Published: 05:00, 09 December 2021
| Updated: 08:57, 09 December 2021
They say beware Greeks bearing gifts, but we made an exception as our sizeable order was passed across the counter at Pitta Souvlaki.
One of Maidstone's newest additions, tucked away in Pudding Lane, the street food spot has remained something of a mystery to us since it opened in May, having received just a couple of inconclusive reviews on TripAdvisor.
So we decided to take it on ourselves to step up to the plate, quite literally, and see whether it was a triumph or a Greek tragedy.
As soon as you walk through the door you're greeted with all the sounds and smells of a gyros stand - the chatter, radio blaring, the sizzle of the grill.
You could close your eyes and pretend you were on the shores of the Med - no, not the River Medway - were it not for the pings of Gmail reminding us we were very much at the tail-end of a lunch break on a near-freezing December day in Kent's County Town.
We opted for the restaurant's namesake, a pork souvlaki pitta wrap, as well as a halloumi burger and, the wildcard offering, a 'Greek' kebab Philadelphia. Because who doesn't like their food with a side of quotation marks, seemingly doubting its right to be on the menu?
We were told the baklava - a rich dessert made with filo pastry and honey - was sold out, so we had to make do with a custard pie - a rich dessert made with filo pastry and cinnamon.
Not a Punky Penguin ice cream in sight, which made me start to question how deeply I had really delved into Hellenic culture on my previous dives into the gastronomy on holidays 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 steady stream of customers, some of whom were (reassuringly) Greek, and had mostly gone for the much quicker gyros instead (not as reassuring).
When the time came, weighty bag in hand, we decamped to the office to unwrap our haul. The food was all well-presented and the smell enough to tempt a few co-workers into our shared kitchen - something the previous day's baked beans a la burnt toast had somehow failed to do.
First up was the 'Greek' kebab - a pitta wrap with grilled minced beef and lamb kebab stuffed with Philadelphia cream cheese, plus homemade mayonnaise and Greek mustard sauce.
Everything we ordered also came with a salad of red onion, lettuce, tomatoes, plus fries.
Despite all those holidays, I had never come across Greek mustard, certainly never Philadelphia in a kebab, so I was ready to turn my nose up at this as some hideous Americanised corruption of the cuisine I love.
Well, I eat my words. Firstly, it turns out the French and English have been doing mustard wrong all this time. Creamy, slightly yogurty and mildly spiced, it perfectly complemented the meat, which was nicely seasoned.
At this point there were loud protestations about the fact not everything we had ordered was smothered with the condiment we had briefly considered asking to be held for fear of spoiling a good lunch.
And then for the Philadelphia, which was hidden away inside the meat like a kebab-version of a Trojan horse.
You have to hand it to them - the Greeks have given us democracy, philosophy, theatre. And now this.
It was delicious. The pitta bread was soft and fluffy and the chips were liberally doused in oregano. Hard to fault for £6.15.
Next up was the eatery's namesake - a pitta souvlaki.
We went for grilled pork shoulder, which came with tzatziki yogurt dressing. While there was nothing wrong with this one, the meat (cooked on cubes on a skewer) was perhaps a little large and cumbersome for the pitta and we rued the decision not to go for the gyros after all.
The pork was cooked well enough, but the cut was a little fatty. The tzatziki helped to cut through it but this was the moment, with a sea of beige coloured carbs still in front of us, that we rather regretted not opting for a Greek salad on the side.
Having opened the halloumi burger box, we were confronted with our Everest (well, Olympus) - a veritable mountain of chips which, naturally, when pairing with a burger made of cheese, we ordered with feta on top.
This was an off menu special request and I think it's safe to say we wouldn't have chosen this mix had it not been in the name of research. While the feta was nice, I wouldn't recommend combining the two unless you enjoy vivid cheese-fuelled dreams, or are just generally running low on LSD.
The burger itself was sublime though. No teeth-squeaking halloumi that makes your brain itch and toes curl here. If this was a steak it would be a melt-in-the-mouth fillet, and a thick cut at that.
It was served in a brioche bun with plenty more of that moreish mustard and was just the right balance of sweet and salty.
Then, you can't go to Pudding Lane without getting a dessert - or to give it its proper name, bougatsa.
Like the baklava we'd been craving it was rich, sticky, teeth-achingly sweet and luxurious, but instead of nuts and honey, was filled with custard cream and topped with cinnamon.
It was perhaps not what we really needed in that moment - a lie down and a disco nap were really in order at that stage - but warmed up the next day with a strong coffee it really hit the spot.
All in all, this is not the kind of kebab house you go to at 3am after a couple of sherbets. The food was good quality, fresh, and is clearly gathering 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 get to Greece".
And while it's no substitute for the real thing, with the suitcases still stowed away for the time being, it's certainly enough to get you reminising about sitting in a sunny olive-tree lined square, Zorba's Dance playing in the background and plates being smashed around you.
Well, we thought it was a pretty smashing lunch anyway.
Food: **** All very tasty, with the Philadelphia kebab and halloumi burger the stand outs. Have the mustard
Drink: *** Not a huge selection but having authentic Greek fizzy drinks alongside your usual cola options was a nice touch. Soft drinks only
Decor: **** Clean and contemporary with a nice ambience and mosaic-style flooring. Not a lot of space if you wanted to stop in to eat though
Staff: *** Businesslike but patient with our dithering and made sure we were happy with the wait-time
Price: *** Reasonable for what you get. A pitta and drink comes in at under a tenner, but the burgers and grills are slightly pricier