A visit to Suvlaki in Soho was long overdue, I mean, I’m Greek after all! Tantalising me with their appetising food on Instagram, I knew it was just a matter of time before I paid this establishment of fine Greek food a visit. The great thing about having a blog is that you get to meet lovely people along the way, one such girl is Louise from LouiseLovesLondon who is a big fan of Suvlaki. It’s how I first got to find out about this charming little restaurant, in fact, it’s next door to a seafood restaurant called Bonnie Gull which I visited in February. With its vivid blue façade, Greek grafitit and barbeque grill in full view, it’s hard not to notice the buzz of atmosphere inside, a warm traditional Greek welcome awaits everybody entering Suvlaki, I was feeling right at home.
With that in mind, I cancelled a booking I’d made for another restaurant in favour of Suvlaki and fortunately, we managed to secure a booking last Saturday. It’s tiny inside just like Bonnie Gull next door, a row of tightly packed tables, hungry people tucking into small sharing plates. The barbeque grill was smoking and the aroma hypnotising, that familiar charcoal smell taking me right back to my holidays in Cyprus where my family are from. We opted to sit at the small seating area by the window, at least that space was ours knowing Mr LmP gets a tad claustrophobic sitting in between other diners at such close proximity.
We were served by a jovial Venezuelan waiter called Gabriel, Mr LmP guessed right, he explained the concept of the sharing plates at Suvlaki. Greeks call sharing plates Meze, I’d like to think we invented this concept! I actually prefer sharing plates to three large plates of food preferring to order from a tasting menu where possible, you get to enjoy 5-6 smaller dishes without feeling fit to burst. The Italians have a similar tradition called Chicchetti descending from the beautiful city-on-water, Venice, which you can find in many Italian restaurants in London, my favourite being Polpo and of course, the Spanish have tapas.
We were advised to order 3-5 dishes each so we began with 3 each. I had already made up my mind I was having a couple of dishes that had me salivating from their Instagram photos, the Courgette Fritters and Cheese Nibble, I also picked Octopus. Mr LmP picked the Mount Olympus Wild Boar, Chicken Kebab and Gloucester Old Spot Pork. First to arrive were the Courgette Fritters, crunchy on the outside and full of soft green courgette on the inside, light and fluffy, the smoked Applewood cheddar topped with nigella seeds was the perfect accompaniment.
I was totally in love with the Cheese Nibble, the fig jam elevated this simple dish to something outstanding. I’m not a lover of Halloumi (traditional Cypriot cheese) so when Mr LmP said I was eating Halloumi, I was a bit taken aback. I often wonder, am I actually Greek? because I dislike olives and I don’t eat the traditional Greek ham called Lounza or the famous Greek village bean stews, Fasolia and Black-eyed beans (Louvin), I can also do without the thick mud-like Greek coffee. The cheese was in fact Mastelo, a similar cheese to Halloumi – let’s just say it’s the Greek equivalent to the Cypriot counterpart and one that I prefer, this was served in small triangles of pitta, I absolutely loved this dish.
The other dish with the wow factor was the Mount Olympus Wild Boar, again quite like a Cypriot spicy sausage called Pastourma, this was served alongside a finely cut coleslaw and aubergine dip, we had devoured all these dishes in a matter of minutes.
I think my all-time favourite was the Octopus which was served with fava, capers and parsley, octopus is a very difficult fish to get right often becoming rubbery and horrid like car tyres. This however was succulent, my knife sliding through so effortlessly, this was properly cooked octopus and totally spot on. I could have ordered another portion and wished that I did. It was served with a little bit of fava which is a type of Greek bean very popular in Greece, here, it was made into a puree. Quite unusual to find these perfect accompaniments served alongside food in a Cypriot restaurant as usually, dips are served at the beginning of a meal with pitta as an appetiser. I absolutely loved how Suvlaki had these gorgeous and very different little dips alongside each dish.
We ordered another couple of dishes making that 4 each, in all honesty, I could have quite happily ordered another two after this and been satisfyingly full, am I greedy? Well we didn’t have any potatoes or carbs, so we were essentially just eating salad and meat which is fine by me. Of course, we also had some drinks, Mr LmP decided to go for a Greek lager called Fix and I chose a carafe of white wine called Kokotos Argimi 2015. The Greeks and Cypriots aren’t really known for their wines unlike their Italian, French and Spanish cousins so I wasn’t really expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised, the floral and citrus aromas of this wine was so easy to drink and the perfect accompaniment to this delicious feast of meat, fish and poultry.
Our last two dishes were Spicy Prawn with kale, dill and rose aioli and Aged Scottish Texel Lamb alongside an unusual chilli beetroot, vegetable couscous and herb sauce, there was an unmistakable hint of lamb in the sauce which marries so well with lamb. Both these dishes were outstanding, in fact the WHOLE of Suvlaki’s menu is outstanding!
During our meal, we were paid a visit by a stunning looking Greek lady (think Helen of Troy who launched a thousand ships, the Greek genes are King) her name was Irini and I believe she has a managerial role within the Suvlaki group. She introduced herself and instantly knew who I was (we follow each other on social media). I was so happy to meet her and converse in Greek, our dialects are slightly different, but we can perfectly understand each other.
Mr LmP hardly ever has dessert, so it was left to me to try something, dessert is very limited at Suvlaki because both Greeks and Cypriots aren’t typically dessert eaters sticking usually to fruit especially watermelon or spoon sweets (sweet fruit preserves) which I find offensively sweet. I decided to go for an ice cream made from Mastiha which is a resin found on the bark of the Mastic tree, it has a unique flavour which I can’t quite describe, it features in a lot of Greek and Cypriot breads and desserts. The ice cream was served with cherry spoon sweets, but the cherries were tiny, and it really wasn’t too sweet, the ice cream was gorgeous and quite sticky because Mastiha is essentially gum! We were also offered some Mastiha liqueur which was delicious, I can liken it to ouzo but sweeter with the unmistakable scent of Mastiha, it’s something I am going to buy. The other dessert I wanted to try was the orange and almond cake, I feel sure it’s made with semolina, a popular addition to Greek cakes, next time because there WILL be a next time.
Our evening was coming to and end, we both agreed that we had feasted on some amazing Greek food, if only we could have ordered another couple of dishes! The service is fantastic, the waiters and waitresses serving you with a smile and a chat. Yes, the restaurant is tiny, but it adds to its charm, it’s full of atmosphere and the vibe is fun and noisy, the air thick with the smell of charcoal sending me right back to my holidays in Cyprus as I eagerly anticipate my next visit to Suvlaki.
21 Bateman Street
0207 287 6638
161 Brick Lane
London E1 6SB
Our bill came to £103 with service.