Age: About 3 years old.
Previous incarnation: 21 Bateman Street, a Greek restaurant that lasted barely eighteen months. Before that it was the long-running Lorelei, a pizza gaff that was BYO (the staff even allowed you to sit for hours drinking your own wine), with outside toilets only, should nature call. Many Londoners of a certain age will have spent their formative years enjoying cheap boozy dates within its four walls – before it closed a decade ago.
Where exactly is it? On Bateman Street, the skinny thoroughfare that connects Frith with Dean. It’s next to the equally good Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack (see our review). The whole street – Nando’s excepting – is worth exploring, in fact, for food and drink fans.
What goes on there? Mainly suvlakis, mouthwatering meat-on-skewers, popular in Greece since the 1950s, so expect some genuinely Athenian grilling. Head chef Elias Mamalakis is a “towering figure in the culinary scene of Athens”, says the blurb. Quite a claim, indeed.
What should I eat? You won’t go far wrong sticking a pin onto any menu item. Courgette fritters were in fact balls that exploded with molten applewood cheddar, while more classy was prawn saganaki, the mound-like rustic Greek dish made with tomatoes, shellfish and feta cheese. And two of the signature plates were flawless: butter-soft octopus tentacles with blobs of fava, scattered with samphire; and blackened lamb chops sprinkled with chilli and served with lemon, the meat sliding clean from the bone.
And from the list of suvlakis themselves? The corn-fed chicken with pickled red cabbage, baby gem and mustard was one we’d order again, more than the wild boar (impressively sourced from Mount Olympus), with slaw and smoked aubergine. But we left muttering six simple words: “God, we need to go back.”
The interior: Discuss: A slither of a dining room with simple light fittings, open kitchen to the left as you enter. It was so busy with a twentysomething crowd on a sweltering Tuesday, that we had to wait 45 minutes (at a nearby pub, having left a mobile number) and then nabbed the only free table.
And what to drink? There are only three whites and red wines; we opted for a Kokotos Three Hills, basically a house red at as steepish £26: fruity, rich and a bit dry at the same time.
What’s the service like? Super-efficient. Fast. Friendly. You won’t be double-kissing them goodnight, but we were made to feel welcome enough, unlike some of the frostier Soho joints.
Do say: “You can eat bloody well here for £20 a head (without booze).”
Don’t say: “Is this Bonnie Gull?”
Main image: PR