It takes quite a force to bridge socio-cultural divides. But it was within the walls of Mezzeto’s Mediterranean cuisine that the two of us—an embittered working class child of the post-industrial north, and a gormless son of the nouveau riche transnational capitalist class—were able to unite in common appreciation. For all the strengths to be charted below, our stay did not immediately begin with unbridled appreciation: disappointment arrived early with the drinks. Our organic beverages of ‘Wild Elderflower Bubbly’ and ‘Luscombe Sicilian Lemonade’ weren’t quite the hand squeezed glories we had hoped for. Instead, unmemorable bottled equivalents were left for us to open ourselves. Perhaps alcohol would have been better in retrospect. From that point on, though, everything settled, and we were treated to the proper talents of this quaint Mediterranean outfit.
As we settled into the hushed atmosphere of our warmly lit restaurant, we quickly decided to gorge ourselves on the front menu’s platter selection. Normally adverse to the sight of vegetables, let alone willing to sample them for higher pleasures, we were both won over by each of Mezzeto’s cold platter offerings: baked giant beans in tomato sauce, red peppers and feta dip, roasted aubergine imam, and artichoke with baby spinach and chickpea saladings. Accompanying it was a side serving of bread, delightfully presented in an almost Jenga-like structure. Portion sizes were generous, with each serving filling deep bowls and providing ample spread. Submerged in a light tomato sauce, the beans acted as a dainty spoil we would return to throughout the meal, while the crispness of the red peppers and richness of the feta cheese provided lush accompaniment to our quickly demolished tower of bread. Enjoyable, too, was the aubergine imam and artichoke salad. The imam’s velvety paste was a pleasant halfway between the richness of the feta and weightlessness of the beans, and the salad’s assortment of textures, anchored in the flavour of artichoke, produced a winning combination—albeit one that paled in charisma to the dishes alongside it.
For all the charms of our cold platter, the main event, undoubtedly, lay with our subsequent grilled meats. The servings, again confident and generous, were an alluring sight: chicken souvlaki marinated in chermoula; lamb skewer marinated in lemon, coriander and cumin; and lamb kofta served with tzatziki and chilli sauce. The meat was evidently prepared with love and care. Nothing was overcooked, and each piece radiated tenderness—the juices glistened in the glow of the candlelight. Our lamb kofta sighed as we cut in, but what truly made the platter sing were the sauces: the chilli was just warm enough to allow the other flavours their own voices. With two servings of each dish, the platter proved perfect for sharing and, combined with an opening gourmet of vegetables, will more than satisfy the appetites of even the most famished customers. Succulent though they were, however, the meats failed to assert their individuality in the way that characterised our vegetable pallet. The tenderness was indeed a selling aspect, but the competition of flavours which defined our opening salads was lacking in the meat selection that seemed to fuse into a singular dish partitioned amongst ourselves, rather than acting as a proper conduit of variety.
The staff, sweet and keen to help, knew the menu well and competently catered to our needs without seeming obsequious or pestering. An assured and relaxed ambiance followed us throughout our stay, and the criticisms highlighted are ultimately minor qualms for an otherwise pleasant experience. Almost no restaurant ever provides a perfect meal, and platters will naturally have standout dishes within.
Verdict: In light of the above, what emerges is a restaurant with a strong understanding of the simple virtues: seamless hospitality coupled with an accomplished, and occasionally sublime, classical Mediterranean repertoire. Mezzeto—well recommended.