Italian, French, Spanish- we have a shedload of these cuisines on what feels like every corner of Hong Kong, but Greek food? No. When I heard a Greek restaurant had sailed, landed and maybe conquered(?) our shores, (excuse the Trojan War reference) I rejoiced. Moussaka delights, lamb dishes; Greek salads, oooh. Finally, something different to sink my teeth into. I love the blend of Mediterranean with Middle Eastern influence in Greek cuisine and their copious use of grains, olive oil and various meats and vegetables. Not to mention nuts and honey in their desserts. My first encounter with Greek and Cypriot cuisine was as a child through a classmate of mine whose family created these huge, jolly feasts. I tasted Feta and was hooked. London has a few stellar Greek restaurants, so naturally when hearing about Souvla, I was hoping this would be up to par.
You have to have a party of fun friends to enjoy Greek food, and 7 of us tried (and failed, I might add), to resist the lure of biscuits and chocolate at work, to wait patiently till 8pm to feast on empty stomachs. The anticipation was so high that we were in serious danger of emotional devastation if the food even remotely disappointed us in any way. Thankfully, we were not let down.
I arrived first, came through one of two possible entrances-the back end of the restaurant near the loo and emerged in a confused state, much to the amusement of the manager. Souvla is large and has a polished look with a red honeycomb patterned wall, an open kitchen and marble table-tops and long tables for social dining.
Little details to note: the Greek sea- salt, Kalas on each table and the best illustrated menu I have seen in a while, with drawings of Greek Gods and figures from mythology.
With the whole group assembled, we waited no time in ordering as much as we could muster from the menu. First was the Taramasalata, which praise be to Zeus, did not resemble the horrifically dyed pink stuff that you find in the supermarket. Incredibly moreish, served with warm, yielding pitta bread, this subtly-flavoured version was creamy and delicious.
One of our favourite dishes was the outstanding Saganaki: Kefalograviera Cheese that came bubbling on a hot plate and served with fig marmalade. Divinely salty and gooey, (I loved the texture aswell, it had a slightly bouncy give), it was not enough to stop at one serving so we immediately flagged down a passing waiter for seconds. The fig marmalade is a great accompaniment to offset the savoury. After the meal a couple of us mentioned that we have since dreamt of the cheese. I think we have problems.
We were eager to get to the meat and first up was the Slow Cooked Lamb served with Lemon Greek Yogurt which was good but nowhere near as spectacular as the Grilled Lamb Ribs. These were frankly, out of this world. I could quite easily become obsessed with these lamb ribs which were beautifully seasoned by garlic and alatopiperigano, a simple Greek potpourri of salt, pepper and oregano. Each of us took one bite and said, “Oohhhhhhhh” simultaneously. Rapturous plaudits all round and a prerequisite for a second plate. Call us cavemen, but we didn’t even bother with the accompanying yoghurt and lemon slices to cut through the strong meat flavour. The Spit Roasted Pork was also quite tasty, but not as tender. I’m afraid the lamb distracted us somewhat and two small pork pieces were abandoned woefully.
The Moussaka, made of lamb, pork and veal with eggplant and a smooth bechamel and potato topping, was almost a little too refined for my tastes and the bechamel and potato layer could have been a lot thicker, creamier and cheesier. However, the Grilled octopus surprised us. It was fantastically flavoursome and so tender that we couldn’t quite believe it was octopus- where was the need to chew? The herb medley of thyme, rosemary, parsley and lemon was spot on.
Their Glacier 51 Toothfish (sourced from a sustainable Australian fishery in the Antarctic), was perfectly cooked. It is a meaty fish and slightly buttery in flavour which, together with their fabulous seasoning treatment, held our attention just enough to pry our fingers away from the lamb ribs. For $395 though, the size isn’t quite sharing friendly for any more than three non-greedy people, and neither were the two sad, wilted pieces of lettuce next to it.
But gosh, their Cypriot salad. What deliciousness. Grains, pulses, nuts, honey and cumin, who knew such a combination could be so divine. The nutty texture and the burst of fruit from the pomegranate seeds made this a healthy yet hearty and unusual salad. Which means that we were more than justified in getting a second plate of that as well. Hmm.
At this point, we thought it best to try their desserts. The Golden Greek Time- a large ball of vanilla ice-cream with a chocolate ice-cream centre, covered in cornflakes, then deep-fried and served with honeycomb and salted caramel, looks harmless enough in presentation but together was a sugar party. Their Baklava cigars were surprisingly not as sweet as those I’m used to eating and was lacking in texture. It needed added nuttiness and honey. I was neutral about this.
All in all we were very impressed with Souvla. Best line of the night was when one of our friends said the food was so good, he wanted to, “smash their plates and yell, “Opa!”” And despite our repeat orders of certain dishes, it came in at $400 per person. There’s no Trojan subterfuge needed at Souvla to win over my stomach.
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
Souvla, 1/F, Ho Lee Commercial Building, 40 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2522 1823