They say beware of Greeks carrying gifts, but we made an exception as our large order was placed at the counter in Pitta Souvlaki.
One of Maidstone’s latest additions, tucked away in Pudding Lane, the street eatery has remained a mystery to us since it opened in May, having received only a few inconclusive reviews on TripAdvisor.
So we decided to take it upon ourselves to intervene, literally, and see if it was a triumph or a Greek tragedy.
From the moment you walk through the door, you are greeted by all the sounds and smells of a gyroscope stand – the chatter, the sound of the radio, the sizzle of the grill.
You could close your eyes and pretend you were on the shores of the Mediterranean – no, not the Medway River – without Gmail’s pings reminding us that we were at the end of a lunch break on a freezing cold December day. in the county town of Kent.
We opted for the restaurant’s namesake, a pork souvlaki pitta, as well as a halloumi burger and, as a joker, a Philadelphia Philadelphia kebab. Because who doesn’t like their food with a side of the quotes, apparently doubting their right to be on the menu?
We were told the baklava – a rich dessert made with filo dough and honey – was sold out, so we had to settle for a custard pie – a rich dessert made with filo dough and cinnamon.
Not a Punky Penguin ice cream in sight, which made me wonder how deeply I had truly immersed myself in Hellenic culture during my previous food dives while vacationing there.
The pork souvlaki came with a (reassuring) 10 minute wait as it had to be cooked to order, which gave us time to appreciate the constant flow of customers, some of whom were (reassured) Greek, and had mostly opted for the much faster gyroscopes instead (not as reassuring).
When the time came, a heavy bag in our hands, we scampered off to the office to unpack our loot. The food was well presented and the smell was enough to draw a few colleagues into our shared kitchen – something that yesterday’s baked beans on toast had failed to do.
The first was the âGreekâ kebab – a pitta wrap with grilled ground beef and lamb kebab stuffed with Philadelphia cream cheese, along with homemade mayonnaise and Greek mustard sauce.
Everything we ordered also came with a salad of red onions, lettuce, tomatoes and fries.
Despite all this vacation, I had never encountered Greek mustard, certainly never Philadelphia in a kebab, so I was prepared to look at it as a horrible Americanized corruption of the cuisine I love.
Well, I eat my words. First, it turns out that the French and the English got the wrong mustard all this time. Creamy, slightly yoghurt and slightly spicy, it went perfectly with the meat, well seasoned.
At this point there were strong protests that not everything we ordered was smothered by the condiment we briefly considered asking to be withheld for fear of spoiling a good lunch.
And then for the Philadelphia, which was hidden inside the meat like a kebab version of a Trojan horse.
We must give it to them – the Greeks gave us democracy, philosophy, the theater. And now this.
That was delicious. The pita bread was soft and chewy and the fries were generously sprinkled with oregano. Hard to blame for Â£ 6.15.
Then there was the restaurant’s namesake – a pitta souvlaki.
We opted for a grilled pork shoulder, accompanied by a tzatziki yogurt dressing. While there was nothing wrong with this one, the meat (cooked on cubes on a skewer) was perhaps a bit big and bulky for the pitta and we regretted the decision not to go for gyros after all.
The pork was cooked fairly well, but the cut was a bit oily. The tzatziki helped slice but now is the time, with a sea of ââbeige-colored carbs still ahead of us, that we rather wished we had gone for a Greek salad on the side.
After opening the box of halloumi burger, we were faced with our Everest (well, Olympus) – a veritable mountain of fries which, naturally, paired with a cheese burger, we ordered with feta on top.
This was a special off-menu request and I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have chosen this blend if it hadn’t been in the name of research. While feta is nice, I wouldn’t recommend a combination of the two unless you like vivid, cheese-fueled dreams, or usually run out of LSD.
The burger itself was sublime. No creaking halloumi that itchy brain and your toes curl up here. If it was a steak, it would be a tenderloin melting in your mouth, and a thick cut too.
It was served in a brioche bun with a lot more of that gourmet mustard and was just the right balance of sweet and savory.
Then you can’t go to Pudding Lane without having dessert – or to give it its name, bougatsa.
Like the baklava we craved, it was rich, sticky, tooth-soft and luxurious, but instead of nuts and honey, it was filled with custard and topped with cinnamon.
It might not have been what we really needed at the time – a diaper and a disco nap was really in order at this point – but warmed up the next day with a strong coffee it really hit the mark.
Overall not the kind of kebab house you go to at 3am after a few sorbets. The food was of good quality, fresh and clearly attracting fans from the number of deliveries we saw being processed on a weekday afternoon.
Pitta Souvlaki describes itself as “the place you go when you can’t make it to Greece”.
And while that doesn’t replace reality, with the suitcases still packed for now, it’s certainly enough to remind you to sit in a sunny plaza lined with olive trees, Zorba’s dance playing in the background and broken plates you.
Well, we thought it was a pretty overwhelming lunch anyway.
Food: **** All very tasty, with the Philadelphia kebab and halloumi burger standing out. Have mustard
Drink: *** Not a huge selection, but having some authentic Greek soft drinks alongside your usual cola options was a nice touch. Soft drinks only
Decor : **** Clean and contemporary with a nice vibe and mosaic style flooring. Not a lot of space if you wanted to stop to eat however
Staff: *** Professional but patient with our hesitation and made sure we were happy with the wait time
Price: *** Reasonable for what you get. A pitta and a drink cost less than ten, but burgers and grills are slightly more expensive