A Modern Greek Restaurant

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Keen to set up a modern Greek restaurant with a distinctive local feel, Markos Tsimikalis launched Hungry Donkey back in April 2015. Inspired by Hellenic street food, Hungry Donkey brings together fresh flavours, using only the most authentic and traditional ingredients.  From melt in the mouth Zucchini Fritters to Souvlaki Skewers, the all-day restaurant is giving East London a little taste of Greece!

Founder, Markos lets us in on what makes this thriving company tick…

Hungry Donkey restaurant tables

Who/what inspired you to set up Hungry Donkey?

My vision of Hungry Donkey was inspired by the lack of affordable Greek food in London, served in a modern and fun environment.  I realised that there was a demand for simple and tasty dishes giving consumers a flavour of Greek cuisine, as well as reminding people what they may have tasted in Greece and why they fell in love with it. That was the moment I decided to launch Hungry Donkey.

How does your location influence your business?

We chose our location in East London because it’s buzzing with new restaurants and places to go out.  We believed that our no-fuss menu would suit this area and attract those keen to try something different (as there’s little by way of Greek cuisine on offer in this part of town).

East London has had an impact on the décor for our restaurant.  We paid homage to our Greek origins with splashes of Mediterranean influence against a backdrop of industrial design – in keeping with our East London home.  It seemed to be the most appropriate combination!  However, we think Hungry Donkey can make its home nearly anywhere in London and we hope to open more locations in the future. 

What is your unique selling point? What makes your brand stand out in such a competitive market?

Our dishes are 100% Greek and hail from different regions of the country. You will not find hummus on our menu!  We offer traditional favourites like moussaka and spinach pie and our wines are from Greek grape varieties. 

We serve simple dishes made from seasonal and fresh produce and take pride in selecting the very best ingredients.  Our olives, wild oregano, Himalayan salt and Graviera goat’s cheese are all great examples of this.  Only free range meat from reputable farmers is used in our menu, such as Colne Valley lamb and Blythburgh pork.  Even though our signature dish is meat-based, we offer delicious options for vegetarians and vegans, as this is the nature of Greek cuisine.

How do you react to the changing marketplace?

We always try to stay ahead of what people expect from us without compromising our ethos and identity: simple, fresh and delicious Greek food. 

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing foodservice businesses like yourselves today?

Financing is very important.  If you do not have sufficient funds available then it is a constant struggle to finance a small business at the early stages. 

As a business, what are you doing to overcome this challenge?

We are extremely focused on delivering value for our customers and the business.  We have built a solid business plan that was financed from the outset which enabled us to offer the high quality we wanted from the very beginning.  I’d advise other operators to factor in for margin of error and make sure any shortcomings do not compromise the quality of the business.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

Never be the guy that looking back says: “That was my idea, why didn’t I just go for it?”

What is the one piece of advice you would give to other chefs/entrepreneurs looking to succeed in the industry?

Take your time, do lots of research and let others scrutinize your idea.  If you still see the sense and commercial opportunity, then jump right in!  Do not let people overly influence you; remember that everyone has an opinion – do not lose the strength of your convictions.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love working for myself and constantly learning.  It always feels like a day at school in this business!

What are your food predictions?

I believe food and menus will start reverting to simple ideas that don’t need much over-engineering. People will start valuing more healthy styles of cooking and will demand reasonable price points without a lot of fanfare.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I would like to manage a couple of Hungry Donkey sites in and outside of London, working hard towards promoting the best Greece has to offer!

What’s your signature dish?

Souvlaki pita wrap. We offer a choice of meats (chicken, pork, lamb, wild boar, and leek Greek sausage) or a vegetarian option as well as optional halloumi cheese

When you get the chance, where do you enjoy eating out?

At a quiet seaside tavern on a Greek island – nothing beats that.

What’s the one piece of kitchen equipment you couldn’t live without?

My combi-steamer oven both at home and the restaurant – it does everything!