In an area of London full of top-notch Turkish Cypriot restaurants and kebabs, the Greek restaurant is a rarity. Indeed I remember committing the faux pas of ordering tzatziki at a Turkish eatery in Newington Green and the cold, terse response I received. Yet I like tzatziki as well as cacik, so when Hungry Donkey opened just off Petticoat Lane by Liverpool Street, I decided to investigate.
An airy, modern restaurant, Hungry Donkey claims to serve ‘Greek street food’. The words ‘street food’ have been bandied about so much as to have utterly lost any meaning, but in this case, it represents a pared down menu, with a range of lights, modern starters, souvlaki wraps and towering sharing plates of meat accompanied by salad.
Immediately notable about Hungry Donkey is the warm service and modern décor. The restaurant may not have had much press, but it has its followers – when we visited on a Tuesday evening, the place was packed and we were happy to have booked.
We sat at a tall white countertop and perused the menu. Hungry Donkey takes its sourcing seriously, from the biodynamic olives to the ethical meat.
Transparency about sourcing is something sorely lacking in the lamb wrap world, and I am often torn between wanting to stick to well-sourced food and the fact that this would mean forgoing some of the best dishes in the borough.
As the meat platters take 40 minutes to prepare, we had some small plates and Greek wine while we waited.
The dip mix had a delicious bright green sauce that I incorrectly identified as broad bean – it was aubergine. The pan fried graviera cheese was a salty but less chewy alternative to halloumi, but the gigantes, white runner beans in tomato sauce, were no more than the sum of their (two) parts.
When the meat plate finally came out it conclusively explained Hungry Donkey’s popularity: large chunks of spit-roast, tender lamb, with a fresh multifaceted taste. For pudding we had what our server explained was a more authentic cheesecake, made with manouri.
It was definitely cheesier and saltier than cream cheese. My dining companion liked it more than I did, but it was well prepared, and I wish that more restaurants would stick to their guns with dishes that find a mixed audience.
Given there isn’t a wealth of Greek restaurants locally and I don’t always fancy a trek up to Wood Green, Hungry Donkey is a welcome addition to the area, especially in Whitechapel, which has some highlights but is not ready to beat Hackney Central at the restaurant game.
56 Wentworth St, London E1 7AL