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21 Bateman Street
What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot at this address: formerly Greek skewer restaurant 21 Bateman Street. The owners decided to close that establishment and transform the decor, yet leave the menu largely intact and reopen as Suvlaki. The tiny interior couldn’t look more different; it’s now a striking combination of dark-blue walls, concrete Athenian-style pillars, suspended bare light bulbs and ugly graffiti. Extra covers have also been squeezed in – claustrophobics beware. Fortunately, the great food hasn’t changed. Soft pork souvlaki wraps are the highlight, stuffed with charcoal-grilled flesh and drizzled with tangy tzatziki. Baked feta comes foil-wrapped to retain its deliciously piquant juices; oregano-sprinkled chips make a perfectly crisp accompaniment; and the ‘exuberance’ sharing menu is great value, especially for Soho. With pitta bread, wild-boar sausage, wines and beers all imported from Greece, Suvlaki is big on air miles, atmosphere and flavour, but exceedingly small on elbow room.
Cheap eats in London
21 Bateman Street
Tottenham Court Road Tube Station 169m
Leicester Square Tube Station 370m
Prince Edward Theatre 70m
Football Association 96m
Mon-Sun 12N-11.30pm (Fri-Sat -12M Sun -10.30pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 2
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.
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