mez mediterranean cuisine – northbridge
Thank goodness we have the best table in the house. It’s hot and the Freo doctor is crawling through the city, barely chasing the heat away. Our table, in the corner between two awnings looks over Russell Square and James St. The passing crowds and near-miss traffic incidents keep our minds off the slightly uncomfortable alfresco seating.
The Mez is soon buzzing with bucks and hens nights, the set meze menu ($40 p/p) is obviously a drawcard. The meze consists of four shared courses and samples the house specials and the best of what the kitchen can produce. Being Mez first timers and greek cuisine novices, it’s an easy choice for us. The service is quick and polite and before we know it the entree/antipasto is delivered, along with a bowl of greek salad and flat bread. The waiter immediately walks away without an explanation of what is in front of us, leaving us guessing at what we are eating (this happens throughout the night).
The antipasto looks really good (as you can see from the picture!). A taste of Mez’s entrees is in each tiny square bowl and we have a lot of fun working our way around the dishes. The sausage is notably not the tough, overly salty version often found elsewhere – but was chunky, tasty and wholesome. I loved the artichokes which had been pickled in a light brine, preserving the delicate petals and tender hearts. The salty haloumi was resistant and just salty enough, providing a milky taste which contrasted well with the antipasto. The bread was a favourite with the bf – speckled with rosemary, they were warm fluffy and delicious, and greedily dipped into the three dips – capsicum, olive tapenade and taramasalata. The taramasalata was too salty but the olive tapenade was great.
The greek salad was crisp and had traces of sweet balsamic strewn over it. I particularly loved the dried olives (which looked like miniature prunes) and the creamy feta. It’s nice to see a greek salad which is not limp.
From the bottom right: melanzane strips (marinated eggplant), fried haloumi cheese, pan fried sausage, marinated mushrooms, pickled vegetables, vegetable sticks, sun dried tomatoes and pickled artichoke hearts. The dips from the top: taramasalata, olive tapenade and capsicum dip.
The seafood plate was soon served and we were pleasantly surprised. Mounds of fried calamari, grilled baby octopus, fish, scallops in shell surrounded prawn risotto surpasses out expectations. It’s not the usual cold seafood plate seen in Perth. I like the greek rework of the aussie favourite immediately. Working out where to start is a decision quickly made. Forks dip into the creamy risotto and the prawns neatly cut for a forkful of carbohydrate pleasure. It’s not spectacular, but the underseasoned risotto and the plump prawns make a nice background for the rest of the plate. A thin batter coats each baby squid tube, still tinged with purple from a not so long ago lifetime. The squid is slightly oily but very tender. The scallops looked like they were cooked in their shells under a salamander and were overcooked. Credit should be given to the fact they were served in shells. Swimming in the their sweet juices, the scallops were small but tender. The baby octopus was the superstar – small, tender and leggy, they had the smokey acrid taste of the grill plus were very juicy and tender. Unfortunately I did not get to savour all of the octupi as our plates were taken away, despite telling the waiter we were not yet finished!
The meat course.
The sun was setting and the sky was turning a tangerine orange over Russell Square, as the best and last savoury course appeared before us. The meat course – consisting of chargrilled lamb and skewers of chicken, looked plain. Sitting on a plethora of roast potatoes, I had doubts fuelled by many mediocre meals presented over ‘roast potatoes’ – many of them, coincidentally served on the same strip in Northbridge. However looks can be deceiving. The lamb kleftiko was incredible! Tender, well seasoned and slightly spicy, this is a dish that definitely deserves the title of house specialty. The juicy lamb could be cut through by a fork and the aroma of singed herbs and sizzling lamb was mouthwatering. Another rare find were the roast potatoes. I’m not sure whether the dressing of the lamb juices elevated them to another level but here the chef has bothered to actually make roast potatoes. Crispy, tinged golden and fluffy on the inside, the potatoes were a far cry from the half cooked, boiled versions being passed off down the road. The chicken skewers were well seasoned, but being breast meat were on the dry side.
By this stage of the meze we were pretty much stuffed. But there was dessert to look forward to! I was slightly scared at the propect of another generously sized course but the meze dessert was a small plate of baklava and ekmek kataifi (thanks google) to be shared. There’s a reason why greek desserts are served in small portions – they are either very rich, super sweet, or both. The baklava was average but the ekmek kataifi was incredible. The syrup soaked kataifi base (a pastry resembling ultra fine angel hair noodles) holds the sweet, creamy custard layer, while the burnished caramel shards provide an almost burnt sugar depth of flavour. This unassuming dessert was such a delicious way to end a wonderful meal. A perfect pair with strong coffee to bolster us through the night.
Meze dessert course – with the outstanding ekmek kataifi.
Mez was such a pleasant surprise. Frankly, I did not expect the meze to be of this quality or standard. For $40 a head, it’s pretty good value and it’s a perfect introduction to greek food. The restaurant is open air so it’s probably best to go on a mild weather day, but being open air it’s not that bad during a warm evening. It’s on the Entertainment Card, making it even better value, so give it a shot and it may change your opinion of greek food for the better.
Up’s: The lamb kleftiko, the seafood plate and the ekmek kataifi. Go for the meze and you won’t be disappointed. The view from the balcony overlooking the park – beats a street view any day.
Down’s: Service could be better, would’ve liked an explanation of what I was eating.
Mez Mediterranean Cuisine, 1/182 James Street, Northbridge WA 6003
T: (08) 9227 9933
Dinner Tue – Sun 5pm – late
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