Back in the seventies, whilst transitioning between impecunious art student and manqué sculptor, I was pleased to accept any and all invitations to attend select private views that generally preceded most art exhibitions.

Be it in a national museum, ad hoc pop-up in a trendy warehouse or an impenetrable and forbidding Mayfair art gallery, such attendances offered a propitious dual purpose. Firstly, it always extended my cultural reach and gave me first-hand access to  paintings and sculptures sometimes unavailable to the general public, and secondly, it was a dead cert that the wine and canapés on offer would be a touch superior to the frugal tidbits to be found in the makeshift kitchen of my Ladbroke Grove flat.

Culture with a free supper thrown in, what’s not to seize upon?

Although canapés and wine varied from gallery to gallery, one usually managed to leave suitably replete. The mission of the evening was, after all, quantity over quality

On the odd occasion when private caterers hadn’t delivered the nibbles in time or the wine had already been conclusively snaffled by sharp-witted attendees, a late, inexpensive supper was the order of the day. The rituals were clear and unspoken. On exiting the show, either share the cab fare amongst half a dozen like-minded guests (often to the visible annoyance of the cabbie) or teeter, via Shanks’s pony, to London’s Fitzrovia district (sited equidistantly between the Cork Street galleries and the British Museum). From there a well-rehearsed beeline propelled you along Charlotte Street and into the welcoming Greek quarter.

Just like the private view, the allure was both cultural and gastronomic.

On a fine spring or summer’s evening, Charlotte Street was littered with small tables set alongside a profusion of Greek restaurants – the closest one came to what passed as bohemian café society in seventies London. Unlike its counterparts in Milan or Paris though, our treasured café society was strictly weather permitting. And in London, the weather infrequently bestowed its permission. But when it did, and Dionysus blessed the pagan diners, pavements thronged, and one found oneself almost knee deep in Pitta bread and discarded olive stones. Close your eyes, ignore the scavenging feral pigeons and assertive marketing of local courtesans, and one could be effortlessly transported to the edge of a cobalt-blue Aegean at the foot of oregano-steeped hills. Et in arcadia ego. Well almost.

Apart from an unrequested plate of grilled Pitta bread accompanied by the obligatory dish of pickled chillies, both plonked onto the table with a jug of water – these were times before obsequious waiters began to ask if “sir required still or sparkling?” – the menu was principally of interest for the first few lines of its classical prudence. We rarely got past a couple of dolmades starters and a large bowl of cheap Greek soup, a dish which frequently provided the culinary mainstay of the evening.

Having been brought up on coagulating tins of Campbells and Heinz, I was not a natural soup whisperer. But fresh, frugal Greek soup always offered identifiable vegetables (occasionally with morsels of chicken or fish), floating playfully atop a simple broth. Wine of the day was usually a pichet of nameless Retsina – in retrospect I can understand its desire for anonymity – whose pine-bark and Hellenistic acidity still managed to cut through herb-rich soups with some gusto. All this, coupled with a pocket full of change from a student’s daily food budget at the end of the evening, and one might well have been in arcadia itself – especially given the economic downside normally associated with dining out in a capital city.

By way of corroboration, only a few yards away along Oxford Street, in the full decadent glory of a Berni Inn restaurant (millennials, you’ll need to Google that one), a mucus-like cream of mushroom was presented as Soup of the Day at around three times the price.

Across the vagaries of global gastronomic fashion and fusion manifestations, most indigenous Greek cuisine could probably still be recognised by citizens of an early classical civilisation (which is more than can be said of Berni’s cream of mushroom) and today remains as one of the last bastions of what we groovy westerners call the Mediterranean Diet.

Dine in with Dionysus. Truly good, home-made Greek soup that’s fit for the Gods, it’s still cheap and delicious and healthy. And if you ask a passing Greek to name their most cherished soup, the smart money says it’ll be Avgolemono – chicken and rice, enriched with free-range eggs and spiked with tart lemon juice. Thoroughly civilised.

Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce [Kotosoupa Avgolemono] from Greece – The Cookbook. (2009) Vefa Alexiadou

Serves 4 – 6

1 small chicken, about 1.5 kg

50g butter

1 small carrot, peeled and halved

1 small onion, halved

1 stick celery, sliced

Salt and Pepper

100g rice (or Orzo)

1-2 eggs

5 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Remove and discard the skin from the chicken

Rinse the chicken well inside and out under cold running water, then put it into a large pan and pour water to cover

Bring to a boil over low heat, skimming off the scum that rises to the surface

Add the butter, carrot, celery and onion

Season with salt and pepper and cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender

Remove the chicken and vegetables, set aside and keep warm

Strain the stock into a clean pan, bring back to the boil, add the rice (or Orzo), and stir well

Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender

Meanwhile beat the eggs in a bowl with the lemon juice

Gradually beat in a ladlefull of the hot soup, then stir the mixture into the soup

Remove the pan from the heat

Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve hot, accompanied by the chicken and vegetables