There’s no point complaining about the prices when you’re dining on Piccadilly: it’s been among the poshest streets in London for literally 400 years. Suffice it to say that Gaia, a palatial joint with sister restaurants in Dubai, Qatar and Monte Carlo, has landed across the road from the actual Ritz and you’ll pay accordingly to eat here.
But enough about the bill – we haven’t even got to the food yet. It’s Greek, or at least Greek-inspired, with British-Nigerian chef Izu Ani joining forces with the Peloponnese’s own Orestis Kotefas. The first thing you see when you step into the opulent dining room is an epic display of lobsters, oysters, turbot and seabass, arranged just-so on a pile of crushed ice like the Platonic ideal of a Cycladic fish market stall. And in fact, much of the menu turns out to be refined takes on Hellenistic classics: tzatziki, spanakopita, Greek salad and the rest of the gang, along with the aforementioned massive pile of seafood.
The prawns were hall-of-fame-worthy and served in a puddle of honey-coloured, rosemary-scented, paprika-spicy oil
And yes, it’s good. I’ve honestly never tasted smoother taramasalata, and the prawns were hall-of-fame-worthy: done to a tee in a wood oven, served in a puddle of honey-coloured, rosemary-scented, paprika-spicy oil. There’s a moussaka that’s destined to appear on all of London’s fanciest Insta feeds: minced beef, potato, bechamel and cheese, all stacked up atop a meltingly soft, skinless grilled aubergine. The astakomakaronada (lobster pasta to you and me) is also a star: half a lobster minus the claw, covered in substantial linguine and a sweet cherry tomato sauce dotted with juicy kalamata olives. In fact the only minor disappointment came from a butterflied and pan-fried red mullet. A little too subtle to stand up to the bold flavours dominating our table, it was the only thing we didn’t absolutely devour.
It’s worth knowing before you go that Gaia’s menu is divided into starters (plus meze, raw fish and salads) and mains (including a pick-your-own seafood option) – each dish full-sized, but served family-style. Apron-wearing staff cheerfully slice moussaka, dehead prawns, serve salad and twirl pasta, all at the table. It’s a bit of deferential theatre that might feel a bit much if you aren’t used to dining anywhere with handbag stools – but to give full credit, Gaia and its staff work hard to keep the vibe relaxed. On my visit, quite a few tables were occupied by big groups of chatting friends and even a few families, albeit the kind who shop in Harrods.
All this in a massive, high-ceilinged banqueting hall of marble, mirrors and metal, with white linen, pale blue leather banquettes, huge plaster archways, and a dozen enormous chandeliers with white spheres dangling like bunches of globe-sized grapes. This is very much not your neighbourhood taverna, but it’s certainly memorable – celebration-worthy, even. Just please, for the love of Zeus, don’t smash the plates.
The vibe A Grecian epic for Olympic budgets.
The food Classic Mediterranean dishes with a serious luxury spin.
The drink Greek wines by the glass, and a hefty cellar beyond.
Time Out tip Want to visit Gaia without the risk of getting your card blocked for suspicious activity? Then pop in just for dessert. The blueberry pie (topped with yoghurt ice cream) is out of this world. At the time of writing, it costs £32 – but could easily serve three.