There are obviously a fair few Greek restaurants in Brighton and Hove – most of which are long-established with very loyal and regular clientele. So it was undoubtably a brave move for friends Kyriakos Baxevanis and chef Alex Tsimos to open Nostos back in Palmeira Square back in 2019.
I don’t need to tell anyone about the following two years when all our lives were turned upside down, but clearly this was a terrible time to have invested and launched a new hospitality business. But to give them their due, the guys pulled through and today then can be very proud of their restaurant.
I’ll start with the interior of the restaurant as a huge amount of thought and skill – led by local interior designer Chloe Bullock – has been put into the space to whisk you away to a Greek island. On our visit all of the French doors where flung open with two tiers of pavement seating; meanwhile the airy interior exudes a simple and clean aesthetic with huge wall prints of what I assume to be vintage family photos. It’s a very relaxed space which perfectly matches the style of cuisine.
The a la carte menu is essentially divided into three-ish sections: small plates, large plates plus dips and sides. There is also a daily specials menu which was possibly the cutest I’d ever seen as it was hand-written on a piece of lined A4 paper… it screamed out ‘this is what chef wants to cook today’.
Although the larger plates – a combination of classics such as moussaka alongside the restaurant’s signature dishes – all read mighty fine, my lunch partner and I opted for a selection of small plates and dips. It was rather hot outside so – whilst hungry – picky food seemed preferable.
First up, corn pitta bread and vegetable sticks with a couple of the house dips which were generously portioned. My partner was particularly impressed with the corn pitta, saying that all too often pitta bread can be a bit on the tough side or ‘claggy’ in the mouth but this was perfectly soft. As I don’t eat bread, I had to take her word for it but I have to say the paprika dip – a smooth blend of punchy tomato, feta cheese and smokey peppers – was a revelation. Definitely something I’ll be trying to replicate at home this summer.
The dishes arrived as they were prepared so in no particular order. First up a decent mound of Greek salad, which is always a favourite of mine primarily because it’s not full of over-dressed limp lettuce leaves. Ripe tomatoes, red onion, Mediterranean herbs and croutons on the right side of crunchy, all topped with more whipped feta mousse and finely chopped Kalamata black olives; a rainbow of colour, texture and flavour.
Although I’m one of those that lives with guilt every time I pop a meaty tentacle in my mouth, I just can’t resist octopus. Perhaps there is a synergy between intelligence and tastiness? But that’s not a question for now, as this dish was an absolutely beauty. The flesh was smooth as butter, seasoned with consideration and made a perfect bedfellow to the lemony broad bean based dip.
Whilst I was smacking my lips, my partner dived into a generous portion of ‘Feta Nest’: two filo pastry rolls packed with feta cheese and dressed with toasted sesame seeds, coriander and fresh chilli. The pièce de résistance of this dish was undoubtably the pine and fir tree honey, providing a balance of sweetness to cut through the acidity of the cheese.
I have to say that my hands-down favourite dish was the chargrilled lamb chops. For me, lamb is the perfect meat for barbecuing where you really need that extra fat to keep the meat soft and tender. I couldn’t resist using my hands to ensure I enjoyed every last morsel of the succulent pink flesh, with an occasional dipping of aubergine and feta purée.
We shared a dessert – ‘Trigono Panoramatos’ – which appeared to me to be an upside-down filo pastry ice cream cone over an explosion of red berry coulis and crème diplomat. Delicious and surprisingly 100% vegan.
So to the nitty-gritty. Firstly, there are oodles of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Secondly, if you’ve picky kids then there’s a selection of more accessible dishes on the children’s menu. Thirdly, this is excellent quality food at good price. Although you could spend more, I would say you could eat well here for around £25 per person plus drinks on top.
This is fresh, flavour-packed, beautifully plated, homemade food cooked with talent and heart. It takes the best of the traditional Greek kitchen and gives just enough of a modern twist to transcend what any other similar restaurant is offering in the city. Nostos truly serves up the food of the gods.
Nostos, 63a Holland Road, Hove BN3 1BA
01273 713 059 • www.nostos-hove.co.uk