There’s a wonderful Peter Sellers sketch where, when extolling the virtues of Balham as the gateway to the south, the reporter that Sellers is playing goes into a café. To every request for something on the menu, he’s met with the fact that it’s off: tea, bread, milk, honey – all the staples of a café, it seems, are off.
I was reminded of this when first sat at Suvlaki: no lamb mince, pork loin or Greek burger. Considering that lamb and pork kebabs are really what this is about, that is poor. That of the half a dozen beers the one I first chose was off too, made me wonder if I was being set up for some Punk’d style jolly jape.
The room itself is small and narrow, with the tables so close together that every time the lady at the next table bent down to pick something out of her bag, we got a plateful of her hair. Lovely hair, but I don’t really want it in my food. And this was a Sunday lunch when the tables are arrayed in fours: when set up for couples, there would be no room to get between them unless you’re a super model, an attribute that you need if sitting on the sofa side of the tables, which have more stuffed cushions on than my gran‘s used to have.
The food isn’t half bad. If that seems like damming with faint praise, it isn’t meant to be, it’s just that there isn’t really much that you can do with skewers of meat cooked over charcoal. Yes they’re nicely charred if a little on the dry side, but a starter of three skewers and a main of two more, with a side of Greek salad is simple, plain stuff. Even with three beers, this cannot cost over fifty quid. That is, quite frankly, taking the proverbial P.
So whilst Suvlaki would make a great local takeaway, it’s sort of lost between the cheaper, local cafes and the more expensive restaurant-bars, that offer something a bit more. If you want the best skewers of grilled meat, sitting on super thin flatbread, soaking up its own juices at a fair price, I’d go to Fairuz.