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.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their way in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Maria’s is a hidden gem with a quaint, and cosy atmosphere, which makes it perfect for a night out with friends or a date. If you enjoy sharing, you will love digging into the mezze at this no-frills authentic spot where a Greek salad – paired with an endless list of delightful, delicious options – feels like something truly special.
On their small dishes – or starters – menu are keftedes (fried meat balls with oregano), calamari patagonica, komesko (which is brinjal, roasted and marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs), and a lot more. For a main, try the delicious slow-roasted lamb with artichoke chunks in a creamy tomatoey ouzo sauce, which is their signature dish. For lunch, pair it with a pita and a dollop of tzatziki – a favourite with patrons.
There are many vegetarian options, as well as free-range chicken dishes like the yiouvetsi chicken with orzo noodles, in an aromatic tomato and cheese sauce. You have the option of either lamb or peppers instead of chicken.
There’s a wide variety of seafood options, and desserts include wheat-free chocolate cake, kataifi, rizogala and yognati, among others.
A wide variety of local wines, beers, and spirits.
Friendly, welcoming but not the fastest.
The place to sit on a warm evening is out on the square with fairy lights twinkling in the trees. The intimacy of this small establishment makes it a winner for winter, too. Inside, interesting lighting and whitewashed walls add a Greek yet contemporary touch.
The upstairs space is ideal for a special gathering.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
Located in a quiet, hidden square in Gardens, Maria’s is a small gem of a Greek restaurant that, once discovered, is hard to forget. The best way to dine here, especially if you are in a group, is to get stuck into the delicious range of mezze. Order a range of these bites for the table and dig in. Favourites include the mucver (zucchini and feta fritters); komesko – beer battered aubergine and zucchini bites, served with skorthalia (a fantastic garlic and potato dipping sauce), kefthetes (flavourful lamb meat balls, accompanied by tsatsiki) and the Patagonian calamari, stuffed with feta, garlic, chilli and onion. You’ll find all the standards as well, including humus, taramasalata, spanakopita and dolmathes – it’s a veritable feast. Also worth mentioning is the steamed mussels, drenched in a creamy and ever-so-slightly spicy white wine and paprika sauce. On the mains side of things, the portions are substantial and, aside from a few seafood dishes, this part of the menu is dominated by lamb. Their signature dish of slow roasted lamb with aubergine and creamy ouzo sauce is a knockout. A special of the day, grilled lamb chops with a green salad, is expertly cooked – the tender, succulent lamb, with lots of rosemary to add flavour, goes down a treat. Dessert holds options like their ever-popular wheat-free chocolate molten cake, baklava and, a highlight, kataifi. This sweet baked Greek pastry, topped with a melt in the mouth custard, is absolutely scrumptious, the kind of sweet treat you order again and again. If your visit happens to coincide with load shedding, don’t despair, they do have capacity to handle it – the choice of dishes becomes a bit more limited, but the food remains delicious and service prompt.
The short and sweet wine list offers good value and quite a few by the glass options. They also offer a nice range of craft beers.
Unpretentious and efficient. Staff clearly know their way around the restaurant and the menu. When it’s packed (which is often), the approach can be a touch brisk, but the food en festive vibe more than makes up for that.
Get in the mood for a relaxed, fun-filled experience. The place to be, if the weather allows, is at the outside seating area under the trees and fairy lights. Inside it tends to echo quite a bit, but the very convivial atmosphere is sure to find wide appeal, and it turns into a cosy space on colder nights.
Do keep an eye on the black board for daily specials, they are almost always worth a close encounter.
The mezze was absolutely amazing! The highlight of our evening were the mucver. Book a table outside - Dunkley Square is beautiful at night.