Tel: +44 (0)20 7435 1855
Address: 37 Heath Street, Hampstead, London NW3 6TR
Cuisine Type: Greek/Cyprian
nearest tube station Hampstead (NORTHERN)

Given my Greek heritage, I am always keen to try restaurants that offer rustic, home-style Hellenic dishes – essentially the kind that remind me of stories my relatives have shared about Grecian village tavernas. The crux of what they’ve conveyed to me about these cultural epicentres accurately describes what to expect at Bacchus: go there for the food and to be with friends, not necessarily for the surroundings.

Bacchus delivers on its promise of authentic and unfussy Greek, and interestingly, Cyprian fare. Unfortunately, unfussy also describes Bacchus’ approach to aesthetics. Placing large planters between tables to enhance privacy in this small space, in theory, is a smart idea – but not if the foliage is dead or dying. Same for the flowers meant to adorn each table. That said, there is an eye-catching mixture of Grecian artefacts dotted along the walls to help distract from the lack of green thumb.

The extensive menu offers a large selection of hot and cold starters (£4 – £6), wood charcoal grilled meat dishes, traditional Greek specialities and fish and vegetarian plates (£9 – £11). All dishes are accompanied by salad, rice or potato, so you will definitely not go away hungry.

Starters (£4 – £6) include the wonderfully pungent halloumi, a lightly grilled cheese from Cyprus; authentic avgolemono soup, tangy chicken broth with rice, egg and lemon; and the highly recommended four color dip – a rainbow-like array of spicy houmous, melintzanosalata (aubergine spread), salty taramosalata and tzatziki, served with pita bread. Perfect for two to share.

A must-try is the kleftiko, a slow-roasted Cyprian lamb shoulder dish flavoured by tomatoes and bay leaf, which could not be more tender. The individually baked vegetarian moussaka, with its rich, creamy layer of Bechamel sauce bubbling on top, is also an excellent choice – bu dieters beware.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the menu choices, Bacchus also offers a traditional meze option: three courses beginning with a sampling of starters, followed by prawns and fried whitebait, and a mixed grill meat course with Greek salad (£18 per person, minimum two).

Happily, the restaurant’s namesake, the god of wine, is well represented. Wines by the bottle (£12 – £19.50) focus primarily on Greek and Cyprian vineyards. House wines are the only type offered by the glass (£2.50) and are basic, rather unmemorable table wines.

In keeping with the simplistic approach, dessert is comprised of a predictable selection of sweet and syrupy baklava, kadeifi and other Greek mainstays (£3 – £5).

Bacchus is a fine choice for small- to medium-sized groups looking for a casual, reasonably priced and convenient place to converse while being well fed, Greek-style. Again, don’t go to Bacchus expecting gourmet flourishes or a trendy vibe – just be sure to arrive with an empty stomach.

– Sue Couter, 4/2003

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