My, has Store Street changed. 10 years ago this street connecting Fitzrovia with Senate House had one solitary sandwich shop. Following a massive makeover it now has more eateries than you can shake a breadstick at, interspersed with art galleries and music shops. Even the petrol station has become a Byron and The College Arms is serving tapas. The students in the area don’t know how lucky they are.
The Life Goddess is in fact a mini-chain of two: the younger branch is in Kingly Court off Carnaby Street, arguably the more restaurant-focused of the two, whilst the Store Street original is more shop-like. The latter provided ideal sanctuary as the tail-end of Hurricane Ophelia lashed its way around England one Sunday evening, temporarily dishevelling my hair like Robert Smith of The Cure. On entering, I was reminded of Paris’ immersive wine shops (e.g. 5eme Cru, Les Quinze Vins) and Rosa’s Vinarium in Kent – that feel of a deli-slash-restaurant, where you can buy food and wine to take away or stop for a bite to eat, all warm and cosy with soft lighting.
Greece produces some fantastic, underrated wines, and it’s very pleasing indeed to see The Life Goddess showcase them
The USP here is that everything is entirely Greek, and ethically sourced: all of the produce, the wine, even the beer (and an interesting selection too, including the ‘Crazy Donkey’ which I wanted to sample but they had unfortunately run out). The wine is of particular note. The Greeks are well known for certain legacies that exist today, including but not limited to philosophy, the Hippocratic Oath and that old chestnut ‘democracy’, but Greece doesn’t get much credit for being one of the first civilisations, if not the first, to harvest grapes for wine production. Way back in the time of the Roman Empire, Greek wine was held in very high esteem. Wine exports then dwindled for many centuries and it was only until the latter part of the 20th century that Greek wines started to be taken seriously again. It isn’t all Retsina – this country produces some fantastic, underrated wines, and it’s very pleasing indeed to see The Life Goddess showcase them.
I’ve always loved Greek food. Give me a salad with feta, olives, cucumber, red onion and virgin olive oil and I’m in heaven. It’s just so simple. And that’s the thing at The Life Goddess: there’s nothing ground-breaking here, it’s just Greek classics done very well, without any of the silly clichés of an accelerating acoustic guitar or smashing of plates. The humus and saganaki weren’t that amazing – the latter was a little salty, truth be told. But my colleague’s moussaka and my lamb kleftiko were heart-warmingly good – the kleftiko especially, which had been cooked so slowly it could’ve been a speed restriction on the M1. The lamb, potatoes and tomato, with oregano and melted cheese, disintegrated in the mouth quicker than a Tory cabinet, the only mild irritant being its presentation in a paper bag. Washed down with a glass of the soft and well-rounded Agiorgitiko Cabernet blend at the incredibly reasonable price of £7.50, the whole meal was the perfect antidote to a stormy, autumnal evening.
The warm ambience was only made warmer by the friendly and informative staff. Little things go a long way, such as the extra pitta bread we got on the house – OK, so this doesn’t cost them much at all but it’s the gesture that counts, being proactive and putting customers first. Things were going so well until I asked for a second glass of wine – a request which was denied because it was 9pm (and no I wasn’t drunk). I get that they close early on Sundays but even still, a little bit of leeway here wouldn’t have gone amiss.
My only other mild complaint is that the church-like chairs could be more comfortable – both my colleague and I found we needed to swap chairs from another table as ours were too low. I find the height of chairs is something easily overlooked by some establishments. I remember in Russell Norman’s trouble-shooting TV series ‘The Restaurant Man’ a few years ago he took restaurateurs to task about this and he’s absolutely correct. Comfort is key. No-one asks for a side order of indigestion with their souvlaki do they?
the Life Goddess is an unalloyed joy and deserves to do well
Overall, the Life Goddess is an unalloyed joy and deserves to do well. But next time, please provide some cushions and don’t deny me a second glass of your fabulous red wine.
29 Store Street
by J A Smith