If, like many people, you have tired of fine dining and fancy garnishes, you’ll find the antidote here. Maria’s serves hearty, flavour-packed Greek food that takes no prisoners.
The meze is the real highlight. The Kalamari Patagonica Mediterraneo comes in a tomato-based sauce that bursts with the flavours of all the best things – white wine, garlic, olives and lemon. You may find yourself eating the remaining sauce with a spoon.
Another crowd pleaser is the mucver (fritters): balls of courgette and feta, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. The crisp crumbs give way to a soft, cheesy interior. Heavenly stuff.
The hummus, as you might expect, is excellent: creamy, balanced and moreish, especially when scooped up on fresh, hot pita bread.
Assuming you still have space for mains, the signature Lamb Maria’s has a creamy, almost pudding-like sauce, and is served with lots of veggies and artichoke chunks. The moussaka is comparatively less impressive; it’s more homely but comforting all the same.
Another classic is the yiouvetsi, served with Greek orzo noodles, tomato and cheese.
Any ordinary person might stop at this point – portions are very generous – but in the interests of science, we order the kataifi. Fine strands of phyllo soaked in lemon honey syrup lie beneath a dense Greek custard, which tastes like the English version crossed with a cheesecake batter. A winner, as the menu rightly declares.
Breakfast is also on offer: think shakshuka in a cast-iron pan, Woodstock Bakery croissants stuffed with creamy feta and scrambled eggs with a homemade tomato relish, and bloody Marys.
The well-considered wine list features some gems that aren’t widely available from Miles Mossop and Babylonstoren, as well as affordable bottles from Waterkloof’s False Bay range and Stellenrust. There are also a few Greek wines to try.
Staff are warm, courteous and reassuring.
Tables spill out onto the cobbles of Dunkley Square, beneath twinkling fairy lights. The presence of two popular neighbouring restaurants adds a pleasing vibe to the otherwise quiet square in the inner city. Inside, it’s moody and dark – great for a date, or a rowdy evening with friends.
The resident dog, Fire, may wander past on his surveillance route. We find him to be very amenable to neck scratches.
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The mezze was absolutely amazing! The highlight of our evening were the mucver. Book a table outside - Dunkley Square is beautiful at night.