Epicurean Pursuits at Meraki Bar, Fitzrovia

08 Mar 2019

Born of the same veteran family as Zuma, Coya, La Petite Maison and The Arts Club, the extension of Meraki Bar joined the restaurant of the same name in December 2018. For the bar, partners Alain Dona, Adam Bel Hadj and Laurent Manuel came together to create an exclusive living room concept for London's finest folk.

Transporting diners to the Greek island of Mykonos, Meraki Bar brings a laid-back, creative, bohemian vibe to the Epicurean playground of Fitzrovia. And how appropriate the involvement of Greek philosopher Epicurus is, as his ancient yet relevant principles of embracing hedonism and higher living are never so effortlessly played out than when drinking and dining at Meraki.

Tentatively opening the door to the unassuming ‘secret’ entrance on Foley Street (the main restaurant entrance is on Great Titchfield St), the bi-level bar at 7pm on a Friday was calm – an atmosphere that drastically transformed over the proceeding 3.5 hours into a buzzing room full of well-dressed Londoners flirtatiously chit-chatting into each other’s ears, sipping cocktails and dipping into bowls of taramasalata.

My date and I were seated on a high table next to one another (allowing for two-cocktails-down canoodling); facing outwards we were able to take in the dim lighting (more canoodling fuel), burnt orange walls and Carrara marble-top bar. Downstairs, the atmosphere becomes even more intimate – with verdant foliage and flora, tropical walls, private ‘cave’ tables and jewel-toned velvet seating.

While sipping on an Aoide & Melete – a refreshing cocktail of gin, cucumber, apple and a punchy hit of ginger – I handed over the reins of my evening to the gracious, attentive and contagiously passionate Julianna. She explained the extensive menu fervently – throwing in the occasional ‘I love it so much!’ at the mention of a dish, which acted as a catalyst for my classic pre-meal state of hyper anticipation. Satiating this fairly quickly, the taramasalata (£6) arrived. Readers, I tell you now, I could have been done right then and there. The taramasalata was glorious – cool in temperature with the texture of whipping cream, subtly smokey and smooth on the tongue. This, the spice-dusted crispy pitta bread (light as air) and the contrasting soft, warm pitta bread (£2.50) stayed with us throughout the meal, as I couldn’t bear to let any of it go.

The octopus carpaccio (£15), a beautifully presented dish of vibrant flavour, was citrussy with lemon oil dressing and sparked up the palate with capers and pickled onion. Accompanied by swirls of hummus, the lamb kebabs (£9) were presented like lollipops on a stick. Made with Meraki’s secret spiced recipe, the prominent taste was of cumin, with a hint of chilli. The lamb croquettes (£10) were small droplets of meaty heaven. Filled with slow-cooked lamb, a bite into one of these spiced spherical delights is enhanced only by the herby/sweet chimichurri yoghurt sauce that they sit on.

A highlight of my evening at Meraki was the truffle theatre that ensued. Meraki’s signature Greek-style rosti (£16) is a nest of crunchy potatoes with three sunny side-up eggs on top. A block of black truffle is grated generously on top, falling in an inviting mountain of sprinkled truffle and wafting outwards to your nostrils like only truffle does. The yolks are then released from captivity and mixed with the truffle; a true contender for a ‘food porn’ award, if this exists. It tasted just as wondrous as it looked, and how could it not? Epicurus would have loved it. Offsetting the indulgence of this dish was the much raved-about Santorini cherry tomato salad (£14) – a true taste of the Mediterranean that fuses thyme, caper leaves and goats cheese with fresh bursts of tomato.

For our main course, the theatre of the salt-crusted sea bass (£57) was impossible to resist. Though pricey, the sea bass serves two and is quite literally lit on fire before you tuck into it. Soaked in thyme-lemon olive oil, its beauty is in its simplicity. The fish was smooth and buttery, lending itself to the salt and olive oil for beautiful, fresh flavour. Paired with the wild horta greens and a cold glass of Meraki’s authentic Greek white wine, you’ve got the Mediterranean in a mouthful. The charcoal grilled lamb chops (£26) were juicy, soft and meaty with a delicious layer of fat to get through on the first bite. Dollop some hummus and sweet baked aubergine on top for a salty/sweet flavour combination that’ll keep you reaching for the next chop.

My vow of undying loyalty to chocolate fondants did not allow for experimentation when it came to dessert; however, I’ve made an additional vow to return for Meraki’s Loukoumades (bite-sized Greek donuts) served with Mastic ice cream & three different toppings. The fondant, bitter with Greek Lacta chocolate, was molten in the centre as it should be and paired with the most exquisite olive oil ice cream. I mean, it really tasted of olive oil!

In Greek, ‘Meraki’ translates to creating something with soul, creativity, or love, and putting something of yourself into this creation. The staff were not only attentive, but also truly passionate about the offering. Meraki Bar is Greek in taste and flavour, but is unlike a traditional Greek taverna due to its undeniable luxury; luxury which brings Epicurus’ pleasure-seeking theories to life in the fast-moving, goal-driven realm of 21st century London.

Ashiana Pradhan

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