Suvlaki

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It’s a strange world when the coolest man of the year is a 50-year-old Greek economist, but that’s what happened in 2015. As young people stopped drinking and became internet recluses, it was left to Yanis Varoufakis, a balding, middle-aged Marxist on a motorbike, to pick up the pieces.

Varoufakis’ devil-may-care approach with the EU’s wrinkling technocrats was in such stark contrast to the bland fustiness of the world’s political players, that he single-handedly made unthinkable amounts of sovereign debt cool, and turned Athens into the edgiest place on Earth.

Suvlaki, which has just opened up on Bateman Street, is exploiting this new Athenian cool with a slickly designed, moderately upmarket, street food joint specialising in the Greek meat skewer.

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It’s the kind of place you’d be very happy taking a first date. Laid back yet clearly sophisticated, it’s the restaurant equivalent of a dapper European in their early thirties. The kind of guy who orders negronis, hits on your girlfriend, and when asked whether they’re up for heading on to a club, coolly replies ‘Sure I can party’.

But, as many will testify, this kind of chap doesn’t always have the substance to back up his suave demeanour; and similarly Suvlaki’s let down by its lack of substance.

I remember authentic Greek souvlaki as substantial meaty offerings. Hunks of chargrilled lamb and chicken, coarsely but gorgeously spiced, enjoyed best at a beachside taverna on a balmy, summer evening, accompanied by fresh calamari, juicy stuffed vine leaves, fattened langoustines and an ice cold Mythos beer. Unfussy food that brings an uncontrollable smile.

But the souvlaki on offer at Suvlaki are meagre, anaemic sticks. They’re tasty sticks, the wild boar souvlaki was particularly good. But the flavours aren’t exciting enough for these delicate portions to be considered delicacies. It’s as if the euro technocrats have imposed austerity measures on anything Greek themed just to try and claw back their cash.

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Suvlaki could have been an elegant addition to Soho’s saturated “posh fast food” scene. But unfortunately they’ve missed a vital point about their market. Of course their clientele want cool surroundings and craft beers, but they also want healthy portions at healthy prices. At three small skewers for £11, I can’t see Suvlaki taking off. Had they paid more attention to Mr. Varoufakis’ economic profligacy, maybe that wouldn’t be the case.

Suvlaki, 21 Bateman Street, London, W1D 3AL. Website.

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