From Hellas to Heathfield – how a young Greek couple created a thriving business in a small East Sussex town
Dora and Thanasis are from the coastal Greek town of Volos, one of the largest and most attractive cities in Greece. This busy town is backed by the mountainous region of Pelion and enjoys a wonderful seafront with charming little restaurants and of course some beautiful beaches.
However, Dora and Thanasis said goodbye to this beautiful spot after they fell in love with East Sussex. A chance holiday to visit friends in 2013 resulted in their decision to leave Volos, and their restaurant, in favour of moving to the UK in 2014. Once here, they swiftly opened a tiny bistro in the agricultral town of Heathfield. Pilio Bistro took shape when they moved into a failing cafe on the High Street, boasting only around 20 covers, the restaurant quickly thrived. The menu was faithful to their Greek heritage and the bistro soon became a firm favorite with locals and those from further a field. The only issue was trying to secure a table, as the place was always full.
The menu focuses on Greek specialities including: souvlaki meat skewers, Giaourtlou meat balls, Prawn Saganaki , Tigania, Spetsofai and Keftedakia Tiganita, and greek twists on favourites like the Pilio Burger which uses greek herbs and seasonings and is topped with Kasseri Cheese. Being a cuisine with mediterranean roots, there are a selection of dishes suitable for vegetarians. Deserts include Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts, Boklavas and makedomikos halvas. They have a varied wine list including Greek wines and a selection of soft drinks.
“Where possible we use local Sussex suppliers and when we can, we bring in products from our farm in Greece. Our olive oil has been especially popular.” explained Thanasis, Pilio Owner and Chef.
After several years building a successful business, and two children later, this determined couple saw the opportunity they had been looking for in early 2019. When the old Cook store closed down, the Old Station building came up for rent. They quickly jumped on the chance, and secured the premises for a new larger restaurant and lounge bar.
“We fell in love with this beautiful old station building, the history of the railway and its position in the town attracted us. Even better is the fact that we now have a much larger space for diners, a sheltered outdoor area and enough room to open a lounge bar alongside the restaurant. We have also increased what we offer and now welcome people for breakfast during the week, lunch and dinner and a new Sunday lunch opening. ” commented Dora, Pilio Owner and Front of House.
The new Pilio opened in February 2019 and has retained its position as one of the most popular places to eat in Heathfield. The restaurant will be open in the run up to Christmas and will welcome Christmas get togethers with a typically Greek take on Christmas.
The extra space means that a bar area can now welcome those who just want to enjoy drinks; and a new lounge bar will soon be opening in a separate room making it ideal for intimate parties. There is talk of a celebratory cocktail being created in time for the Heathfield Christmas activities this year. And guess what it’s going to be called – yes, you guessed it The Cuckoo Cocktail – as yet the ingredients remain secret, but we look forward to a tasting some time soon!
Contact Dora at Pilio for restaurant bookings, and to discuss private party requirements. 01435863376