Back in the ‘70’s, as an impecunious art student, a first date found us watching The Blue Max at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square. Apart from the romantic delight sparked by my potential new partner, I have no idea as to why I picked that particular film. I had no cultural interest in the acting capabilities of either George Peppard or Ursula Andress and, with the exception of the Conrad inspired Apocalypse Now, war films held little appeal. Perhaps it was the ensuing late night supper nearby that was uppermost in my mind, more so I expect than a poorly rehearsed display of my candle-lit seduction techniques.

Frith Street in Soho, was only a few steps away from the cinema, and I had selected a low budget meal in a particularly low budget restaurant there. A student income governed the evening’s expenditure, and I guess I had overextended on the movie tickets.

Soho in the mid-seventies displayed an invitingly scuzzy, self-governing environment in which to play. Years before the advertising and film industries had colonised the area and glittering restaurant chains had taken an expensive foothold, pornography, weapons grade alcoholism, a flourishing streetwalking industry and low-rent restaurants constituted the apogee of its cultural life. As China Town had yet to be sanctioned by the cognoscente, it was Italian, Greek and Turkish food that prevailed which was, in turn, principally consumed by newly domiciled Italians, Greeks and Turks.

But indigenous restaurant prices for low paid arrivistes chimed well for students hobbled by meagre incomes. Right next to the Bar Italia, serving cafè correttos and paninis to off duty Italian waiters, was Jimmy’s Restaurant, and Jimmy’s served Ouzo and dolmades to off-duty Greek waiters. It also served the entire editorial staff of an early Private Eye magazine and most students from nearby St Martin’s School of Art. Garde couldn’t have been more Avante for a young student.

Jimmy’s was accessed down a flight of perilously angled stairs to a re-purposed basement where the white-tiled walls and arched ceiling unveiled all the charms of a public urinal. Decorated with kitsch glow-in-the-dark photos of the Acropolis and gaffer-taped rubber softening low metal girders, on which you were likely to undergo some casual treppaning, this was a haven of inexpensive, bohemian independence for all that knew and visited.

And for the many that abseiled its precipitous staircase – this was their first taste of Greek food in London.

Looking back I remember the food appeared to be in the style of ‘rustic/Greek/functional’, and the wine tasted as though it might be better employed in dressing wounds. Selecting wine was simplicity itself, a waiter approached and asked ‘red or white?’ There were no other options. Decision made, he picked up an empty wine bottle from behind the till, disappeared for a couple of minutes to somewhere alarmingly close to the toilets and returned with a full, open-topped bottle of your chosen colour. One didn’t enquire into cellar conditions.

The meal on that first evening together consisted of the obligatory pitta bread and Taramosalata, followed by Dolmades and Kleftiko. I seem to remember we were encouraged to try a slab of the vegetarian option – Spanakopita – Spinach and Feta pie. Perhaps the waiter thought we needed some vitamin rich horta, or maybe that he could up-sell by a few quid. Whatever his motives I agreed as I could barely pronounce the dish in order to decline it. I’m in his debt, as previously untried Greek recipes continue to offer many such delicious surprises, and my attachment to simple Greek food has never waned – amongst other attachments of course.

We have subsequently visited Jimmy’s many times, and in turn, proudly introduced two of our grown up children to its seedy charms. It was, after all, that first date that was later to precipitate our family.

Opened in 1948 when Soho rents were affordable, Jimmy’s closed in 2012 when they weren’t. A truly Greek tragedy.

Spinach and Cheese Pie [Spanakopita] from Greece – The Cookbook (2009) Vefa Alexiadou

120ml olive oil

500g filo [phyllo] pastry

1 kg spinach, chopped

7-8 finely chopped spring onions

15g finely chopped dill

25g finely chopped parsley

500g feta cheese, crumbled

4 tbsp milk

3-4 eggs lightly beaten

4 tbsp melted butter

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F/180°C/Gas mark 4 and brush a 35 cm baking pan with oil

Sprinkle the spinach with a little salt and rub with your fingers

Rinse drain and squeeze out excess water

Combine spinach, spring onions, dill, parsley, cheese, milk, eggs and melted butter in a bowl and season with pepper

Lay half the filo sheets in the prepared pan, one on top of each other, brushing each with oil

Spread the spinach filling evenly on top and cover with the remaining filo sheets, brushing each with oil

Roll up the overhanging filo neatly around the pan

Score into 12 serving pieces and brush the top with oil

Sprinkle a little water and bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown

Serve warm or at room temperature

Wine thoughts

Holidaymakers will have suffered the haphazard charms of Greece’s comedy wine Retsina, probably whilst being challenged by barbequed cephalopods in sight of the Aegean coast.

However for the curious drinker, Greece offers some stunning wines. For those of you who have visited the delightful island of Santorini, you may well have come across the abundantly rich mineral flavours that emanate from Greece’s flagship white grape variety – Assyrtiko. The island, seeped in volcanic ash and pumice stone, provide perfect soil conditions for the exciting, mineral rich, bone-dry acidity of Assyrtiko. Notwithstanding, it’s charismatic savoury profile will partner many olive-oil slicked Greek dishes with ease. Not to be found on every supermarket shelf it has to be said, but well worth seeking out from enthusiastic importers. It may provide you with a new attachment too.