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‘I built a Greek taverna in my back garden in Walsall and host 200 people a night from around the world’

A dad is attracting diners from across the globe after spending £17,500 on building a traditional Greek taverna - in his own back garden.

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Panikos Panayiotou at The Lakis Greek Taverna in the back garden of his home in Walsall

Panikos Panayiotou, 44, forked out tens of thousands of pounds to bring a slice of the Mediterranean to the industrial heartlands of Walsall.

Each year he transforms his suburban semi-detached property into a bustling pop-up Greek restaurant, catering for up to 200 customers a night.

With the help of his wife Michelle and volunteers, Panikos serves up traditional Greek food from his DIY eatery - all to raise money for charity.

The Lakis Greek Taverna - which is also fully licensed - is now attracting visitors from as far away as the USA and gets booked up two months in advance.

Panikos Panayiotou at The Lakis Greek Taverna in the back garden of his home in Walsall

Painkos said: "It can hold about 75 customers outside and in. We can fit 200 in one night - and it’s all in my garden.

“We’ve got a waiting list of people now and we get them from everywhere.

"I get people from Scotland and even from America coming over to visit little old Walsall, it's incredible really.

"Within two hours of opening the booking line two months in advance, we are usually 80 per cent full.

"But we try and cater for walk-ins too, we can end up with people all over the back garden.

"Luckily the neighbours don't mind, they are fantastic on both sides.

"We usually do a street lunch for the locals. They’re great and they love that we’re raising for local causes. We’ve got a lot of support from our local area.”

Guests dining at Laki's Greek Taverna in a Walsall back garden

Panikos decided to construct his 80ft sqm restaurant in memory of his late father Lakis who died from small cell lung cancer in 2012.

Fish and chip shop owner Lakis had started to build his own taverna at his house in his village in Cyprus but passed away before it could be completed.

Panikos said he wanted to honour his dad's memory by finishing the job he was unable to - while raising money for good causes.

The taverna took two months to build and since 2014, he has raised £64,000 for local charities such as Acorns Children's Hospice and helping the homeless.

Panikos, a sports development manager, added: "I built it in memory of my father who passed away from cancer.

"He tried to start it, he half built a restaurant in his garden but passed away before it could be finished.

"Our traditions are to have a relationship with your loved ones in the afterlife, so you do good deeds in memory of them.

"And this is what we do here every year, this is for him.

"My father always wanted to run a traditional Greek taverna from his home and so it's a way of keeping his memory alive and raising much-needed money for charity."

He jokingly added: "He'd probably think I wasn't cooking the food right, that he could do it better.

"But he would praise me, not to me, to others, but if he was here he would be the life of the party."

Painting of Panikos Panayiotou mother at his Greek taverna in his back garden in Walall

The restaurant only serves up freshly home-made, traditional food - prepared by Michelle and a volunteer chef who works at a Marriott hotel as a day job.

Their signature dish is “lamb klefiko” – marinated lamb and potatoes which has been slow-cooked in the clay oven for 8-12 hours.

Desserts include a range of home-made traditional Greek delicatessens, including baklava, coconut cake and Greek chocolate rock cake, called “Doukissa”.

Dad-of-three Panikos added: "I have a fantastic wife who is the strength the the operation - she does all the preparation and the desserts.

“At the start my mother was the driving force as well. She started us off with all the recipes and making sure the food is right. It’s completely traditional.

"I’m second generation Greek Cypriot, and my mum migrated here in 1974 with my father. They came here on a working holiday but they lost their home to the Turkish.

"My parents have embedded into us the power of giving back. I do it for six weeks every year.

“It’s all in house. Now that my mum can’t help it’s mainly me and my wife who do the prep. We have an award winning chef who comes up on the night.”

This year, the team has raised £16,500 to help a three-year-old boy with a brain tumour as well as other good causes.

He added: "Since starting as a pop up we have grown to be a an established third sector organisation that runs a series of projects and fundraisers

“We also have an active foodbank which feeds people every week.

“We have a rainy day fund. When a family needs something like a roof fixing or a microwave or who can’t afford it, they can apply to us. It’s an emergency fund.

“This year we would’ve raised £16,500 in a six week period. It makes us self sustainable as we need £12,500 just to run the charity each year.

“When we started we didn’t expect to be doing it for this long. I want to get to 20 years if we can and help a lot of people along the way.

"We believe in the power of food and heritage to bring people together and create a positive change."

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