Food Review: Levendis Souvlaki & Mezzebar

Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre, 3240 Surfers Paradise Blvd, Surfers Paradise, Phone: 0403 734 281

 ‘Levendis’ Def: To be in the presence of a handsome male. Derived from the Greek term Levendos meaning eye pleasing. #handsome #good looking #hot #attractive #sexy (Urban Dictionary)

I don’t even know why I looked up the meaning of ‘Levendis’ online, but now that I have, I’ll never look at Kosta Rotos the same way again!

Honestly? I’m more leonine than cougar. Truth is, I love Greek food, and I love to see men cooking, especially when I get to eat such delicious rustic food with smoky flavours only a charcoal fire can bring.

Levendis in Chevron Renaissance has all of that – lots of ‘eye pleasing’ smiles, slow-cooked meat, a mama with attitude to burn and even 2 hours of free parking!

We’d first met Kosta three years ago at his souvlaki stall at Miami Marketta (which he still runs). Resembling ‘an ancient Greek temple, complete with stone-like columns’, Kosta’s stall always had the longest line of hungry punters hanging out to satisfy their craving. Now with Levendis open, their week day urges can be satisfied as well.

“I’ve been around food all my life,” Kosta says. “Even though I was in the construction industry, I always wanted to open a restaurant.”

It took him a year of searching to find this venue, a rare gem of a place as, apart from a couple of notable exceptions, there are very few Greek restaurants on the Gold Coast, especially on the northern end.

Levendis’ food relies heavily on tradition. While Kosta was born on the Gold Coast, his mum, Yiota (who sometimes serves in the restaurant), migrated from Cyprus in 1965. Yiota is featured on Levendis’ menu cover with her siblings riding a donkey (the family car, Kosta calls it, due to Cyprus being such a mountainous island).

On arriving in Surfers Paradise, Yiota had a carvery opposite the Islander Hotel, then Zorba’s Greek restaurant in Southport before it moved to Marina Mirage in the 1990s.

At Levendis, it’s all about flavour. After marinating the meat for 24 hours, the lamb shoulder and chicken thigh go onto the spit at 9am and 3pm, cooking slowly over charcoal ready for the next meal, the wafting aromas enticing diners to seek out the delicious flavours of tender, caramelised meat, touched with the kiss of smoke.

The simple combo of meat served as a wrap or on a plate that Kosta used at the markets has been extended at the shop to include lamb, chicken and halloumi souvlaki (served either in a light, doughy pita bread or plated up), quail, sheftalia (Cypriot meatballs with pork, lamb and herbs), chargrilled mushrooms with feta and oregano, calamari and fish, complemented by snacks and dips, sides and desserts.

While the markets allowed Kosta to experiment with getting his food as close to perfection as possible, opening the shop has thrown him onto a steep learning curve with ordering and staff management, he says.

Already, however, after only a few weeks of trading, he’s tasting success, with local workers seeking out his food, more than half of his trade either working or living in Surfers or Budds Beach.

We share a plate of taramosalata with pita while choosing our mains: Greek lamb steaks marinated in lemon and oregano and chargrilled over hot coals, together with a plated of flame-grilled chicken, Greek salad and tzatziki. For dessert, there are loukoumades – Greek doughnuts dusted with honey and icing sugar.

As tourists walk past on their own journeys, we comment how ambient it is eating such great food in this neat little bright blue and black restaurant overlooked by family portraits on the wall. With a Greek Fix beer in hand, luscious and tender meat oozing juices which drip down our chins, we imagine ourselves on our own journey, sitting at a little Greek tavern somewhere beside the Mediterranean.

My senses are satiated. Honestly? It’s souvlaki ‘the Greek Gods of Mount Olympus would line up to try’.

Source: Quotations from ‘Marketta Street Food’ by C. Coburn and M. Osborne, published in Blank Gold Coast, Jan.12, 2015.

Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast

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