There’s no disputing that Greece is a great holiday destination, but if you’re in or near London it turns out you don’t need to travel too far to get a flavour of Greek culture.

IMG_2002Last night I found myself at the Hellenic Centre in Marylebone for an evening of Greek food, music and dancing, which offered an insight into how culture and traditions from the Mediterranean are kept alive and well even on a cold January day in London.

There was a cornucopia of interesting people including Vivian, an American of Greek descent living in London, who shared our table, wine and her emotional state – she was recovering from her teenage grandson telling her he was bailing on the evening via a text message.  It was the latter part of that sentence that put her in turmoil. She said he didn’t realise he couldn’t do that. I suspect he soon will.

IMG_2006Despite being on a table of strangers (and none of us Greek) Vivian was the life and soul, resplendent in many strings of pearls and an updo, holding court with the many visitors who dropped by the table. Elsewhere in the room all ages were represented, an indication that traditions like these continue to matter.

Once the moussaka (spinach pie for the veggies) and dolmades had been disposed of the music tempo changed and the dance floor filled. Arms went around shoulders and feet stamped and flicked.

It wasn’t all Zorba the Greek but there were definitely shades of it. One lively group of 20 and 30 something guys kept the ladies on my table quite transfixed for quite some time.

IMG_2015The occasion was a New Year’s party and included the cutting and then eating of Vasilopitta, a traditional New Year’s Day cake which contains a hidden coin. The person who finds the coin is guaranteed good luck. The cake was very nice and though I didn’t find the coin I did feel lucky to have been party to such a wonderfully traditional evening.

The Hellenic Centre is in Paddington Street, Marylebone and has a calendar filled with lectures, exhibitions, concerts, social events and Greek language courses. So if you fancy a slice of Greek life, London style, why not give it a try..?