Mazi, 12-14 Hillgate Street, London W8

 

So Greece votes against departing from the eurozone and embracing devaluation hell. Hurrah. Holidaymakers can return to Paxos or Lindos, safe in the knowledge that the currency won't go all funny while they're in mid-bouzouki dance. Foodies can explore Greek suppers again without wondering if dolmades and feta exports are going to dry up.

But where can you get authentic Greek food? Travellers know how hard it is to locate taramasalata and tzatziki – apparent staples of every Greek menu – anywhere in Athens. Londoners have wondered how much the souvla or stifado dishes in Charlotte Street are the food of Homer and Socrates rather than their Balkan neighbours. Now here's a restaurant which claims to be the only authentikos eaterie in England.

Mazi (which means 'together') stands in a street behind the Coronet cinema, on the site of Costas Grill, one of London's first Greek restaurants which opened its doors in 1957. A popular feature over the years was its back courtyard and abundant vine – both of which survive in the new incarnation. The 60-year-old vine overhangs Aegean-blue metal chairs. The place was full, after only two weeks. Lots of the clientele were Greek, possibly due to the presence nearby of the Greek Embassy at No 1, Holland Park.

It's a young person's place, the brainchild of Thessaloniki-born Christina Mouratoglou and her French husband, Adrien Carre. Both are purists to a striking degree. When I asked why there was no sign of hummus or pitta on the menu, Adrien briskly replied, "Because we're a Greek restaurant, not a Cypriot". (Did you know hummus was exclusively Cypriot? Me neither.) They've hired a brilliant chef called Athinagoras Kostakos, twice named 'Best Greek Chef' by Condé Nast Traveller, if you please, and a cook determined to make Greek cuisine rival that of anywhere in Europe.

Mazi suffers from a slight confusion about whether it's a tapas joint or a showcase of cheffiness. Our waiter told us "most of the dishes are meant to be shared" but some looked so exquisite, only a philistine would dream of sharing them. More shareable are the 'cold jars' – feta spread with caramelised nuts, beetroot, goat's cheese and a grape reduction, a fava-bean purée with pearl onions and Vin Santo syrup. Their version of taramasalata is 'fish-roe mousse' – a stunningly light, just-frothed-up cream of fish eggs, breadcrumbs and olive oil came with ribbons of lemon confit and vanished leaving a light kiss on the taste buds. Spanakopita is a mélange of spinach and feta, crushed against thin wafers of filo pastry; the triple texture's a delight.

From the hot starters we had Grand Mama's meatballs, served on sliced cucumber. They looked overcooked but exploded with flavour, heightened by a mint and sesame dip. As evidence of the care they take in the kitchen, some accompanying crisps turned out to be delicious, chicken-skin crackling.

The main courses, sorry, the More Substantial Hot Plates, included fish soup with scallops, grouper fillet with monks'-beard fricassée and slow-cooked pork belly with cèpe purée. Angie's lobster was flavoured with basil and a slug of Metaxa, the tourist-destroying Greek brandy (luckily this was the 12-year-old version). The lobster was juicy and tender, but what made the dish was the accompanying pasta: orzo, like soft, plump grains of rice, playing weird tricks with your tongue. In a sauce combining the brandy, basil, lobster bisque and tomato sauce, it was heavenly.

My saddle of lamb was a picture: on a black slate, the lamb was crusted with mint until it resembled AstroTurf. On either side stood a chunk of caramelised potato and a baklava filled with shredded lamb shoulder. Glistening broad beans and smears of lamb jus completed the picture. It was imaginative, original and delicious. Mr Kostakos should win a prize for it.

Baklava re-surfaced at the pudding stage, but there was lots of experiment with it. Tsoureki soufflé – a light sponge from which leaked out melted white chocolate with cherry-stone spice and black sesame seeds – was truly a Homeric pud. Angel hair – a sort of deconstructed Shredded Wheat with almond custard and sweet syrup – was less successful, being both too sweet and too close to eating hay.

Along with the other new experiences of dinner chez Mazi, I was happy to be introduced to Mastiha, a liqueur from Chios, from a tree that weeps crystal 'tears' which you crush and add to alcohol. It tastes of pine air freshener and Cointreau, and you could get addicted. Another new experience was seeing how many courtyard diners lit cigarettes after dinner, without objections from neighbours or the management. Is this the start of a relaxed approach to al fresco smoking? I hope so. But that shouldn't be the USP of Mazi. You must try it for its artful cooking, that honours the cuisine of Hellas while putting before the happy diner a succession of tastes that are blissfully new.

Mazi, 12-14 Hillgate Street, London W8 (020-7229 3794)

About £110 for two, with Ouzo, wine, Metaxa brandy, mastiha...

Food ****
Ambience ****
Service ****

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Hellenic heroes

The Olive Tree

A platter of fresh swordfish, salmon, deep-fried calamari, king prawns and sardines will set you back £16.95 at this award-winning local restaurant.

55 Rodley Lane, Rodley, Leeds (0113 256 9283)

Retsina

Sleek, modern restaurant serving impeccable Greek cuisine – the milk-fed shoulder of lamb for two people is a house speciality.

48-50 Belsize Lane, London NW3 (020-7431 5855)

The Greek

Afelia (tender pork cooked in red wine and flavoured with coriander seeds) costs just £10.25 at this restaurant in a Grade II-listed building.

4 Queensway, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire (01442 234057)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?