Greek Street’s ever-growing list of big name chain restaurants is bolstered by the happy addition of Giraffe Bar & Grill, says Leo Owen
Ever-wary of both Greek Street and chains, I enter Giraffe with caution, expecting the worst. I’m instantly pleased when a smiling waitress shows us upstairs to a quieter dining area away from the noise and bustle of Friday night’s drinking crowd.
The restaurant décor almost looks a little unfinished but it’s hard to pinpoint why. On one side, brick work remains untouched while creamy lime-coloured floral wallpaper covers another wall and the ceiling. Across the back of the room is an open bar area with an exceedingly obvious fire door and lamps with visible wiring hang over-head. Most striking is the see-through dividing frame adorned with pot plants and the wooden pear-shaped light fittings that satisfyingly remind me of 3D jigsaws.
One of our two waitresses explains drinks and food offers but doesn’t encroach, providing fast and helpful service. On her advice, we order a sharing platter (£17.95) that arrives with lemon hand towels on the side. Adequate for three and perfect for two, the platter includes an impressive selection of menu tasters, catering for veges, fish eaters and meat lovers alike. Sticky soy pork riblets are exceedingly tender, falling from the bone with the bitterness of the orange peel perfectly countering the sweetness of the sauce. The shrimp are indeed crispy and have an almost undetectable coconut taste; the fried calamari have a crunchy exterior but are fleshy inside; the halloumi vegetable kebab sticks manage to avoid that dreaded rubber quality and the lemon and herb chicken skewers are subtly infused. Nachos and a selection of sauces complete the feast, including sweet chilli, chunky Guacamole with sweetcorn and a creamy tex-mex chipotle sauce (chillis, garlic, paprika and mayonnaise).
My Bang Bang Chicken Salad (£9.95) main arrives shortly after the table is cleared. In size and content, it’s clearly more of a “man salad” than the kind of dish dieters might order. When first created in the Soho branch, this hearty salad had such a kick to it, waiting staff would holler “Bang! Bang!” to the chefs; Today, its subtle satay sauce has more of a spicy after-bite but it is just as substantial, tastily combining egg noodles with enormous chunks of chicken, carrots, peppers, lettuce and spring onions.
Rarely seen on menus, the leg of lamb steak (£13.95) makes a novel addition and boasts an unusual Minty Salsa Verde sauce with the consistency and taste of an oily pesto. The steak is juicy and pink, accompanied by filling “skin on fries” and a green salad selection, unnecessarily topped up by a garlic butter cabbage side (£2.65).
As the evening progresses the lights dim but the restaurant remains just as lively and busy. The likes of Cee Lo Green and Florence + The Machine are played loudly in the background but we can still easily hear each other without being overheard or deciphering neighbouring conversations. Seated beside the large glass windows, we overlook the street below and momentarily envy the queue of stationary taxi drivers who seem to have bountiful reading time.
Although I’m full, there’s always room for dessert so I order a White Chocolate Mascarpone and Passionfruit Cheesecake (£ 4.95). While my less greedy partner procrastinates, tempted by a dessert cocktail, the unusual Tea Pig selection and the Aussie-themed dessert wines, I marvel at the ingenious wine bucket holder precariously balanced from the table. I finish up the remaining Argentinean Torrontes (£21.95) and struggle through a hefty slice of New York style cheesecake as he demurely sips on a honeyed orange Chardonnay (£3.40).
Tonight, I’ve uncharacteristically left the pepper well alone and even contemplated asking for a “doggy bag” for left-over vegetables the food was so tasty. Giraffe has convinced me to give Greek Street a second chance and I’m keen to revisit Giraffe to work my way through its extensive cocktail list and take full advantage of the Bar Buddies offer.
Restaurant rating: 4/5