Kosmos is an institution in Manchester. Only opened in 1981, this Greek restaurant located in student city, Fallowfield (sandwiched between curry mile in Rusholme and the hot spot that is Didsbury) feels like it has been around forever. It was in the early years feted by Rgon Ronay and the Good Food Guide, but still sells the same food in the same way regardless. Fallowfield is a lot scruffier than once it was but Taverna Kosmos is still there and has barely changed in the meantime. In an uncertain world, this eatery is one of the few dependable things afforded to us.
Granted the staff have changed in the meantime, so my mother was disappointed that the waiter who looked like Groucho Marx and told awful jokes at the drop of a hat (as my friend Roy puts it, “Christmas cracker rejects”) had jumped ship and can now apparently be found in another Greek Cypriot eatery in Stockport, though the waiter at Kosmos was also a true character – albeit avoiding corny jokes as props.
As we entered (5:20pm) the restaurant was empty, but filled up rapidly. By the time we left, the place was humming with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, not least some Greek Cypriots paying homage to the old country.
We took advantage of the equivalent of Happy Hour at the Kosmos, whereby you get three courses for £15 from a limited but quite acceptable menu, rather than going the whole hog from the ALC menu. The latter is lengthy but does include a fair variety of charcoal-grilled fishy dinners, much beloved by my dad when they went as a couple. For these purposes, the set menu was a good choice and an economical one when coupled with a half litre carafe of palatable Greek house dry white.
Mum had dips to start, I had felafel. Felafel is a marvellous starter, cooked fresh. Somehow the soubriquet “deep-fried chickpea fritters” fails to do it justice. These were good and home made, though they didn’t quite have the radiant heat of having come direct from the deep frier. It was served with pitta and a small pot of hummus, a ubiquitous middle eastern starter which also tasted home-made.
We both plumped for mixed kebabs as main courses, one a lamb shish, the other pork. They were served in this case with a moulded portion of cracked wheat, a tired attempt at salad garnish, and a welcome gravy boat apiece, each filled with a savoury sauce of lip-stinging pungency. Maybe not the best kebabs you ever ate but still pretty good. Finally, the dessert menu: semolina cake for mum and a really excellent Greek-style trifle (no jelly but rosewater-flavoured custard!) for me. Mum was happy and all was well.
Do try Kosmos, if only for the fact that it’s as close to a true Greek Cypriot taverna as any you will find, even if the new generation of Greek restaurants are doing haute cuisine, Greek style. Never compromise your standards and you can never go far wrong! Think next time I go back I’ll do a la carte and find some authentic Greek stuff buried away in the hidden depths. Never a disappointment, and many fascinating discoveries to be made on the way!