By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Alike many of life’s joys, Greek food is one of those things that I often forget just how much I truly adore. As is the case with all cuisines, Greek can be executed remarkably awfully, yet when perfected; Greek food is absolutely sensational. Plump Kalamata Olives dressed in local Olive Oil, Tzatziki (a Yoghurt and Cucumber-based dip), dried Oregano used as a third seasoning, subtle Feta Cheese, an almost magical use of Filo Pastry, Keftede Meatballs and, of course, Souvlaki.
Fortunately, the kitchen team at new Soho restaurant – Suvlaki – does manage to prepare and grill the latter to a standard that’s really very good. Taking over the space once known as 21 Bateman Street, the 34-seat restaurant is both causal and cozy, boasting a sea of blue walls strewn with Athens’ notorious satirical graffiti, which lends an urban feel to the interior. There’s also an open Robata grill stationed by the entrance, Greek marble tabletops and a feature wall of Acropolis-type stone columns.
To start, we begin with a bowl of umami Kalamata Olives with a selection of Pitas, as well as one of the rare Craft Beers that Suvlaki pride themselves on sourcing from a host of Greek microbreweries. A Septem Pilsner has a good balance between bitter and sweet notes and is poured from the bottle into a copper mug, which changes the taste from delicious bottled Beer to that of canned Beer. Yes there is a difference, although many disagree.Suvlaki skewers, baked Feta, side Greek Salad, Tzatziki and Red Pepper dip.
The menu is very limited, with just a selection of Souvlaki dishes, a duo of Burgers, some Salads, snacks and sides, however it is sometimes better for a restaurant to focus on a perfecting a small selection, juxtaposed to London’s restaurants with library sized menus of poorly assembled dishes. As for the Souvlaki (three skewers for £11 or three mini wraps for £12), there’s a Vegetarian concoction of Mastelo Cheese and Vegetables doused in Honey and Mustard, while four Meats are available.
A personal favourite is the Wild Boar Sausage Souvlaki that’s served with a selection of Mediterranean Vegetables. The Sausage skin is remarkably thick, not dissimilar to Greece’s ordinary Pork Sausages, while the oily filling is rich and delightful. Athenian spiced Lamb Mince is served a little pink and is also wonderful. As for the sides, the Chips make great use of dried Oregano that’s sprinkled onto the cooked Potato, the Greek Salad is simple albeit less exceptional than the Baked Feta which arrives at the table in a wrap of tin foil, topped with salty baked Olives that add a meaty texture to the dish. To finish there’s just one dessert – Chocolate Biscuit Cake with Coffee Ice Cream – so we decide to share. The semi-frozen slab of rich dark Chocolate cake is marvellous, although the Coffee Ice Cream is a little too bitter to enjoy as an accompaniment that compliments the dish.
Suvlaki isn’t just one of the most reasonably priced restaurants in Soho, their authentic Athenian cooking from consulting chef Elias Mamalakis is also very impressive.
Suvlaki can be found at 21 Bateman Street, London, W1D 3AL.