhere in Greece.
When I say ‘sister company’, it would be more accurate to describe ‘Hellenic Gourmet’ as the ‘mother company’ – opened two years ago by Goulielemos and Anastasia Alafaouzos. They have brought to north London a true Greek grocery store, with the most tried and trusted of Greek food products – brand names that are household staples all over Greece.
I was pleased to see (and buy) excellent varieties of pasta from the famous company, Mellisa, and fava, pulses and rice from Agrino and ‘3 Alfa’. They have a first class cheese counter and it was good to see ‘barrel feta’ actually in barrels and yoghourt sold in the beautiful terracotta pots, so familiar in Greece. The brilliant range of products served by the friendly staff make the shopping experience at ‘Hellenic Gourmet and Bakery’ a true delight. I will be back.
Hellenic Gourmet and Hellenic Bakery – 115 Myddleton Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8NE
Tel.; 020 8881 7873 email.: firstname.lastname@example.org