Lincolnshire Echo - Thursday 21st September 2006.
Going Out: The Food Monster Visits Gabby’s Greek Restaurant

Top quality fragrances and flavour with Auntie Gabby

'Let’s go to Greece' said Mrs Monster, after she and her colleagues from the WI had spent an evening watching tourism videos of Cyprus and receiving a talk from the Greek Embassy. To be quite honest, when Mrs Monster insisted on demonstrating the wilder moments of flailing tea-cloths and smashing plates after we had enjoyed our afternoon tea, wiping out a perfectly good Royal Doulton milk jug in the process, I truly felt that enough was enough.

Yet, determined to demonstrate her new found love of the sun-kissed end of Europe, Mrs Monster had been for a wander down Lincoln High Street and discovered Gabby’s Greek Restaurant. Trying to re-locate it proved surprisingly tough, as my eyes are not quite as good as they once were and besdies, if you blink, you might miss it.

Located at 376A High Street, Gabby’s would have been a long and narrow eating spot, were it not for the designer son of the owner, a Greek Cypriot, removing an upper floor to raise the entrance hall ceiling and being highly creative on the decorating front. The result is not only attractive but highly intelligent. Fresh, stylish furniture, a neat metal-faced bar and clean washrooms complete an image of decent quality and enhance the eating experience.

Met by the vivacious lady owner at the front door, we were guided to a table and asked helpfully if we knew anything at all about Greece. Naturally, Mrs Monster was rather too quick to respond and equally quick to show how little she thought she knew. Still, she’s a game old girl and was keen to sample as wide a cross-section of Greek eating as she could, hence her first choice of a Mini Mez. This popular Greek dish is a sampler, consisting of a variety of dips and delicacies, sitting on a bed of olive-oil soaked lettuce, accompanied by warmed pitta bread.

Let me provide you with an idea of what she had placed in front of her: taramosalata (cod roe in a pink paste), tsatziki (yoghurt, mint and cucumber dip), houmous (ground chickpeas in a lemon juice and sesame oil base), halloumi cheese, smoked lountza ham, patatosalata (as you imagined, potato salad in a creamy mayonnaise) and a single keftedes (minted lamb meat ball). The array of flavours is stunning, ranging from the refreshing coolness of the tsatziki, to the earthiness of the houmous and the elegance of the potato salad. Although I am not a fan of caviar of any kind, Mrs Monster rather enjoyed the pink cod roe paste, heaping it onto torn strips of pitta bread like there was no tomorrow.

I, on the other hand, having ordered a portion of the meatballs as starters, revelled in the minted lamb flavour, held together by beaten egg and finished by an even baked coating which sat on a bed of lemon juice-soaked crispy lettuce and sliced tomatoes. In fact, if I had anything to complain about, when asked by Gabby ‘had I enjoyed my starter’, it was the typically tasteless tomatoes that we British are forced into accepting from fruit and vegetable wholesalers and retailers.

Our main courses selected from the compact, yet surprisingly comprehensive menu, were mousakka, and more lamb for me, this time in shank form. I know that I should have tried something else, but lamb constitutes such a huge proportion of the meat-eating element of Greek dishes that I found myself compelled into requesting the mint-infused leg of mutton, sitting on a bed of white rice. It looked absolutely superb as the dish was laid in front of me.

Naturally, the slow-cooked meat virtually fell from the almost dry bones of my kleftico spiticio. It was succulent and so delicately flavavoured that additional condiments were unnecessary. I adore lamb shank and this Greek preparation rises straight to the top of my list of favourite meals.

Mrs Monster’s mousakka was a layered combination of baked aubergines, potatoes, minced lamb and bechamel sauce and is the Greek equivalent of Italian lasagne and no less attracive and flavoursome. A thin layer of mashed potato, coated in golden brown cheese baked into its top surface gave the meal a delicious glow that tasted every bit as good as it looked.

Three additional serving bowls of roasted potatoes (chunks of beautifully prepared and exceesdingly tasty potato, drizzled with clarified butter and coriander seeds), sliced fresh mushrooms and mixed salad (lettuce, cucmber and more of those awful tomatoes) enhanced the already substantial main courses. We dined heartily but did leave rather a lot, which led to a minor and moderately amusing admonishment from Gabby, who, acting like one’s favourite Greek auntie, insisted that we should try to eat more. However, with dessert beckoning and Mrs Monster’s desire to try deep-fried ice-cream, the plates were whisked away to be replaced a few minutes later by Greek yoghurt and honey for me and the aforementioned sweet.

Although I have never been a fan of soured milk desserts, thick Greek yoghurt has a distinct appeal to my palate, allied to a low-fat attraction to my belt-line, and Gabby explained that she makes her own yoghurt by using skimmed milk, mixing it somehow, laying some sackcloth across the bowl and hiding it in the linen cupboard for several hours before spooning in some fresh lemon juice.

Although my yoghurt went down very easily, the wonderful fried ice-cream was a marvel, simply dripping in golden Greek honey, while retaining its chilly consistency within the lightly-crisped butter and coconut milk coating.

We finished the reasonably priced meal with a Greek coffee served in a demi-tasse and a tall glass of café latte for me. Of course, Mrs Monster did pay a visit to the facilities and declared them clean and presentable. I have to admit that I was more than mildly satisfied with the quality of the meal served. It was presented neatly and looked marvellous.

If you can actually find Gabby’s Greek Restaurant, then I can assure you that you will enjoy the flavours and fragrances of high-quality Greek catering and you will not have to tolerate the smashing of plates and other-worldly dancing. Now, where is that tube of superglue?

Final Verdict:

Style: 19/20
Menu: 20/20
Food: 20/20
Presentation: 19/20
Service: 19/20

Total: 97/100

Star Rating: Five stars (out of five)

Verdict: Excellent Greek Cypriot dining in a narrow corridor.