The resurgence of food in London that has happened over the past 20 years means that whatever ‘fare’ may be of interest, it is sure to be available somewhere in the city. Or should you wish to eat the food of a country you have never even heard of before? That’s also possible. Most interesting of all is not just the array of flavours available, the ability for gluten-free, vegan, etc., but the quality offered.
Let’s take Greek food as an example. For many years this was served at your local taverna with acidic-looking, bright pink taramasalata (straight from a ready-made pot), and the same could be said more or less of any humous, tzatziki or aubergine dip. Thankfully there have been a few generally brilliant restaurants showing us authentic, honest, homemade Greek food that have allowed the spark of fresh Mediterranean delicacies to thrive.
One such place is Meraki, in the Fitzrovia area of central London. The latest addition to this busy, genuine hotspot is their bar. Firstly, you enter the bar from the exact opposite of the restaurant, as it looks like they knocked through from one wall into another space. There are areas of raw brick walls set against divinely lush palm tree wallpaper with petrol blue velvet accents, a sidebar with a marble countertop and a handful of high tables and stools. Out of corners, there are bundles of green foliage, which all add to the seen set, giving comfy, warm, inviting and homely feelings. So straight away you are bought into that relaxed warmth of beachside restaurants and tavernas so loved in Greece or specifically, here, in Mykonos. It could be the middle of the darkest, coldest winter, but a warmth pulls you in the moment you enter.
In fact, in Greek ‘Meraki’ means to create something with your heart and soul, and Meraki Bar does capture exactly that, like enclosing you and tuning your ‘sixth sense,’ freeing your ‘heart and soul’ into this womb-like atmosphere.
What truly stands out in this place is its offering, which caters to a whole new way to approach eating and going out. It’s a cocktail bar that meets a restaurant that meets a nightclub, all based in someone’s living room. So at ease is it that when entering, without thinking, you feel calm and ‘cuddled.’ Enjoy a cocktail to get started, and pick bits or fuller items from the menu. This bar gets away from stuffy, sitting-down food experiences or loud, banging, house music bars that are hardly going to aid your digestion. This is a new approach to how people really live: after work, pop in for a delicious, calming cocktail and nibble alongside, too. Stand, chat and lounge by the bar, or sit and gossip with friends at one of the high tables, or go for a special night with a loved one and melt into the surroundings. Drink cocktails, sip wine, nibble or go for a full meal: all is on offer.
The bar is housed over two floors; the main upstairs bar is open to the public, but within this bar is a separate, hidden entrance descending into an invite-only living room bar where there are two private caves built into arched brick walls complete with velvet curtains that can be drawn for privacy. These caves can accommodate 8 people seated for dinner with personal wait staff and are outfitted with high-tech lighting and speaker systems so that guests can control and play their own music.
So what is on offer in the way of food? A selection of cold and hot Greek mezze dishes, a seafood menu, as well as reworked classics, and it’s the same as the main restaurant. You can get anything from the creamiest taramasalata you have ever eaten to octopus carpaccio sliced SO thinly, with lemon and pickled onion dressing, an addictive option. There’s also Santorini cherry tomato salad with thyme, exquisite caper leaves (you just want to gnaw on them on their own) and goat feta cheese, and grilled aubergine with lemon tahini coriander and chili, which comes alive on the tongue and makes you wonder what other ingredients are in there secretly. All of these are served with the softest-textured flatbread and toasted (deep fried) pita chips dusted with paprika that are also too moreish for words. There are many more cold mezze dishes, from vegetables to fish, as well a wonderful array of carpaccios, tartars and ceviches for those who love the utter freshness of the sea, all of which are treated most delicately.
Launched December 2018, Meraki Bar is owned by Peter Waney. The partners in the bar are the Waney family (Peter and his brother Arjun Waney from Zuma, Roka, Coya, La Petite Maison, The Arts Club and Oblix at The Shard), Alain Dona, Adam Bel Hadj and Laurent Manuel, all of whom are restaurant veterans. Greek-born Athinagoras Kostakos is the chef, a previous head chef at the award-winning ‘Bill and Coo’ in Mykonos who has worked in several prestigious restaurants as executive chef including Scorpios (Mykonos), Branco (Mykonos) and Mazi (Notting Hill). Kostakos is best known in his home country as the winner of Top Chef, the Greek version of the hugely successful American reality TV series.
Cocktail highlights include the Black Swan, a term used to describe a rare and unpredictable phenomenon. A vodka-based cocktail combines the familiar with the exotic. It is blended with passion fruit, lychee juice, honey, black tea and basil and garnished with an edible viola flower. There is also an extensive list of wines imported from Greece.
The bar’s music programme is overseen by renowned French DJ Malik Alary, which totally aids the whole experience, as he has already been responsible for creating the musical atmosphere at top international venues including Chiltern Firehouse.
So if you feel ready to take your entertainment to some new kind of experience, then Meraki bar may just be it. It boasts the intimacy of a private club without the yearly bill and overpriced bar, as well as the service of high dining (the staff are really hands-on in helping with food suggestions and drinks). It’s not just another big, faceless restaurant but a private little home space that you know you don’t want to get swamped by everyone as you kind of want to keep it as your little secret.