Review: Mezepoli Meze & Wine Bar

Let’s face it: Every one of us has now become acutely aware of the importance of nutrition.

Gone are the days where the old mentality of ‘eat three square meals a day, and finish everything on your plate’ and ‘fill your plate with meat & potatoes’ are still par for the course to a healthy lifestyle. No, this is simply not the way to quality of life, because thanks to new information being pumped into our collective subconscious by the likes of Professor Tim Noakes and his ilk, we now understand that food is FUEL for our bodies and eating small meals throughout the day to sustain ones energy is infinitely more beneficial to the body than oversized plates of starch and meat eaten at 6 hour intervals.

In Cape Town, we foodies are spoiled for choice in terms of a very saturated restaurant industry, but what has become evident is the lack of eateries catering to this new-found nutrition-oriented lifestyle that the apparent 90% of Cape Town locals have adopted.

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Bring in Mezepoli Meze & Wine Bar in Camps Bay. I was ecstatic to discover this gem of a restaurant amongst the usual hyped-up and overpriced offerings on the strip, because Mezepoli ticks every last one of my boxes in my quest for seeking a restaurant that caters to a health-conscious customer. Mezepoli is the sister brand to Joburg’s Plaka restaurants and is owned by the acclaimed restaurateur Angelo Haitas. The cherry on top to my discovery of this soon-to-be institution amongst healthier foodies in CPT and Joburg is the fact that Angelo is a Bone-fide Greek himself.

My conclusion is that every last ingredient he has added into the creation of his restaurants stems from his rich, cultural Mediterranean heritage. I think we all have to admit that Mediterranean’s are arguably amongst the healthiest group of humans on our Planet. Their approach to food is all about simplicity, freshness and cooking with REAL, WHOLE ingredients, mainly fish and produce – and also treating each meal like a celebration. At Mezepoli they have painstakingly created a menu which proffers a detailed selection of fresh seafood, salads and traditional Greek fare which is prepared and served in its SIMPLEST form. In other words, you won’t find dishes which include more than two or three separate ingredients at once and they let the food speak for itself. I have found that with seafood in particular, this approach is of dire importance. Seafood is something to be tampered with as little as possible and the less the Chef actually does with the dish, the better the experience for the customer.

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The concept of eating ‘Meze’ style food lends itself to my belief that one should eat small, palm-sized portions of food at regular intervals to sustain ones energy. Similarly, eating a protein-based meal in small portions throughout the day is the ultimate way to stay lean and keep going until bed time without those sudden bursts of starvation which have one running to the vending machine for that second packet of nick nacks for the day! I am no way saying that there isn’t a place for those decadent carbs in one’s diet, but moderation is key. For the most part, although many big-city restaurants are making allowance for this new trend on their menus, the selection is still too small to warrant me going back for seconds when I could just eat at Mezepoli every week for the next year and still not actually quite manage to try everything on their vast menu.

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The Mezepoli menu is divided into your classic Olives, cheeses and dips where one has the choice of sampling small portions of all of the above prepared in their various traditional Greek forms. The option of adding home-made Greek style pita with your starters is still there, but rest assured that the experience of eating ‘Throubes’ olives ( salt-dried Calamatas with a wrinkly skin!) with Houmous or deep-fried Haloumi is in no way compromised if you do not choose to whop them onto a hunk of warm pita bread. (Although as I write this, the idea of doing just that is making my stomach growl!) Next in the starters division is their selection of home-made dips. Meze-style dips are almost CERTAINLY going to be brought in from a big, completely unauthentic supplier in a big tub and filled with preservatives and God-knows what else if ordered from a wannabe Greek eatery or tapas bar in Cape Town. However, Mezepoli’s Tzatziki ( yoghurt, garlic, dill, cucumber) , Taramosalata ( blended cod roe), Houmous ( you KNOW this one), Melitzanosalata ( blended egg-plant & garlic) and their other extraordinary offerings in this department are all made on-site and from scratch, meaning that you as the consumer knows what’s in the food you are eating. Which makes me very happy and makes me feel no guilt whatsoever when popping that third, fourth of fifth spoonful of glorious chickpea dip into my mouth!

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In terms of more substantial offerings, you are then given a choice of meat, veggie or seafood Meze which are to be ordered ‘for the table’, allowing everyone in your group to dig in and share the experience. This, to me, is the ultimate way to enjoy a meal with friends. Eating a huge dinner plate of food on your own when your partner is eating something completely different seems so anti-social and almost detracts from the experience of breaking bread with someone whose company you dearly love. Sharing a variety of small plates of ‘Meze’ amongst your group is a very visceral experience and creates a bond between everyone sharing the meal. If it sounds like I’m getting a little too deep for a restaurant review, may I draw your attention to the importance of FAMILY amongst Mediterranean cultures: The Mediteranean people, as mentioned, treat EVERY meal as a celebration, and it’s quite common for a lunch to linger over 3 or 4 hours as people eat, drink, talk and share their meal and use the opportunity of each meal to regroup and reconnect with those closest to their hearts. Western culture has become far too disconnected from the sanctity of a meal shared with ones ‘family’ and we need to become more focused on eating consciously, not absent-mindedly. I loved trying their marinated artichokes, exotic mushrooms, pickled octopus (worked AMAZINGLY well with the Aegean Salad served with the most decadent Gruyere cheese), grilled Falkland calamari, Chicken Livers ( yes, finally, I found a place that cooks this dish CORRECTLY), and last but not least…THE KEFTHETHES.

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The Kefthethes. This dish deserves a paragraph on its own. There are no words in the English language which sufficiently describes the sheer joy which was experienced at my first taste at what is unquestionably the most authentic and delicious Kefthethe recipe I have ever encountered. Shane, the VERY knowledgeable manager at Mezepoli explained to us that the Mezepoli Kefthethe recipe is a bit of a secret, and I must concur – If I had my hands on a recipe this outstanding, I might never want to share those precious details with anyone either! I will not indulge you with any further details on my discovery of the most perfect meatball ever created – I would rather you just book a table at Mezepoli this instant and test them out for yourself.

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Toni, the resident GM from Macedonia is your Quintessential host-extraordinaire for the evening, and his devilishly endearing accent does rather add that extra touch of authenticity to your traditional Greek experience on the Camps Bay strip. I’ve always said that owner-operated restaurants are by far the best way to experience real hospitality, and as a long-time friend and associate of Angelo Haitus, Toni Itov does the job with utter precision and class.

Mezepoli delivers in every conceivable way folks – make sure that you complete your Summer holiday with as many visits to this exemplary eatery!

Words By: Abstract AIMEE

 

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