As facelifts go, Elysee’s is right up there with some of Hollywood’s leading ladies. But can this old Percy Street stalwart meet the culinary standards its new super-stylish surroundings promise?
The new management’s pocket obviously runs deep as there has been no expense spared in the recent refurbishment of this traditional Greek restaurant. Set over two floors, the upstairs bar area is decorated in a stylish swathe of eau de nil and dominated by high ceilings, polished dark wood floors and fancy cream leather banquettes. Downstairs is a more traditional dining area and hosts a small stage and dance-floor. As outside areas are at a premium here in WC1, Elysee’s new roof garden could very well be the jewel in its laurel crown.
Despite a grand re-launch last month Elysee can still be somewhat quiet, but where isn't at the moment? The late hours, vast cocktail list and mezedes menu suggests a desire to attract a younger crowd. Upstairs the mood is set by some chilled house whereas downstairs a small ensemble can’t let go of its Greek roots and plays Roussos-inspired hits loudly punctuated with traditional plate-smashing. The staff are friendly and attentive, if a little confused at times.
A mezedes selection dominates the contemporary Greek menu, along with three token steak dishes, thus encouraging a sharing attitude to dining. Sadly several of Elysee’s signature dishes as promoted online are no longer available resulting in a standard Greek menu offering no real surprises. The taramasalata (£3.50) is creamy and smooth but has an overpowering flavour of mayonnaise. Stuffed vine leaves with lamb, pine nuts and marjoram (£4) are tasty enough but the traditional Greek salad (£4) sadly had all the oomph of one bought in a service station.
However, the grilled squid (£6.50) is absolutely delicious, ocean fresh and perfectly cooked with chilli, lemon and fresh parsley. The house special of braised oxtail keftedes (£5.20) again comes very well cooked and bursting with a full meaty flavour. The salt cod fritters (£4.50) are less of a success, and arrive as unappetising balls of tough, chewy fish. The small, pot-roasted quail (£8) comes de-boned and stuffed with a tasty blend of rice and wild mushrooms, and is very good. The only downside being that because all the dishes arrive together, it cools rapidly, affecting the flavour somewhat.
A small selection of desserts are available including a tasty trio of paklava (£5.50), gooey with orange syrup but not hugely inspiring.
The upstairs bar offers a wide range of intoxicating tipples, many involving ouzo. The cocktail list covers all bases (from £8) including Elysee’s signature cocktail, Batida (£9) a sort of Greek pina colada. The house wines are from France rather than Greece, although one or two wines from the homeland do appear, and a very drinkable Heritage Louis Blanc, (£14.75 or £5 per glass) is worth trying. The red house is the same label but at £16.50 a bottle a touch more expensive.
The Last Word
Elysee certainly looks the part of a modern Greek restaurant. However, although some dishes are great, the contemporary Greek cuisine does not always live up to expectations.