Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Restaurant Review - Barba George's Indian

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
1 raita
2 beers
1 coke

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.

Barba George
Mesologio 4, Exarcheia
210 3826505

Το Ινδικο του Μπαρμπα-Τζωρτζ
Μεσολογγιου 4, Εξάρχεια
210 3826505

12 comments:

jinjir minjir said...

Mmmmmm... Rogan Josh.... Nom-nom-nom-nom-nom....

Am off to Pondicherry in a couple of months, for work. Maybe I stop by Chennai. Any suggestions/insights/advice?

Anonymous said...

i'm so there next week. had i read it earlier i would have gone today.
al

shadownlight said...

ela re. i have lived in patras 4 years ago, just for 1 1/2 year i have been there and i made my expirience. i liked it actually, specially the food lol. greets from germany

Anonymous said...

Yo, Bolly

I also happened to discover this restaurant a few days ago, tho it's been there for a few years. Liked the food, and I want to say that when you see the menu all the dishes are chicken dishes BUT if you look more carefully, it says in one corner that you can also get all the dishes with lamb or beef instead. Which is good because I think lamb is usually the cleanest, least chemical meat you can find.
Cheers!

bollybutton said...

jinjir minjir you'll be in dosa country, my all time favourite food. Rice pancakes with potato filling, mmmmm. Eat everything. Chances are you'll get sick but you'll never forget the delicious things you tried. You'll probably get sick even if you were careful, so I say go for it. It'll be totally worth it.

Anonymous said...

Hello

Just having moved in Athens and being a big fan of Indian -style food - and being a vegetarian - does Barba George's have good selection of veggie dishes?

yours,

pete

ps. thanks for the blog!

Popi said...

I was just about to ask if they do vegetarian stuff but Pete beat me to it!
And hearing the mention of dosas makes me very hungry indeed, I don't suppose you know of anywhere in Athens where one can enjoy such a tasty treat? Maybe even an idli vada sambar?
Thanks!

bollybutton said...

Sorry chums, I didn't notice anything vegetarian on the menu. It might be worth calling in advance and putting an order in. They seemed flexible.

As for idli sambar and dosa, my all time favourite meal is masala dosa. My mum is brilliant at making them, but years of attempts have only left me scraping dosa mix out of pans, cursing my luck. I do fine with idlis, dosas not at all :(

Anne N. Onymous said...

Ah! Great, wonderful news! The lack of a decent Indian eatery in Athens is indeed deplorable. Ti kanei i kyvernisi? >:(

Btw, there are OK Indian restaurants in Corfu. I've eaten in one myself, several years ago (it was my first time so I can't really say whether it was good or bad). It was in the town of Gouvia (Γουβιά) which is a common destination for Brit tourists and was operated by an expat couple (I think). They gave little certificates for the "Flaming Rectum Society" to the two members of the parea who tried their Vindaloo, so I think they were kind of oriented towards stag parties (though our certified members of the FRS where a girl and her dad).

That one is now closed but there are others in the same area and, I believe elsewhere on the island (probably thanks to the expats and the tourists).

The dad from the FRS is a conoissseur (having studied in Scottland in his youth) and reports that there is even a place that gives Indian cuisine lessons.

There is hope... :)

P.S. What is the right way to cook spices? We need a recipe... ;)

Popi said...

Masala dosa is one of my favourites too, only had success making it from a packet mix though!
Don't suppose you have come across anywhere in Athens that sells paneer? I've been looking around Athinas but not had any luck yet.

bollybutton said...

Hi Popi, you won't find paneer but it's dead easy to make. Just look up a recipe on Google or I can email you one.

Meredith York said...

Good Indian food in Athens? After eight months here without any, I can't wait to try it this weekend!