I know from the general hype about Mazi that it was opened by Christina Mouratoglou and Adrien Carre on one of the quieter side-streets off Notting Hill Gate, and the food is modern Greek – as is the name, which means ‘together’.
This implies that the sharing plates are going to be pretty fundamental to the experience, and I probably can’t get away with ordering food for myself and then making snake-eyes at anybody wanting to try it. Not that I would do that. I just make sure to take a loved one, which is a good rule for anywhere that forces the intimacy of shared food on you. As the loved one I choose to take is my mother, the slowest eater in all of Christendom, this has the added bonus in a shared plate environment of feeling very low-threat. I don’t think things are going to get competitive here, but if they do then I have stacked the odds enormously.
Inside Mazi everything is very carefully judged. The bartender recommends two cocktails, both balancing between citrus and syrup. The tables are far enough apart to feel private, but close enough to undress other people’s food with your eyes. The candlelight is perfect, by which I mean the whole restaurant looks warm and welcoming, but not so shadowy or flickering that it feels like my mum and I are on a date.
If I tell you that most of our food is doused with honey or cream or, in the case of the imam baildi aubergine, melted Stilton, it sounds like Mazi is serving a side order of gout with each meal. But the truth is, that’s all in balance too: the jar of grilled aubergine with thyme honey is cut with soy and stops short of being cloying, and the shredded rabbit stifado – a pile of torn rabbit meat, served on pearl onion cream – is rich without being heavy.
This is probably why Mazi’s vision of sharing plates is one that actually works. You share because it’s in your interest to, because between the general richness and the number of dishes on the menu you need to hit, eating anything wholly yourself at Mazi is the preserve of heroes and fools.
When we come to the rabbit stifado I’m pretty sure that we’ve found the powerhouse of the evening. It hits the trend for the slow-cooked, pulled meat that 2014 has conditioned me, like almost every carnivore in London, to need on a tri-weekly basis. Being game meat it also addresses the Peak Pork levels a lot of us are reaching, thanks to every other building in the Square Mile being a burrito joint. There is, all over, nothing you could fault with the stifado at all – except that it’s not the calamari in rocket pesto that arrives straight after. One of Mazi’s signature dishes, and listed fairly modestly on the menu as with ‘riceless risotto’, this is a crunch of tentacles, served sitting on a risotto made from grain-sized pieces of squid. It’s easily the best thing we eat all evening, I suspect also the best thing ever to happen to calamari.
The waiters are excited and eloquent about the food, and are so charming while they’re serving it that I’m fairly sure they want us to be Best Friends. High on this feeling of togetherness, I want that too. My old Best Friends were alright but have been far outclassed by these new ones, who keep bringing us orange and cardamom cakes made from filo powder, paired with actual Greek coffee and then the peat and gunpowder of Greek coffee ice cream. Yes, those are typically whisky descriptors. No, I don’t retract them. You’ll have to trust me on it, or, and I strongly advise this, go see for yourself.
Mazi, 14 Hillgate Street, London W8 7SR. Tel: 020 7229 3794. Website.