{eat} Memories and Melomakarona at Yiayia’s Table: an ode to Elli

For most of us, some of our earliest food memories were made around a grandmother’s table, or in her warm kitchen, with the smell of cookies fresh out of the oven. At Yiayia’s Table there’s a seat for everyone,  whilst Yiayia Elli’s legacy lives on in her recipes, her family and now, in the heart of this passionate little Greek bakery.

Introduction

Few things in life excite me as much as a freshly baked pastry, biscuit, cake or bread. It’s no secret that I enjoy my carbs thoroughly, but I pick them carefully and intentionally. An invitation to spend a Saturday morning grazing at Yiayia’s Table came as if sent by Hermes;  wrapped in a golden halo of true Greek hospitality.

Background

Owner Dimitri Parolis’ grandmother, Elli Parolis, is the inspiration behind the idea of Yiayia’s Table. “Yiayia” is Greek for grandmother. She arrived in South Africa from the island of Lesvos in Greece in 1937 as a mail order bride to marry Jimmy Parolis, an immigrant from  Lesvos, who had established himself in Cape Town a decade earlier and was ready to marry a local girl from his village, Plomari.

Yiayia Elli’s outpouring of unconditional love manifested in the pleasure of feeding not only her extended family, but also friends and visitors. These joyous meals took place around her yellow kitchen table, accompanied by wholesome conversations with those she loved most.

A new chapter

The journey to Yiayia’s Table was not an easy one, framed against the parameters of the ongoing COVID pandemic and another completely different family business running parallel to this process. Forced by the current pandemic to change tack in their business model Dimitri and his wife, Kathy, turned to Yiayia Elli’s handwritten recipe books for this passion project.

The chapter started with the careful and meticulous translation of Yiayia Elli’s recipes over months. The next phase, and probably the most difficult, was scaling up these heirloom recipes for commercial use, without Dimitri having any baking background other than a love for food.

Throwing all caution to the wind and fueled by a sense of purpose, Dimitri and his family spent a year testing and tasting, upskilling themselves to fulfil this vision. They lastly employed a small team of restaurant staff who were retrenched during lockdown and taught them the secrets and magic of Yiayia’s food.

Today, the bakery replicates authentically Greek delicacies on a larger scale without diluting the love and care they were originally handcrafted with.

The venue

Jimmy and Elli owned and ran a Tea Room / supermarket and then butchery, in the very space Dimitri and Kathy’s bakery is situated today. Tucked into a popular little street in Mowbray, Yiayia’s Table stands proudly against the backdrop of Table Mountain, here where Yiayia Elli made a home for her and her family. 

The first thing you notice when you walk into Yiayia’s Table, is the large 10-seater table in the middle of the floor, flanked by a small scattering of round cafe tables. A striking visual feature of the bakery, it’s a constant reminder of the Parolis roots and the original inspiration for the space.

Decorated in clean, crisp white with accents of light wood, grey and  fern green, Yiayia’s Table is bright, airy and inviting. The second thing you see is Dimitri’s face behind the counter, taking orders and chatting to customers. Kathy was doing her rounds at the tables, stopping to catch up with locals, laughter permeating the cafe. Pleasantly buzzing for a Saturday morning, I quietly crossed my fingers that there will be some treats left over after all the regulars collected their self-serve weekend breakfasts.

The menu

With the smell of fresh coffee wafting from behind the counter, I perused the glass counters with the eagerness of a child before their birthday. Dimitri gave us a visual tour of all the cakes, bakes and biscuits on offer, as well as the savoury spiral pies and bread rings, or Koulouria in Greek.

Their menu also includes some naturally gluten-free treats, as well as Keto-friendly and dairy free options. There’s even milk-alternatives available for that intensely aromatic Greek coffee you so desperately need in your life (have you tried a Greek coffee yet?!).

The experience

Dimitri generously offered us a curated selection of treats for the table, paired with Greek coffees. I was expecting a small plate of biscuits to arrive, but instead we got one of everything on the menu, almost! I really had to show some self-restraint to not break into one of the bread rings before taking photos of the very photogenic (and heavily laden!) table.

YiaYia’s Table‘s full menu can be viewed HERE, but I’ll pick out a few of my favourites for your indulgence. A great start to any day is a Koulouri – a dense bread ring topped with sesame seeds, which you can have stuffed or plain. My personal favourite was the filled olive Koulouri; great for eating on the go with a coffee. The perfect combination of crunchy to creamy, it’s stuffed with black olives, feta and cream cheese.

Nothing beats a proper Spanakopita in my books, and its the one dish I can make in The Little House without a recipe as I’ve made it so many times. YiaYia’s Spanakopita spiral pie is filled to the phyllo with spinach and feta, in an addictively crispy pastry blanket. They also have chicken and mushroom and three cheese spiral pies. You can buy these frozen, to heat and eat conveniently at home.

And then of course there’s the Kourabiedes, or Greek shortbread. The truest treasure of Greek cuisine. A humble little halfmoon biscuit which can take more than 24 hours to perfect, if done the traditional way, as Yiayia’s Table pride themselves on doing.

And more…

A last recommendation (only because I promised myself not to write a novella!) would be to buy the cinnamon and orange coffee biscuits in bulk. They are incredibly delicious and more-ish to the point where you can devour a handful of them in quite a short amount of time, with relatively low guilt!

I’ll have to go back for the old-fashioned buttermilk pound cake soon – Dimitri’s personal favourite and staple breakfast item. Not that I will ever need to look for a reason to take a seat at Yiayia’s Table again.

In conclusion

An absolute must visit for any discerning foodie, take some time out at Yiayia’s Table and have a chat with Dimitry and Kathy; they will wrap you up in true Greek hospitality. Grab a coffee and a pie over the morning’s newspaper or put together a lovely selection of artisinal baked goods for slow midday feasting. 

Thank you so much, Dimitri and Kathy, for inviting us to linger a bit longer around Yiayia’s Table. Thank you for filling your beautiful bakery space with so much tangible love, passion and precious memories. After all these years, and for many more years to come, Yiayia Elli will continue to unite people around her table through her devoted love and passion for good food.  Na eisai kala!

Second photographer: The Tall Hedonist, aka Timothy P. Gibson

The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.

The Little Hedonist endorses responsible drinking.
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