Bubble Wrap: Maria’s

Maria’s Restaurant, Dunkley Square. 021 461 3333

Despite the fact that there were no official launch or marketing messages announcing the long awaited re-opening of the locals' beloved Maria's, good news travels fast. Everyone’s old favourite was bustling on Valentine's night, and what a perfect venue to spend with your love. Under the fairy-light lit trees sits an eclectic mix of tables and chairs, loosely scattered on the pavement. Beautiful French music and Greek aromas help conjure up the feeling that you are far away on holiday somewhere in Europe.

The couple who own this are also behind Long Street Cafe.  They are both on the floor running around with the waiters.  Welcoming smiles receive you when you arrive.  The menus are all on large floppy blackboards with Italian nude sculptures painted on the back.  The menu at the moment is short and sweet, but  is constantly evolving as new additions appear daily.  They are not set in stone and will develop as they go on.  To start with there is a good selection of meze options; traditional greek favourites.

Mussels in a creamy white wine sauce (R32) served with fresh rustic brown bread.
(excuse the strange photo!) Mussels in a creamy white wine sauce (R32) served with fresh rustic brown bread. (excuse the strange photo!)

The Stunt Man opted for mussels in a creamy white wine sauce (R32) served with fresh, rustic brown bread.  As it should be, the highlight was the sauce and every inch was mopped up with the delicious bread. 

Keftethes: savoury Greek beef and mint meatballs served with tzatziki (R38).  Keftethes: savoury Greek beef and mint meatballs served with tzatziki (R38).

I opted for the keftethes: savoury Greek beef and mint meatballs served with tzatziki (R38). They were delicious: nice and tender and bursting with flavour.

Neither of us could resist opting for the same main course: slow-cooked Greek lamb with an ouzo and artichoke cream sauce (R115). It was served with slices of fried potato and a Greek salad. The strips of lamb are so soft and succulent, combined with small mouthfuls of mild and delicate artichoke hearts all together in a decadent blanket of delicious creamy sauce with a dash of ouzo.

Slow-cooked Greek lamb with an ouzo and artichoke cream sauce (R115).  Slow-cooked Greek lamb with an ouzo and artichoke cream sauce (R115).

We sat and chatted to the owners later as all the couples disappeared into the night with smiles of their faces, one hand in each other’s while the other holds their bulging tummy. The owners are truly passionaite about Maria’s and the authentic food served here, and many recipes originated from their mother. They closed for refurbishment for two and a half years, but boy it was worth the wait. The interiors are sleek yet rustic; but the main event is outside on the pavement in summer evenings. They also have a wonderful function space upstairs that I have my eye on for my big  three-zero.

All in all, whether you are local or not make this your local. It combines comfort food with Greek undertones and alfresco dining. We will be using it as our kitchen away from home at least once a week. Especially now that we've convinced them to serve Jägermeister ...

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