EATING OUT AND DRINK
The theory is mouthwatering but reality falls rather short
OK, so they had me at Greece’s No1 soft drink – Epsa. Leaping straight out of the menu and shouting “Order me.” At the very same time Moving on Up by M People is leaping right out of the sound system. Let’s just say there’s a cheery, breezy, friendly, hey-man-how-can-I-helpyou-type vibe from the place.
I’ll have a sour cherry Epsa, I say. In a bottle. Ordering this has the instant bonus of stopping the waiter from going through the list of drinks on offer. I can almost hear the cartoon screech. Though why a restaurant would want to go through the drinks rather than the food is beyond me.
Anyway, we switch to the menu and spookily the soundtrack almost simultaneously switches to Lost in Music by Sister Sledge. Maybe you’ve got to be a certain age to get into this groove, although as I scan the artfully distressed decor of Mezzidakia I can’t help noticing tonight’s customers all seem considerably younger, and a lot hipper, than moi.
On to the mezze plates, then, because that’s what we are currently discussing. And immediately we are running into trouble. Now, page one of the Bumper Book of Restaurant Reviewing states quite plainly that the most offbeat, most ornery, most challenging dish should be ordered.
So ... yalantzi dolmades, please, or vine leaves stuffed with baby aubergine, rice, lemon, cumin and thyme. “Oooh,” the waiter says, sucking in his teeth. “Didn’t my colleague mention we don’t have them tonight?” Lebanese dolmas then – minced lamb, rice, oregano and cinnamon? “In fact these are the only two things we don’t have tonight,” the waiter adds.
Ah, come on pal, I’m thinking but not saying, while flip-flopping round the Mediterranean menu, trying to order dishes that will reveal if there’s anything special available here. Cretian kalamarakia, Lebanese kibbeh, kafta kebab, a gyro with lamb souvlaki, some tabbouleh. It’s like a culinary version of The Generation Game. You will have noticed by now that there’s a fair mix of cultural flavours on offer. Yes, this is one of those “inspired by” restaurants bringing more offbeat foods with big flavours slap, bang on to the High Street, or rather St Vincent Street in downtown Glasgow.
I’ll say this: the food arrives fast. I’ve just finished my first (very small) bottle of sour cherry Epsa – it’s quite refreshing – and already the Cretian kalamarakia have arrived – calamari with a paprika, oregano, peppercorn and semolina crust. Frankly? They needn’t have bothered with all those flavours. I can’t really taste any of them in the dry, too-crumbly and not-very-good batter. It’s slightly over-fried, more dark brown than golden.
This problem also afflicts the ejje koussa or Lebanese zucchini and cheese fritters. These taste faintly of cheese and largely of nothing else. At least the kibbeh – minced lamb, bulgar wheat and potato croquettes – smack of allspice and cinnamon but they’re big, potatoey and kind of bland.
I’ll give full marks for presentation to the gyro, which comes in a cone of greaseproof paper with a reasonably pillowy wrap around it. The lamb is pleasant enough, the salad adds moistness but it’s not by any means a conversation stopper. And it tastes a little too crudely of oregano for me.
There are some reasonable skinny Greek fries and finally that Lebanese kafta kebab arrives. Tightly sealed in a toasted flatbread, seasoned with that very, very hot shug sauce, the meat in this is much better than
in the gyro. The whole thing is slightly spoiled by the very vinegary flavour of a fattoush salad that’s packed in, making the whole thing taste slightly pickled.
I forgot to mention that little dish of tabbouleh on the side. It should be more vegetable than couscous. It’s not. I detect no mint, it tastes strongly of spring onion rather than cucumber and it’s very cold and claggy from the fridge. Not great.
The verdict on Mezzidakia, then, is this: jack of all cuisines, master of none.
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Classic dance tunes, artfully distressed decor and faultless staff make Mezzidakia a pleasant place to be