8th May 2019

(AD) Lemoni, Reading – Greek food by the Oracle

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

Last Sunday I was invited to eat at Reading’s latest restaurant opening, Lemoni, and took along my boyfriend Steve and step-daughter Lucy. It was a bank holiday weekend, so we were all in a very good mood and the thought of eating Greek tapas would hopefully cheer up what had turned into a bit of a grey windy day. Refusing to accept that this time last year it was lovely and hot, I’d even put a dress on hoping that I might just be able to encourage the sun to make an appearance. Positive thinking, and all that.

Lemoni only opened on 25th April so usually, I wouldn’t be reviewing somewhere that had only been serving food for just over a week. There’s always going to be teething problems, and not being a fan of any of the previous restaurants that have taken this strange looking ‘greenhouse’ spot by the Riverside is probably the reason why I wasn’t really expecting anything ground-breaking.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

Plus, I love the Spanakopita from CUP (read about it in my blog post here) and I’m also a frequent customer at The Real Greek (just across from Lemoni). I was intrigued though, and I’m a big fan of tapas style food and love a good simple freshly made Hummus or Tzatziki.

There are six (!!) different menus on the website and before we left I had a nosy which gave me a bit of an idea of what I might order. Despite thinking a few courses looked pretty pricey I assumed that the rent on this place must be fricken crazy for an ‘independent’ restaurant and hopefully, the food would be worth it.

Who’s owns Lemoni?

I did learn that the owner Ulysses Vafiadis apparently really knows his stuff and is incredibly passionate about sharing his knowledge of his home food, uses fresh ingredients and wants to re-create a genuine Mediterranean experience. He owns a few restaurants outside of the UK and plans to launch several Greek restaurants across the South East with the Reading spot being his flagship restaurant.

Its Location

Arrival and first impressions

As soon as I walked through the door I immediately remember thinking how light and modern it looked. Greek, no, but the tables were spaced out so there’d be no sitting too close to the strangers next to you, and the windows were kept clear of clutter letting in lots of natural daylight. It was clean-looking, simple and the chairs were comfortable too.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle
Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

It wasn’t too busy either, probably about a quarter full and the bar on the left had people drinking and chatting meaning the atmosphere and feel was lively, but not over-bearing or intimidating.

We were seated by the window on the ground floor (upstairs was shut) and we had a view out over to Cafe Rouge and could easily people-watch with the bridge just to the front left. Our waiter was Greek and very friendly, and he quickly informed us about what dishes were missing and unavailable from the menu.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

It did take us a while to decide what to have as the A la Carte menu we were given was the only one available that day. I was a bit curious as to where the lunch or Mezzadakia menu was, but I’d ordered a Greek Fix Hellas (£4.50) and was in no rush either.

Lucy is fussy at the moment and she’s going through this frustrating stage of not liking the same foods she did six months ago so I was intrigued by what she’d go for. I do know she loves Hummus and both my son Coby and she will demolish it when we have it in the fridge at home. She did struggle to choose her main dish, but we got there in the end and we were all happy with our choices.

To be honest, looking back now, I think she found the fighting pigeons outside the window far more entertaining than choosing her food!

The Starters

I love a good selection of starters that can be shared so we did order a fair few to get us in the mood. All the predictable items such as Hummus (£5.00), Tzatziki (£5.00), Pita (£1.50), Courgette Fries (£5.50), and Baked Feta Cheese in Filo Pastry with Honey and Sesame Seeds (£6.90) were ordered, which you might think sound costly (because they are) but the important question is: were they worth it?

All starters arrived within 15 minutes of ordering and we demolished the lot quickly and enjoyed every single bite. The courgette fries were cooked just so they had a little bite to them and the batter was light and crispy. I always compare these to the ones at Papa Gee’s (£3.50) but they were equally as delicious.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

The hummus and tzatziki, spread on slices of pita, were both freshly made and lovely in flavour and the feta in filo pastry was something we could have had a fight over. If I had any criticism of it, then a little bit more honey would have been perfect.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle
Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

The Mains

Steve and I struggled a little with the mains on the A La Carte menu and unless you wanted a salad there were only two vegetarian options to choose between. Moussaka (£16.50) and Orzo Pasta (£18.50).

Both struck me as expensive again, especially the pasta and when reading the general press release on the Lemoni opening I don’t think I can agree with the term “affordable”. Especially with so many different options around the Riverside and town centre. I just can’t see many families opting to eat here on a regular basis.

Lucy went for the Chicken Skewer served with couscous, vegetables and potatoes (£16.50)

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

Steve, in the end, chose more starters for his main and went for the Melitzanosalata (£5.50), another portion of carb-loading Pita, Spanakopita (£6.00) and some Potato Chips (£4.00).

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle
Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

The Moussaka was a generous portion and was served with a small side salad and was scolding hot, so it took a while to cool down. It was layered with aubergine, potato and Béchamel sauce and whilst there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, it didn’t blow me away and was probably a little bit bland. I also did wonder if it had been sitting around for a while? For a £16.50 dish, I would have expected something a little more special.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle
Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

Lucy did love her chicken though and despite her spotting it came with no sauce of any kind, the marinade was full of flavour and the chicken was soft and tender. She left her new potatoes until last as usually isn’t a fan, (and y’know kids and veg) but then took a bite, eyes widened and said they were the best potatoes she’d ever had!

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

The Mistake

Steve’s food arrived and the freshly baked potato chips were insanely good, and Lucy and I couldn’t resist stealing quite a few!

The Melitzanosalata was a bit like ‘Marmite’ in the sense of you’ll either love it or hate it! The menu describes the dish as “charcoal grilled aubergines served with extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate seeds” but there was most definitely something else in there. I’d be interested to hear what others think of this one. I can’t even describe the taste, it didn’t seem like anything I’d had before, and the texture was strangely ‘gummy’… if that’s even a thing?

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

Moving on, Steve thought his Spanakopita looked a bit odd and did in fact wonder if it was the right dish. I said maybe they do it a little different here and said just take a bite and see what’s it like. So, he cut off a huge corner and ate it. It wasn’t Spanakopita. Not even close. We don’t know what it was, as the waiter wouldn’t say, but it was full of meat…and he’s vegetarian and hasn’t eaten any form of meat or fish for five years.

He was quite rightly upset and bit a bit shocked. We called our waiter over and not being the type of people to make a scene or a fuss explained what had happened. The waiter swiftly took away the dish and said he’d be back with the correct one. We saw him talking to the manager in the corner who shook her head, looked concerned and came over. But there was no apology given and she simply said, “did you take a big bite?” then moved on to asking how Lucy was and that was it!

Moving On

Knowing too well that mistakes can happen to anyone, whether you’ve been open one week, one year or ten years, it doesn’t matter. It’s how that mistake is dealt with that ultimately that makes or breaks the situation. We didn’t feel like the restaurant, at the time of it happening, fully grasped how big a deal it was to us.

It did put a little dampener on our meal and whilst we did try to quickly move on and enjoy the rest of our food there’s always that feeling of awkwardness in the background.

Steve felt like he was made to feel like it was his fault almost and we did worry that Lemoni had no system in place to make sure people who don’t eat certain foods don’t get given the wrong dishes, especially if they have an allergy.

I have since received an apology from Lemoni and was offered the chance to go back another time, but politely declined. I’m not sure a second visit would change any of these feelings and my review on the quality of the food and the prices wouldn’t change either way. Aside from this one big mistake, the customer service and friendliness of the staff were as you’d expect, and we had no other substantial complaints.

Dessert

It wouldn’t be right to eat at Lemoni and not have a Greek dessert, so we went for the Loukoumades (£7.00), which are freshly made doughnuts. Served in one of three ways: with honey and crushed walnuts, chocolate spread or sugar with cinnamon. We went for the sugar and cinnamon.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

I also spotted the Chocolate Souffle served with ice-cream (£7.50) so we added that to our order too and decided to share both.

Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle
Lemoni, Reading - Greek food by the Oracle

At this point, I also realised we’d not been asked once if we’d like another drink at all, despite all having empty glasses. We did have a jug of tap water, so we were fine, but I did find this a little odd and put this one down to the teething issues thing.

The doughnuts, in my opinion, were slightly under-fried. They weren’t as light and fluffy as I think they’re meant to be. The Souffle was cooked well and we ate every bite. I had however just eaten some life-changing ice-cream at the Lido the Friday before so probably a little unfairly compared the Lemoni ice-cream to theirs, and it didn’t win!

Conclusion

I was really torn writing this review as I really do hope that the feeding of meat to a vegetarian will never happen again and that it was a one-off. I also really hope that all the niggly teething issues smooth over as most of the food was enjoyable and I wish Lemoni the best of luck.

Would I go back again? Not for those prices. Would I choose The Real Greek over Lemoni? Most probably yes. Is it ok to be disappointed because it’s exactly what I expected in the first place…nothing ground-breaking? I’m not sure.

Please remember that this is just my opinion of one experience at Lemoni. I’m sure other people will think differently and possibly like it a lot more than we did.

Despite this meal being gifted in exchange for an honest review, for the three of us, the total bill came in at £101.80, which for lunch I feel is quite pricey. Especially as we only ordered three drinks with two being soft drinks. We didn’t over-order on food and in fact, all still felt like we could have eaten more quite soon after, we needed to!

Have you been yet? Let me know in the comments below what you think, feedback is always welcome.

13 responses to “(AD) Lemoni, Reading – Greek food by the Oracle”

  1. Tony Leggett says:

    We went on Saturday and were very disappointed. It took 35 mins (no exaggeration) for our drinks to arrive and then two of them were the wrong drinks. The food was ok but as you say very expensive for what it was and we had one chicken skewer that was raw in the middle. What was dreadful was the totally disinterested staff, who seemed to stand around chatting rather than take any notice of the sparse customers. Nobody seemed bothered by mistakes, nobody apologised for undercooked food. We paid for our meal for 6 but we won’t be back a second time.

    • hellocuppies says:

      So awkward! I think it sounds like they’ve opened way too early without their staff having the training they need! I did see they are advertising to recruit so probably understaffed also. Raw chicken though! eek.

  2. Erika says:

    It’s very obvious that YOU are getting paid from Real Greek restaurant. It’s respectful not to like a restaurant but what you wrote here it’s almost personal attack to a place that’s open 10 days ago and the food is good. I’ve been to both of the restaurants and as a Greek myself I do know the flavours better than you do -your review it’s very bitter and “ mean” plus you are lying for so many things. There’s no meat pie at Lemoni restaurant I went and ask for it when I’ve read your review. As for the real Greek it’s a chain yes-but with no flavour of the real Greek cuisine plus the prices are similar but you don’t mention anything about it. Go get your check from Real Greek and stop blogging cause you aren’t honest.

    • hellocuppies says:

      Oh Erica, that is a very unfair statement you’ve made there so let me correct a few things for you. 1) I am absolutely not being paid by The Real Greek, that’s ludicrous and I was in fact asked by Lemoni’s PR agency to write this review 2) I did mention that I enjoyed quite a few things that we ate and yes, some were good. 3) there are no lies in my post, I simply would never do that 4) I do have the photos of the meat dish we were served, I never once mentioned the word pie, and I have an apology from Lemoni too. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, same as I am mine and I’m sorry you are upset. Good luck to Lemoni, I hope that things do improve.

  3. Erika says:

    Reading your response I am a bit worried about your credentials to be a food blogger.. you should definitely know that spanakopita is spinach pie, just like milopita is apple pie and tiropita is cheese pie. Hence if you were served something with meat in Greek terms its a meat pie. As a food blogger you should be familiar with these terms. I also struggle to understand how in a review of a restaurant you mention other places. And the fact that you preferred a place that serves cold food and tastes less and has noting to do with real Greek cuisine but they decided to call it that way says it all. Maybe take a trip to Greece first taste how fresh aubergines are and then write reviews about places. It’s like me trying to be an expert on Japanese cuisine. For the record Lemoni Reading has real taste of how we cook back home with the authentic recipes. I’m offended by someone like you that obviously don’t know what Greek kitchen really taste like pretending to be an expert behind a blog. Absolutely ridiculous.

    • hellocuppies says:

      Oh Erica, you’re making a vast amount of assumptions that aren’t really fair or true, but it’s fine as I now know you’re the owner’s friend and I expect that you’re just upset. I don’t ever claim to be an expert in any country or subject but what I am is representative of the type of customers Lemoni are trying to attract. I blog because I enjoy it and have built a large audience over quite a few years now. I’ve actually been to Greece a few times, am friends with other Greek people in Reading and have made my own Spanakopita too – I’m more than familiar with traditional Greek food. What I prefer to eat or where is again my choice. And I absolutely know what a pie is, you’ve completely missed my point on that. I’m not disputing that Lemoni doesn’t serve traditional Greek food, and on my visit that wasn’t the issue at all. I also hope the other areas that I didn’t find great are sorted out. And FYI – I’ve also since sent a photo of the meat dish my vegetarian boyfriend was served to the PR company, so let’s leave it with them now, shall we.

  4. Erika says:

    Calling me a friend of the the owner it’s your response?!
    I’m not a friend with anyone. It’s now clear you don’t know what to reply because you have someone against to the things you said. You don’t don’t even know me and let’s leave it here because I’ll legally take action against you and your blog for claiming anything about me in person. I’ve seen your unfair critical review and I responded. End of story.

    • hellocuppies says:

      Erika, when you comment on a blog like mine I can see a lot about where that person is commenting from. IP address, full name + more. It’s very easy to link and search with your friends etc. If anything, I could actually turn that threat back on you, but this is my blog. I’m entitled to write whatever opinions I like, and absolutely welcome all comments whether angry, upset, untrue or positive. Like I said earlier, I wish you and Ulysses the absolute best. Maybe you can ask for a job in Lemoni and share some of your Greek knowledge and skills? Turn your negativity into something useful and positive

    • hellocuppies says:

      Erika, I won’t be publishing your latest comment with threatens me personally. Abusive language will not be tolerated and if I hear anything else from you, on any of my platforms I WILL report this to the police. You’re not doing yourself or Lemoni any favours by acting this way. I’ll also be updating the PR company.

  5. Rob McKenzie says:

    We ate here this evening and left extremely disappointed. I wonder whether Erika has actually eaten here as i cannot believe this food is a true representation of Greek food, actually it was enough to put one of our party OFF Greek food. I would like to contact the owner to share my experience but do not know where to write. I did fill in the contact form on their website but have had no response as of yet.

    • hellocuppies says:

      Hi Rob, I can probably get you an email if you’ve not managed to speak to anyone yet. Just let me know if you don’t hear anything back.

  6. Donna says:

    It’s such a shame you had such an experience. The restaurant looks so lovely – bright and fresh and airy – and the food looks great. What a shame. Also, well done for publishing and responding to those other comments. It’s a shame you had to deal with that though! x

    • hellocuppies says:

      Thanks Donna I think this space has so much potential and really hope that things get better at Lemoni. And those comments were certainly tricky!! X

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