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Nikos Charcoal Greek
Where: 54 Adelaide Tambo Drive, Durban North
Open: Daily 11am to 9pm
Call: 031 007 0375
It’s quick, it’s fun and it’s relatively inexpensive, three of the ingredients that make this casual Durban North eatery popular. And Nikos certainly had a nice vibe the night we went.
For starters we all shouted out things we’d like to put in the middle of the table and share. It’s always a fun way to eat and you get to taste many different things.
But it turns out there are two types of tzatziki, one with garlic and one with mint, which is odd. A great tzatziki needs both. It only has about five ingredients in it so why leave one out? I’m a fan of the stuff, it becoming something of a staple in the hard lockdown as one of the few things that didn’t fall foul of NDZ’s cooked chicken diktat.
Not knowing, I’d ordered a plate of tzatziki (R39) to join the loaded hummus (R65), and obviously the kitchen decided that it should be the garlic variety, while the dolmades (R55) came with a dipping tub of the mint variety. I quickly mixed them together, which at least gave it all a bit of punch. And the dolmades needed some punch. These were bizarrely bland, and desperately needed a generous squeeze of lemon.
However, loaded as a description of the hummus was a little bit of a stretch; garnished would be more accurate. Certainly by the time it got to my side of the table the feta had disappeared, but the famed chickpea paste was pleasant and the pomegranate seeds do lift it. We mopped it all up with pita. There is also a hummus loaded with minced lamb.
Other starter options might include a brinjal stack, falafels, Greek meatballs in tomato sauce, and any number of dips. We also tried the chicken livers in a spicy peri-peri sauce (R55) which were enjoyable enough, if slightly sweet, but came in a dish that showed way more sauce than livers.
For mains, two of our party went for the skinny chops, one for pork (R105) and the other for lamb (R130). I can understand why you’d want a skinny chop: it’s so that the fats can get nice and crisp, but the problem is the meat then dries out. My friend who ordered the pork chops was disappointed, but she was thinking of her father’s thick juicy cutlets served in a powerful sticky sauce. I’d had them too, and agreed wholeheartedly.
The chicken souvlaki (R140) had good flavour and the meat was still juicy. It was served with more of the minted tzatziki and some very good crispy courgette fries. I could eat a bucket-full of these.
Another friend felt like meatballs, but the only main portion of meatballs available came on spaghetti (R91) with a very heavy Napoli sauce. I had suggested he just get two portions of the starter meatballs with a plate of chips, but he stuck with spaghetti. The meatballs were enjoyable, but I suspect my option would have won.
I enjoyed the simple grilled calamari (R149), served with a lemon butter sauce. For sides there was some complicated story about how you could swop chips or courgette fries for a side salad, but it was only a side salad, if you wanted a Greek salad it was charged extra. In other words a salad without the fun stuff like olives and feta. Instead I tried the roast potatoes, which were excellent, better than the courgette fries even.
Nikos has any number of wraps or souvlaki options, all cooked on the charcoal grill, and prawns and prawn combos were coming out the kitchen. There’s lamb shanks for the hungry and even a Greek burger for those who have to have one.
We didn’t have desserts, which include traditional Baklava and Galaktoboureko (custard pie) although a chocolate, tahina and halva brownie sounded interesting. Instead my spaghetti friend relished one of the better Dom Pedros he’d had in a while and my Greek coffee was excellent. Our waitress got the instruction through to the kitchen: “Just the tip of a teaspoon of sugar, just to cut the acidity.”
Food: 3 ½
The Independent on Saturday