I was planning a mini-break to Athens about now.
Luckily, something stopped me from booking those pre-lockdown flights a few months ago.
Who cares, holidays are overrated, what with the packing and forgetting of contact lens fluid, popping Valium for the flight (yes, I’m one of those) and walking 14 miles in search of a suitable restaurant because I didn’t do any research in advance.
All I really wanted from my trip, apart from seeing the Greek version of Edinburgh’s Disgrace, was to gorge myself and be stretchered out of a local taverna.
I can easily recreate that perfect holiday experience at home.
We donned our flip-flops and sunglasses, sloshed on some vintage SPF50 and ordered lunch from Edinburgh’s Greek restaurant Ola Kala. This small venue was well set up for takeaway before the coronavirus crisis, with a presence on Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats. You can also order from the menu on their website, or even phone them directly in an old school fashion.
Our delivery arrived on time, dropped on the doorstep by a guy in facemask and gloves, who gave us a wave on the way back to his van.
I think we’d subconsciously been panic buying, as there were three brown paper bags’ worth. Still, when you’re on holiday, stomach capability doubles.
We spread it all out and picked at the spoils in no particular order. The smell of one thing in particular was giving us the come hither.
It was the Athens Plaka kebabs (£12), “famously served in the Athens Plaka Flea Market, underneath the Acropolis”. These were aerated and sausagey fingers of charred meat, which came with tomatoes and chopped red onion, and a light and pleasingly chewy pad of pita bread. Too good to haggle over. I took a picture of us eating it with my selfie stick.
We also got a bit giddy over the dolmadakia (£4.80) – six small cigars of stuffed vine leaf, full of tangy rice and dolloped with yogurt and paprika.
I loved them so much that I smashed the empty takeaway box off the floor, as is traditional.
The halloumi, dips and pitas (£8.80) option featured kalamata olives and more of Ola Kala’s excellent bread, to be poked into four choices of dip – the extremely garlicky aubergine pulp that is melinzana, the fresh duo of whipped feta and cucumber-laced tzatziki, and a sweetly spicy red pepper and paprika number. The four charred playing card-sized rectangles of cheese were much squeakier than the average, like a marmot standing on a bit of Lego.
A couple of things we’d ordered as sides were more like main courses. The Cretan salad dakos (£6.90) was tightly packed into its box, with a thick strata of barley rusk saturated with tomato juice and olive oil, and a topping of crumbled feta, onions, kalamata olives and fresh thyme.
Although Ola Kala’s crispy gyros meal (£9.70), which came with rather anaemic fries, was meh if you just had one element, it was excellent if you assembled the kit – ie slathered the pita with tzatziki, then added the shredded chicken scratchings and sealed the lot with thinly sliced tomato.
We could have probably set up a market stall with our huge portion of assorted Greek pies (£5.60). There were triangles, Doric columns and cross sections of discus.
Most were 98 per cent filo, though you might have been able to excavate some spinach and potato from a couple.
In order to make our lockdown vacation a little more long haul, we saved the pudding section of our feast until the afternoon.
My walnut pie (£3.20), made with semolina, was soaked in lemon zest syrup, and there was more sugary goo to varnish the galaktoboureko (£3.40) – a pastry roll full of semolina custard. Very good with ouzo, but probably acceptable with a cup of tea and the telly too.
By that time, I was back in pyjamas, because it’s way too cold for flip-flops.
Still, thank goodness for the takeaways that make holidays at home possible. n
202 Morrison Street, Edinburgh (0131-629 2820, www.olakalauk.com)