Ino in Soho: Traditional Greek techniques and world-class ingredients
It’s almost nerve-wracking returning to Carnaby for the first time since 2019: there’s an unspoken fear that even the most colourful spot in the capital will have turned monochrome after such a desolate year. But while we are delighted to discover that the familiar walkway of sequinned signs, neon lights and rainbow benches continues to dazzle defiantly, it’s actually a new door that we are seeking out. Ino, like any baby born in a crisis, appears blissfully unperturbed by the chaos that preceded it: the masks and Perspex barriers no longer feel like a dystopian addition but a familiar feature, and they can do nothing to dampen the spirits of this buzzing Greek gastrobar.
This cosy joint is the latest offering from head chefs Georgianna Hiliadaki and Nikos Roussos (and co-founder Andreas Labridis), the team behind Opso and Pittabun, as well as the two-Michelin-starred Funky Goumet in Athens. Ino is a more laid-back affair, paying homage to traditional grill cookery using sustainably farmed meat and world-class ingredients.
While there are a selection of counter seats overlooking the coals, there’s also the option to sit by the window and gaze out on the cobbles as pubgoers soak up the last rays (and pints) of the day. This could make you thirsty – luckily there are a selection of tempting cocktails and we opt for a woody Mastiha G&T and a barrel-aged whisky sour, which settle us nicely into the space. A nostalgic playlist creates a comforting ambience and though there’s not really room to dance along, you’ll probably be preoccupied when the plates arrive.
We begin with the taramas, a perfect sun of slow-cooked yolk poking through the fluffy cod-roe clouds and mirroring the weather outside. The traditional Greek dip, sprinkled with bottarga, makes an excellent companion for warm pitta bread, cut into crispy strips. This is egg and soldiers as you’ve never seen them before, the yolk perfectly runny, the soldiers decorated with some serious military medals.
The Metsovone Cheese Croquette arrives somewhat surprisingly with a pot of strawberry jam – and alongside the breaded smoky cheese, it may just have landed the best job in a conserve’s career. The grilled cauliflower that follows comes laden with spring onion and red chillies but it’s light and lively, bouncing with fresh flavours.
Next up are the fish courses. First, an octopus taco with smoked tomato, onion crisps and olive oil flatbread. Then the Bakalaros Skordalia: a piece of lightly battered cod atop beetroot, wild garlic and a garlic spread. The former is a triumph of textures and makes for a moreish Mexican-style wrap, while the latter leads me to wonder why I wasted my wild garlic (yes, I’m one of those strange woodland foragers who lurks just off the footpath) on the classic pesto.
Optional accompaniments rather than overpowering marinades are key here, and both the lamb chop and grilled broccoli are served alongside house-made labneh, a thick Greek yoghurt. While the former is laid on sprigs of rosemary, accompanied by a michichurri that cuts through the meat with a kick, the latter are crisp and fresh, perched like a campfire in a verdant tribute to the great outdoors.
The souvlaki arrives without bells and whistles: it’s a pork skewer, plain and simple. And yet, taking a bite is a delight, fat perfectly rendered, seasoned with just the right amount of oregano. It’s barbecue perfection. The meal’s highlight, though, announces itself more ostentatiously. In fact, the spiced chicken is considered worthy of an introduction from Roussos himself, who prefaces the plate with justifiable pride. Chicken so moist it will spoil every other barbecue forever is laid out on top of a smoked yoghurt flavoured with charred onions in a pool of golden olive oil, topped with a red onion, tomato and coriander salsa. If you have time for one dish, let it be this.
Though this might sound like a meaty affair, there are plenty of vegetables which also succumb to the flames. Juicy wild mushrooms pay testimony to the quality of the ingredients and firewood, while the okra is well-matched with melt-in-your-mouth feta and a rich tomato sauce.
The name of the restaurant itself is derived from the ancient Greek word for wine, so it seems fitting to accompany our meal with a couple of reds. A glass of Gerovassiliou Avaton Limnio pairs nicely with the grilled meat, serving up a dry finish, though the classic Karydas Xinomavro is another strong contender for putting this less-explored region on the map.
The desserts are dainty yet decadent. The refreshing kaimaki ice-cream, made with mastic, is adorned with mouth-watering chocolate pearls and juicy sour cherries – but the signature Red Box is the real treasure trove. There are multiple draws to choose from in this vivid chest, and as the server opens each in turn, small wonders await. Both the chocolate orange and hazelnut coffee truffles are rich and dark, while the sheet of classic baclava is so light there’s a fear it might float away on the wind.
If you’re paying a visit to Ino, be sure to bring the kind of friend who likes sharing, because that way you can sample as much of the menu as possible. This Greek grill champions traditional cookery but executes every plate with a uniquely contemporary touch.
Photos: Azhul Mohamed
To book a table at Ino, 4 Newburgh Street Carnaby London W1F 7RF, call 020 3701 6618 or visit their website here.