Whenever someone in Athens asks me if I know where they can get good Indian food, my answer is usually "Yes. My house." But why would I want to find an Indian restaurant when I can cook the food myself? Well, sometimes you just want a curry but are too lazy to make it yourself.
My quest to find a spice fix has so far either ended up being totally bland, way too expensive or just mediocre. That is until I was watching TV on Monday night and the presenter of a cooking show showcased a tiny little restaurant in Exarcheia. My eyes popped. Tandoori chicken and tandoori naan! In a genuine tandoori oven! It seemed way too good to be true.
I had to investigate. So last night Mr Zeus and me took two friends and headed downtown to a teeny little restaurant tucked away in a side street, Baraba George. I was anxious, having eaten a fair share of pretty shitty Indian food in Athens. I wouldn't care if I was doing it on my time, but here I was with two friends I'd dragged away from a couch potato evening.
"Guys, if the food is yia ta baza, I'll cook for you as compensation"
The shop had four tables outside and three inside. It was nothing special to look at, but personally I don't care about aesthetics if the food is good.
We were handed laminated A4 menus, which listed a bunch of your usual Indian restaurant items. I went over and had a talk with the chef, who is from the Home Country, and he recommended what to order if I wanted something close to "How we eat it" as he put it.
Satisfied, we ordered the following:
1 order of samosas (I originally went for onion bhaji, or pakora as it's also known, but the chef recommended samosas instead)
1 chicken tikka
1 seekh kebab
1 chicken madras
1 chicken rogan josh
4 tandoori naans
First to come were the samosas, which disappeared pretty much as soon as they arrived and got an all round thumbs up from the parea. Next came the chicken tikka and seekh kebab. The chef brought me over some extra spicy sauce to give the tikka and the kebab some kick, since they were pretty mild, but perfectly cooked. Tender and juicy, just what you'd expect from a tandoori oven.
Next came what I had been dying to try, the tandoori naan. I love naan but I'm far to lazy to make it myself. I have to admit, these naans were pretty much perfect. Gently puffed, chewy and with that particular flavour you can only get from a tandoori oven. I've certainly not had better in Athens. I'd happily have ordered 10 to takeaway and eat the next morning smothered in jam.
The two curries came served with basmati rice. The madras was firey hot, leaving us all sweating and puffing over it. If the madras was that hot, I think the vindaloo is probably on the menu as a party trick. I have doubts as to how edible a curry can be beyond a certain level of spiciness.
The rogan josh also had a pretty decent kick to it. At least as far as these two dishes are concerned, the restaurant made no exceptions for wimpy diners. The place was packed and the first question everyone was asking the waiter when they were seated was "Just how spicy is it?"
The menu has a selection to cover all levels of spiciness, and I would recommend an order of raita to take the edge off the heat. I did note though that fresh coriander was not used. This is most likely because not everyone likes fresh coriander. Some people say they find the taste soapy. Personally, I love it, but I have had Greek friends scrape it off curries I've made because they can't get used to the taste.
Overall, Barba George surprised me with how good it was. I have paid an arm and a leg for food that was not even close to what I ate last night. I admit that it was so far the best Indian food I have had in Athens. For someone as picky as me when it comes to Indian food, I was really impressed. I'd even go as far as saying it's on par with some of the places I've eaten in the UK.
The restaurant is very small and no frills. We're talking budget deco and plastic plates. But the food is great, and the price very attractive in the current climate. Our entire bill came to EUR 40.50, including drinks. For four people that's EUR 10 a head and we ate well. I'd call that a good deal if I ever saw one.
Another plus point that the food was quite light on the stomach. One thing that irritates the hell out of me with restaurant Indian food (in the UK too) is that sometimes the spices are not cooked properly, leaving you with terrible indigestion and a feeling of heaviness. Not so with Barba George. Apart from the fact that I made such a pig of myself that I lay in bed moaning about my over-stuffed belly, the food itself went down easily.
Don't be put off by the location in Exarcheia. Pak-Indian, the much touted and supposedly most authentic Indian food in Athens is on much skankier Menandrou Street, and serves food that is much more expensive and not nearly as tasty.
Barba George also does takeaways and souvlakis Indian style. I would definitely go back there.
Mesologio 4, Exarcheia
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Μεσολογγιου 4, Εξάρχεια