Carol Emmas chats to Dimi Giamaris who is cooking up a storm on Lark Lane, talking about how dedication to his dreams is the base of his success
We all have those wow-moment food memories. Odd, that we rarely recall our fine-dining moments in such detail. But I do recall in the 1990s buying a €3 fluffy envelope of bread stuffed with the freshest chicken, tzatziki, salad and fries from a traditional Corfu hole-in-the-wall. It hit the mark so perfectly it still resonates three decades later.
Delivering that wow factor is the main aim of Dimi Giamaris, director and head chef of Meat Me. For him, it’s all about using the freshest ingredients in a progressive street-food style. “I think many restaurants nowadays overtry. They put a lot of effort into trying to please everyone. It is very difficult to do something simple and make it work. Yet, simplicity is what I believe in. The only flavourings we use are salt and pepper as a base. The rest is down to our quality products, the type of meat we use and the sauces we make.”
I want to bring people together. I’m a creative person. I love food. I love hospitality, and I like to keep guests happy.
Opened in 2022, the menu is based on the modern Mediterranean diet: meat, salad, gyros/souvlaki, fries and a host of sides and dips. For Dimi, the importance is in the way they are cooked and how those ingredients are tied together. Plus, everything, including the sauces, is prepared in-house daily. Also, it might be in the name, but Meat Me is not all about meat. “We also do fabulous vegan food. Someone ordered a vegan dish recently and said they thought we’d given them the wrong order and given them actual meat. They said it was the best meat-free meat they’d tasted.”
Not short on ambition, Dimi’s intentions are to create a chain of independent Meat Me restaurants. He’s confident it will work because he feels it has the perfect formula of sticking firmly to tradition while also experimenting by constantly developing new ideas. He is so committed to creating an authentic experience that he orders the meat from Greece. “You can’t expect to give people the experience they had on their holiday if you buy in meat locally. The meat has to be produced in that country to get the real flavour experience.”
It’s not like Dimi has gone towards street food as a quick route into the business, either. Hailing from Athens, he has been in the industry for over 20 years, beginning as a kitchen porter in the Athens-based Michelin-starred restaurant, Varoulko. He wanted to learn from the best. He then worked his way up over six years to become a head chef.
“I was 12 when I knew I wanted to cook,” he says. “That came from my grandma. I always remember the smell coming from her house when she was cooking something unique. I knew the exact moment it was ready when the aromas hit my face.”
Moving to England at age 25, he has brought all the nostalgia, warmth, and family-friendly relationships of home into Meat Me. “The restaurant is all about my childhood,” he says. “It's all from my memories. The colours in the restaurant were all from my house and my grandma’s house. The flowers on the ceiling come from memories of our yard that was covered in them. We have a dialogue with the people who eat here. They know us by name, who we are, and why we are here. Sometimes they’ll just pop in to say hello, or for a drink. We like and they like that family vibe.”
Having worked in and been around the fine dining experience, you can see that it has had a sobering effect. Like Carmen Berzatto, in the hit Disney + series, The Bear. Carmy, an award-winning chef, returns to Chicago from Copenhagen to take over his brother’s chaotic fast-food joint after his unexpected suicide. As the series progresses, you can see that suddenly he clicks into gear and begins to connect with the food and the people on a deeper, more rewarding level. A level he never found when catering to the elite.
“For me, fine dining is very strategic,” says Dimi. “You can’t be yourself or be relaxed. It’s cold. I enjoy seeing happy faces, seeing people have a drink and have a chat, and creating a moment they can remember. That’s why the name is Meat Me, I want to bring people together. I’m a creative person. I love food. I love hospitality, and I like to keep guests happy.”
He adds: "I know how to cook every type of food, but these reasons are why my passion became street food and not fine dining.”
Dimi is also right at home in the Lark Lane experience. “Even in 2012/2013, when I was laying out the restaurant plan in my head, I was saying this street is built for what we wanted to do. I believe it has given me the opportunity to do unique things. You have Italian restaurants, Turkish, Greek, Indian, and Japanese. You have every type of food and that is great for attracting a lot of people. “
The future of Meat Me hangs on making the restaurant sustainable and the food attractive enough so people always return. Then he will gradually introduce new dishes and soon, cocktails. “You can’t get fresher ingredients than us, and the thing is, we’re affordable. You don’t have to save up your money to come and eat with us.”
He adds: “But we do want people to make memories and say, remember when we had that amazing food at Meat Me?”