I am, by nature, a nosy bugger. So when yet another highly polished joint springs up offering eastern Mediterranean fair I immediately want to know who’s behind it. A quick Google and we have some answers. This latest stab at meat, bread and dips is brought to us by the same people who’ve successfully purloined the food culture of Mexico and India in the form of near neighbours Chaakoo and Topolabamba. Restaurateurs Paul Sloan and Mario Gizzi have, piece by piece, started claiming this strip on the lower end of St Vincent Street for themselves. Prior to the opening of Topolabamba, the pair had teamed up on the highly popular Pinto chain of Mexican fast food outlets before selling out to Bar Burrito in 2015. Separately they have multiple interests, with Gizzi a co-owner of Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group which operates Di Maggio’s, Amarone, Barolo, Cafe Andaluz, Anchor Line, The Atlantic and The Citizen, as well as Prep Fitness Kitchen.
An established pedigree in restaurant management should ensure a well oiled operation, but the best service in the world won’t matter if the food isn’t right. Mezzidakia occupies similar territory to the much lauded Babs just a short stroll away on West Nile Street. The Middle Eastern staples are all present and correct; falafels, hummus and baba ghanoush are joined by a variety of kebabs and a hearty selection of mezze (small plates). Also on offer are Turkish style flatbread pizzas.
But lunchtime is kebab time so I went for the Lebanese kafte kebab while the plus one opted for the lamb cop sis. On the side we were sharing orders of tabbouleh and skinny fries. The first thing to arrive was the tabbouleh. I can’t quite remember, but I may have let out an audible laugh as the thimble-sized portion was placed on the table. Tabbouleh is wonderful stuff. It’s a salad of fresh, finely chopped tomatoes and onions mixed with bulgar wheat, parsley and mint. It’s therefore not an expensive dish to put together which makes the meagre helping all the more baffling. I’d definitely have expected a little more for £3.50.
What of the ‘babs though? My kafte kebab was a well-stuffed flatbread wrap filled with ground beef seasoned with Aleppo pepper, allspice, sun-dried tomato, mint and cumin. Crammed in there alongside the beef is garlic cream, pickled turnip and fattoush (a Middle Eastern bread salad). It’s served with a small pot of Turkish chilli sauce, although feta and extra hot schug chilli sauces are also available. The beef was juicy and full of flavour, with cumin being the dominant spice. The garlic cream lent it a yoghurty acidity while the fattoush provided some much needed freshness. The chilli sauce was sweet and spicy but not hot. In amongst all that I couldn’t really detect the pickled turnip but with everything else going on it wasn’t missed. The kebab is served completely unadorned save the small pot of sauce which I found a little strange for a dish that’s billed as a main course.
On the other side of the table the lamb cop sis was similarly constructed, but this time with chopped and pounded lamb. The meat was tender and well seasoned with a hefty punch of garlic. But there was no smoky, char-grilled flavour to it. Go to Sholeh, or even Babs for that matter, and you’ll taste the fire in the meat. Not so at Mezzidakia, at least not on this showing.
The decor is pretty, the staff and service were exemplary, and there’s a laid back atmosphere, in stark contrast to the relative chaos of, say, Halloumi. But somehow it all feels a bit formulaic and unlovable. The food just wasn’t that exciting and at every turn I felt like pennies were being scraped from my plate and added to the restaurant’s bottom line. A shame, because I love this style of food and, until recently, it hasn’t really taken off in Glasgow.
For the mains, sides and two miserly soft drinks we were just a touch over £25. That’s a pretty typical lunch spend so it inevitably leads to comparisons. As things stand I’d rather spend it in Sholeh, Babs or Halloumi.
71-73 St Vincent Street
0141 221 0202