12-14 Hillgate Street
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Mon Jun 25 2012
London’s Greek restaurant scene, much like its economy, is not in the rudest of health. Many of the long-established restaurants seem stuck in decades past. The Real Greek in Hoxton was the last estiatorio (restaurant) to spark widespread interest in proper Greek food in London when it opened, and that was in 1999. Chef Theodore Kyriakou made it a success, then sold the business. The restaurant group that bought the brand name rolled out a chain and standards dropped, as so often happens when attempts are made to mass-produce a dining ‘concept’. The original, beautiful, flagship branch will close its doors forever on July 7 (though six branches remain), as ‘the central kitchen is moving outside London’, a waiter told me. This leaves a sizeable gap in London’s Hellenic restaurant scene.
Fortunately, that original Real Greek now has a worthy successor. The just-opened Mazi is as properly Greek as you’ll find in London. It showcases both traditional dishes and the progressive cooking of leading restaurants in Mykonos and Athens, which is where its two consultant chefs are based. The word ‘Mazi’ means ‘together’: both old and new Greek cooking come together on the menu. It’s a simply but attractively furnished place, with the smell of chip-fat that once permeated this site (it used to be home to Costas Grill) now banished. The service is eager and attentive, and the menu and drinks list does justice to the culture that invented democracy and the Olympics.
Mazi’s wine list is entirely Greek, sourced from new-wave producers as well as classic appellations such as Nemea, made from the indigenous agiorgitiko grape in the Peloponnese. Even Mazi’s retsina is in the modern style: only lightly resinated and very palatable.
Benchmark dishes such as Greek salad (horiatiki) were near-perfect: the only problem was that the tomatoes in ours were not as ripe and fulsome as they would be in Greece, but then they never are. We especially like the details such as the inclusion of rock samphire, the rustic horta (wild green) that the Greeks call kritama.
The dish presentation was a bit fancy-schmancy, with a tarama (fish roe) served in a glass preserve jar, but we couldn’t fault the freshness or quality of the spread, and the preserved lemon garnish was an inspired touch. Spanakopita (spinach pastry) was deconstructed into sheets of filo pastry and a stew of spinach and feta in the bottom of another jar, but the tastes and texture transported us back to the coffee shops of the islands.
Folegandros is one of the few Cycladic islands I’ve not been to, so I’ve not had the local speciality of matsata – rabbit stew with fresh pasta – in situ. But the version at Mazi pulls the same trick as with the meze dishes – proper cooking, correctly rustic flavours, but a dish presentation that’s incongruously modern, the thick coils of pasta spilling over a black slate like a Gorgon’s hair.
Greece doesn’t really go in for desserts in the sense we understand them, so Mazi has very sensibly looked further afield for inspiration. Tsoureki is an Easter bread, rich in eggs and a relative of brioche. Here an interpretation of it is used to create a fondant, with a firm case but a molten centre which spills out when your spoon cuts into it; the flavour is mahlepi, a cherry-kernel spice which tastes a little like bitter almonds, while mastic gives a resinous note. Paired with some Greek-coffee ice cream, it was an ingenious dish to finish an excellent meal.
Mazi brings fresh ideas to London’s Greek restaurant scene, and does so without making a drachma out of a crisis.
Mazi 12-14 Hillgate Street
020 7229 3794
- Opening hours:
Lunch served noon-3.30pm, dinner served 6.30-11pm Mon-Fri. Meals served noon-11pm Sat; noon-10pm Sun
Tube: Notting Hill tube
Main courses £6-£25
- 12-14 Hillgate Street
- 020 7229 3794
- 12-14 Hillgate Street
Restaurant and bar facilities. Take away. Reservations required. General facilities. Available for hire. Outdoor facilities. Tables outdoors
- Type of event: