RIYADH: Ask anyone in London where to find great Greek food and their list will surely include Meraki. The restaurant opened in the UK capital in 2017 and recently launched in Saudi Arabia.
“From the very first day we received an extraordinary welcome from our customers in Riyadh. Given that many people from the Kingdom have visited us at Meraki in London, we felt that they were looking forward to welcoming us in Riyadh too,” Meraki’s chef Athinagoras Kostakos told Arab News.
Meraki’s bright interior calls to mind the warmth and relaxation of the Mediterranean shores and has quickly become a social hub for the city by night — particularly in the lounge area and bar seating where guests can enjoy a mocktail after their meals.
We’d recommend reserving a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy the great views of the Faisaliah tower and the the city lights. They are the most popular seats, and tend to fill up very quickly.
So Meraki has the ambience and views covered, for sure. But the real question for any Greek restaurant is: How authentic is the food?
Meraki’s seafood is extremely fresh, which is always a good start. The excellent salt-crusted sea bass is a perfect example of the level of quality you can expect. The restaurant only orders around 30 fish each night, so if you’re a seafood lover reserve an early slot, because the limited supply sells out quickly.
We begin our meal with a mocktail from the Meraki bar — famed for its unique blended concoctions. For those with a sweet tooth, we’d recommend the Anixi — a blood-orange and grapefruit base with butterfly-pea flower tea and peach shrub, topped with roses. The Heraklion is a refreshing, more-tangy option, with a mixed-berry base, oranges, peaches, and soda. Both drinks are not only delicious but definitely Insta-worthy.
Meraki offers hot and cold appetizers. Two highlights for us were the Meraki Tzatziki and the flatbread with tarama and zaatar. Order the pair and dip the extra flatbread in the fresh creamy homemade tzatziki sauce — you won't regret it. The tzatziki — mint, dill, and courgette mixed into fresh greek yogurt — makes the perfect companion to the soft-but-crisp bread.
As mentioned, if you’re opting for seafood for your main course, then the salt-crusted sea bass — which arrives at your table quite literally in flames for another great photo opp before being taken back to the kitchen for plating — is a great choice, not least because the delicious crisp fish, served with lemon-herb dressing and kale, can easily be shared between two or three people. But be warned: It sells out quick.
We also tried the juicy Garides tiger prawns, which are served with a tomato mayo and herb lemon oil. They were not bad, but nowhere near as good as the bass.
If you’re too late for the fish dishes — or if you’re not a fan of seafood — then you can’t go wrong with the the chargrilled lamb chops served with aromatic quinoa and fresh fennel. Ours were perfectly cooked, the buttery juices flowing out as we cut into the chops. The rib-eye steak is so tender it just melts in your mouth, and the accompanying chimichurri oregano and cherry tomatoes make for a surprising blend of flavors.
For dessert, we selected the warm cardamom-infused soft-baked cinnamon cookie, served with date ice-cream, the cold sweetness of which is the ideal blend with the chewy warmth of the cookie dough. It was the highlight of our meal.
Throughout the evening, the service was prompt and efficient, even though the restaurant was extremely busy, we were not kept waiting between courses and the staff were knowledgable and welcoming.
Kostakos told us that “each and every one of our team puts their soul, love and creativity” into their work. After eating at Meraki, we believe him.