New Zealand’s Greek community keeping cooking traditions alive

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Speaking from personal experience, when going to another country the first thing most Greeks do is go on the internet to see where the nearest Greek restaurant is.

For those planning a trip to New Zealand, Greek locals spoke with Stuff.co.nz to reveal the best and most authentic Greek restaurants in the country.

Auckland

Most places serving Greek dishes will do it alongside other Mediterranean food – often Turkish or Italian. El Greco (Campbell’s Bay) and Niko’s Pizza (Takapuna) both have Greek dishes amidst their Italian offerings, and Lokanta does a mix of Turkish and Greek. Gerome in Parnell turns out modern Greek, and of course there’s Emily’s Greek Kitchen for souvlaki in Browns Bay on the weekends.

Wellington

Oikos Hellenic Cuisine​ is dearly loved by the community, as is takeaway joint Souvlaki at Acropolis​.

There are also food trucks that do the rounds – Louko Meli Loukoumades​ for Greek doughnut balls, and The Greek Food Truck​ for souvlaki, salads and spinach pie.

Christchurch

In Christchurch, it’s all about Costas Taverna Greek Restaurant and Ouzo Bar​. The Athens Yacht Club​ also comes recommended, and of course the well-loved Dimitris Greek Food​ has been bringing Cantabrians Greek joy since 1985.

Keeping traditions alive

Speaking to Stuff.co.nz, Stella Bares, who is a former president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Wellington and recipient of the Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for services to the Greek community, reveals her efforts in keeping Greek food traditions alive.

Every year the Greek Orthodox Community of Wellington holds Paniyiri, a Greek food festival. Photo: STELLAR STUDIOS LTD

“We still celebrate Greek Easter like they do in Greece. Some people fast [no fish, meat, eggs and dairy] for 50 days for lent, and that fast is broken after midnight mass on Easter Sunday with a traditional soup called Mayeritsa​.

“The preparation for the big Easter meal can go for a week beforehand. It will always involve lamb – often a whole one on a spit – with plenty of other traditional dishes. At Christmas we still make Greek kourabiedes​ and melomakarona​ [traditional biscuits] like we would have back home.”

Bares does cooking demonstrations for the Hellenic New Zealand Congress​, and every year the Greek Orthodox Community of Wellington​ holds Paniyiri​, a Greek Food festival that is growing year-on-year. From a small gathering back in the 1970s, guest numbers regularly hit more than 12,000 now, crowds flocking for the souvlaki, pita bread, calamari, baklava, loukoumades and good-time Greek vibes.

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