30 Foley St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7TJ meraki-bar.com
Going Greek in London at Meraki Bar means getting a good bit of that countr's seductive flavours and ambience.
Greek food in London has always been a little bit hit and miss… either the taverna, plate-smashing haunts with oily moussaka and syrupy baklava, or the fine dining end that doesn’t always evoke memories of the sunny Aegean.
So it’s good to discover Meraki Bar, in Fitzrovia, a chic, sleek, grey-painted restaurant with fire pits outside and a cosy bar within. The place was buzzing with a good mix of people upstairs in the restaurant, but we were here for the new bar menu downstairs.
Cocktails were beautifully presented – some of the best we’ve tried for ages. Aoide & Melete: Tanqueray no 1 gin, fresh cucumber and green apple juice, homemade ginger syrup, elderflower cordial, lime and egg white and La Vida Loca, Tanqueray no 10, hibiscus mastica (‘the Greek bit’ according to my handsome waiter Giovanni) hibiscus syrup, cranberry juice, orgeat and fresh basil.
The word ‘meraki’ in Greek is the concept of doing something with soul, creativity, or love. And, true to form, the food didn’t disappoint.
We started with a few starters from the ‘Fresh & Raw’ selection. These rocked. They were immediately authentic – but reinvented with finesse and hints of healthy. Apparently the chef won the Greek equivalent of MasterChef in Mykonos.
The freshest sea bream tartare with offered up the thinnest slivers of fish, anointed with lemon oil dressing, shies and chives, while the barbecued octopus was a dreamy reminder of sultry summer meals on Greek islands.
It was made with a wild oregano vinaigrette, grilled onions and capers. Octopus, like squid, tends to lend itself to either flash cooking or slow stews, but this one was spot on.
Taramasalata was, thankfully, the real deal, made in the kitchen to a white paste and a million miles away in every sense from the pink gloop sold in supermarkets. The house pitta bread came in small crispy shards, the ideal counterpoint to the creamy, fishy taramasalata.
That other Middle Eastern staple, hummus, was also exemplary: although the texture could have been a little looser, it was tinged with the flavour of cumin and topped with tiny cubes of smoked eel and toasted buckwheat seeds – quite sensational, especially with the crispy house-made pitta.
Santorini tomato salad was recommended by the bar’s Cretan manager. Cheese and tomato is a classic combo – just think sandwiches, pizza, pasta sprinkled with Parmesan. And this was no exception: sweet cherry tomatoes, thyme, caper leaves and goat’s cheese vanished in minutes.
The rosti with eggs, truffle and Cretan butter was the only slight disappointment. Although very crunchy and crispy, no softness inside meant it was a little dry.
However, the kebabs more than made up for this: the tenderest little chunks of chicken souvlaki, and meatily intense lamb kofte kebabs with a spice hit from the secret sauce, with little dollops of house tomato sauce.
Even the sweet-toothed won’t miss out. Until 30 March there are Greek doughnuts – loukoumades. Usually served drowning in honey syrup, these team up with little bowls of honey and walnuts, ice cream, sugar and chocolate sauce (although the doughnuts could have done with a little draining to remove some of the oil). The espresso Martini accompaniment is another triumph.
As the night wore on, the bar filled up with noisy twenty-somethings all out for a big night, intensified by the secret bar in the basement, where an upmarket wall to wall clientele created plenty of buzz in the almost-dark room, its in-your-face floral pink and black walls lit only by small lamps on the tables.
Meraki Bar offers up the kind of nostalgic food you want to remember from ouzo-filled days wandering the Greek islands, given a modern interpretation and a nod to flavours and lightness, we’d highly recommend Meraki.