In Greece we learn English as young children, from about six or seven years old. I always knew I wanted to come to the UK to study, and ended up moving to Middlesborough where I completed a degree in Business Management and a Masters in Marketing. I’d developed all these grand ideas during my time in the UK and I wanted to take all that back to my home country. But while I managed to find a good job in Greece, there was no career advancement, which was what eventually drew me back to the UK. A friend of mine was already living in Bristol, so I thought I’d pay her a visit and see how I got on there.
I remember as soon as I crossed the Bristol Bridge, there was this immediate vibe. You can’t really explain it, but it’s something that says: “Hey, come in!”. It’s such a welcoming and accepting place, truly multicultural and international. Athens is a lot like London and while I wanted to live in a city, I wanted a slower and more laid-back pace of life and I think Bristol is a great place to live if you’re looking for that kind of mix.
One of my favourite things about Bristol is the city’s deep love of art. When I first came here, I was struck by how you’d turn down one street and someone would be playing music, on another street someone would be painting a picture. When people are connected to the arts, they are much more open-minded. People who value art are people who value good things.
We opened Hat Bistro because we wanted to bring traditional Greek food to Bristol - but also authentic Greek hospitality. We didn’t want to open a touristy place, a Greek theme park with smashing plates and the ‘Opa!’. Coming here would be like going over to my mum’s house for a meal. Our dishes are made with as many Greek ingredients as possible, but of course you can’t transport things like meat if you want it to be super fresh - so our meat comes from a farm right here in Bristol. Everything on our menu is good, but if I had one recommendation it would be the moussaka. There’s a real difference between a moussaka you’d order at a chain restaurant and one you’d enjoy in a Greek family home. The stuffed peppers are also very good.
Greek food is great because it is light and balanced. I do feel as the UK climate slowly changes (that’s a conversation for another day!), there is a shift towards a more Mediterranean way of eating going on here. In more historic times, food was connected to everything - to your health, to your ability to work, and so on. This very much remains part of the Greek culture. And at home we say that love goes through the stomach. The film My Big Fat Greek Wedding might be over-exaggerated, but in its essence it’s true to life. When you enter a Greek home, they want to please you. As soon as you’re sat down, there’ll be cake and coffee. That’s the kind of hospitality we want to envoke at Hat Bistro. In fact, we called it Hat Bistro because the ‘hat’ is a symbol of stability and service.
There’s only really one food I miss from Greece, and it’s not related to Greek cuisine at all. It has to be a cheeseburger from Goody’s, which is a famous fast food place back at home, kind of the equivalent to Mcdonald’s in the UK. That’s more of a comfort thing though, as it was something I’d eat during my childhood. Fast food isn’t good for your health, but I have one every time I go back. I don’t miss out on good Greek food like feta and olive oil as we have that supplied from Greece to the restaurant. Is there a food in England that I’d miss? Not really, although I did discover the ‘chicken parmesan’ when I lived up North, a dish more Middlesborough than Mediterranean! Now, I make my own version.
My favourite spot in Bristol? Denmark Street, of course! It has an amazing history, is full of independent businesses and has much to offer the city. The businesses here are like a community and all work together. We’re also just around the corner from the Hippodrome, and love attracting people interested in theatre and the arts. When people are united, they flourish. At the moment, we’re piloting a scheme in which the road is closed at the weekends so we can put tables and chairs outside. It’s great to bring the passion we have inside, outside into the street.
Our next project at the restaurant is bringing Greek wine to Bristol. Greek wine is different in that it’s quite spicy. I’m not saying it’s better than wine that comes from France or Italy, but it is delicious in its own right, and deserves a chance to be known. It pairs with Greek food so well. The Greeks have a long heritage of wine-making, they’ve been making wine for more than 3,000 years - longer than the Italians. The Greeks showed the Romans how to make wine, actually. We’re looking forward to being ambassadors for Greek wine in the city and holding tasting sessions at the restaurant, where you can find out the stories behind each wine.
Hat Bistro is located at 5 Denmark Street.
Find their website here: https://www.hatbistro.co.uk/
And Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/hatbistro
What does Bristol mean to you? We’d love to hear your story. If you’d like to be included in the series, email [email protected]