Greek restaurant Kima, on London’s Paddington Street, is opposite Opso (modern Greek small plates) and next to The Real Greek (casual chain value). Kima is the new kid on the block and does posh fish. It’s owned by the people behind Opso, who have opened the place presumably because they wanted to cater for a customer of theirs who said, ‘Nice menu but I want to spend my Greek shipping magnate fortune on some fresh day-boat fish.’
Thus Kima has a cabinet at the front displaying catches of the day and is a long way from the Greek holiday of old where you could pootle up and get a table for 12 in a taverna and, after endless courses and a few bottles of retsina, still have change from 20 quid.
Kima is different and duly comes at a price. And, as a regular visitor to Greece with a passion for the islands, the sea, the people – a proud Grecophile, and one who has loved the most shambolic of meals in the most wretched of tavernas and enjoyed the joyous simplicity of freshly grilled fish, a proper Greek salad and tumblers of Greek wine – I’m very happy to add Kima to my pantheon of experience. I can safely say that this place is something of a game-changer, offering some of the finest Greek food I have ever tasted.
It presents the things you would expect: fava beans, white beans, taramas, vine leaves, Greek salad, fish souvlaki, olive oil… but in a way that is far beyond the cliché of twists on classics. The traditions of Greek food are firmly at the centre but what comes to the table displays quite wonderful and delicate touches with simply fabulous flavours. At which point I’ll stop gushing and explain what I mean.
We actually swerved the classic fish of the day. Yes, the gilthead bream, scorpion fish, John Dory and oysters were captivating as they nestled in the ice at the counter, but the prices were just a little too eye-watering for a midweek bite. And anyway, I wanted to get stuck into the actual menu.
Up first was taramas: a pale circular mound with egg-yolk-coloured olive oil nestling in the centre. It came with large crackers flavoured with cod roe and this was a sumptuous, rich and deep dive into a dish that was like turning left in a plane: eternally ruinous for when one plods the usual path of a supermarket tub of taramasalata.
Then a decorative and large plate of raw sea bream, swimming in olive oil and as light and clean and delicious as might be possible.
Next came my favourite dish of the lunch: fava beans bonito. The yellow textured mush of the beans was joined by raw onions, bonito flakes and herbs, and if I was a very rich lunatic, I would like to have some serf follow me about all day, proffering a plate of it so I could dip as and when I desired. It was insanely addictive.
There was also a lovely chunk of grilled lettuce and a whole head of broccoli served on oil, with a dab of Greek yoghurt turned with wasabi.
I then ate a whole long, grilled leg of octopus, charred and soft and perfect, while my pal Andrew had the only odd note of the day. Sold as a fish souvlaki, his fish came smothered in tomatoes and other stuff, on a flatbread, and was bizarrely minuscule.
Lunch ended with millefeuille, which was 75 dots of cream in layers of seaweed. That’s right: a supremely wonderful fishy-inspired pud. Tell your rich pals to go, and to take you. This place is too important to fail.