This tiny venue has been an outpost of Greece for a while, but Suvlaki has made big changes in décor and even bigger changes in the level of cooking. Its predecessor here, simply named 21 Bateman Street, was nothing more than average. Suvlaki is well above that, and more.
The décor, however, needs more than a passing nod. This is a seriously good-looking place, showing clear evidence of careful thought and liberal spending. If you’re sitting with your back to them, make sure you check out the fluted columns along the side wall. We assumed they were cast in concrete, perhaps in south London. In fact they’re the real thing, reclaimed, and Italian. The marble table-tops are from Greece, tiles from Morocco. All this makes Suvlaki a real pleasure to sit in.
When the food arrives, you realise it’s also a pleasure to eat in. The menu’s short and simple: mini-wraps (served in threes), skewers, a few other sandwiches, a few snacks, a few starters, a few sides. The cooking’s done in the small kitchen right inside the door, which makes a nice spectacle if you can take your eyes off those columns.
What sets Suvlaki apart is the care taken with buying, seasoning and cooking. Supremely gamey wild boar sausages (from a farm on Mount Olympus, no less) are of five-star quality. The pork is from rare breeds. Succulent chicken thighs are rich with herby flavour. All the wraps are garnished individually, a nice touch. The Greek salad is of superior quality, even if the portion could be a bit more generous, and the tzaziki features notably tangy, creamy yoghurt. Greek coffee is properly made.
If you’re in drinking mode, you’re in luck. The quartet of all-Greek wines includes two at £22, and even more intriguing is the list of beers from Greek micro-breweries – all names that were unfamiliar to us.
Suvlaki is by no means extortionate, but don’t expect a cheapo kebab-shop-type meal. A full lunch without drinks will set you back around £30 to £35 for two. Alcohol will raise the spend considerably.
But we thought it was worth it. And when I say ‘we’ I mean me and a companion who has travelled extensively in Greece. A welcome addition, even in the restaurant-rich environment of Soho, and a welcome reminder that not all news of Greece is bad news.