Jan 03, 2024

INO Greek restaurant review, London

The glamour is all in the food

INO Restaurant

INO comes from good stock. The bijou modern Greek restaurant on Newburgh Street in London, just off Carnaby Street, was co-founded by businessman Andreas Labridis and chefs Georgianna Hiliadaki and Nikos Roussos, the same team behind hip Marylebone eatery OPSO.

With a reputation for reconfiguring traditional Greek dishes to suit a modern aesthetic using only a small number of high quality ingredients, the innovative trio have, with INO, managed to give authentic Greek grill cooking a flavour-packed twist that feels modern and fresh yet still the kind of stuff that your real or make believe Yaya (grandma) would be proud of.

The restaurant has an open kitchen and wooden-clad seating areas

INO Restaurant/Facebook

Impeccably balanced and artfully arranged, almost every dish incorporates ingredients from mainland Greece and its islands. What's more, everything on the menu is grilled in the restaurant's open kitchen, situated behind a seated counter, so that diners can fully take in the smokey, aromatic scent of their dinner as it is freshly prepared in front of them. The décor here isn't fancy: a T-shape, INO has a long counter with red stools and a small seating area at the back, which is wooden-clad.

The taramas is a good place to start

INO Restaurant

The glamour, however, is all in the food, with small but moorish dishes that are handsomely put together. The taramas – always a good place to start – is unctuous and pale as it should be. Pipped into pretty florets, the spread is topped with cured cod's roe. Like candied sprinkles, only salty, this slightly gelatinous orange garnish adds a delightful texture to the mixture, which also comes with an egg yolk to mix in.

Mixing and folding in the layers is very much part of the dining experience at INO, even when it comes to the most delicate-looking dishes. For example, the "spanakopita", traditionally a pastry pie, is layered like a mille-feuille with thin sheets of filo pastry, wilted spinach and barrel-aged feta from the Kostarelos family in Athens. This cheese is a superstar ingredient found in a number of dishes here. Handmade from the milk of free grazing sheep following a recipe created in the 1930s, it has a deep creamy taste with a touch of sharpness and is only available on the British restaurant scene at INO.

Octopus cooked over the coal grill is covered with fried onion confetti (in fact this is the only fried ingredient on the menu), and is accompanied by a tomato salsa that has been smoked over wood chips for a rich, tangy taste to cut through the sweetness of the onions. You can eat it morsel by morsel, scooping up as much as the onion/tomato mixture as you like, or roll it up, taco-style, in a salted flatbread.

The spanakopita is layered like a mille-feuille

Alexandra Zagalsky

The okra, lightly blanched then immediately grilled to preserve just the right amount of bite, is served with a sprinkling of feta and a dollop of sweet/sour tomato "jam". It's a must-order side dish along with the slab of baked feta known as "bouyiourdi", which comes loaded with a ladle's worth of cherry tomatoes, spring onion and Padrón peppers, all lightly grilled of course. Vegetarians could happily just order these with a plate of warm pitta bread, which is shipped directly from Athens, also an INO exclusive. Toasted and sprinkled with sea salt, each thinly-cut slice is enriched with the almost creamy taste of olive oil without the usual a greasy residue.

Pescatarians have lots of options to choose from, but the tuna tartlet (more like cubes of fresh sashimi on a golden cracker base) with garlic and fava bean purée and plump Santorini capers, is particularly delicious.

And because no Greek grill would be complete without a rollable meat dish or two, INO has finessed some favourites. These include a classic gyros dish combining shreds of Iberico pork with tzatziki and a rib eye steak souvlaki with garlic yoghurt, both served on an olive oil infused flat bread. You have to like garlic here.

Kaimaki ice cream is subtly laced with sweet perfumey taste mastica

Alexandra Zagalsky

For dessert, there are usually two options. If it's on the menu, the out and out choice has to be the Kaimaki ice cream made from sheep's milk, subtly laced with the sweet perfumey taste mastica, made from the gum or "tears" of the mastic tree, indigenous to the island of Chios. In fact, you’ll find this unusual and aromatic ingredient in the restaurant's signature G&T and Athens Spritz cocktail.

If you’d prefer a bottle, wine lovers have a generous menu of interesting varieties to choose from, all made in Greece. Many of the reds hail from the north, near Albania, for a spicy and intense pinot noir flavour. The Anhydrous Santorini white – sharp and fresh thanks to the sea salt air and volcanic earth, from which it hails – is the perfect partner to the barrel-aged feta and fish dishes.

INO gives authentic Greek cooking a flavour-packed twist

INO Restaurant

INO really is an unpretentious gem of a place. There may only be one for now, but if it were to expand, this could be the Greek version of Barrafina, which has five invariably full restaurants across London. The best way to sample the food at INO is to try the very reasonably priced lunch set menu, which is £30 for three courses and available from Monday to Friday (12pm-3.30pm).

Alexandra Zagalsky was a guest of INO Restaurant. 4 Newburgh Street, Carnaby, London, W1F 7RF;

Sign up for the Food & Drink newsletter for recipes, reviews and recommendations