by Tamlin Wightman
on March 19, 2012
The Horny Grazer Review Four Rhino Rating

“You are about to have your first experience with a Greek lunch. I will kill you if you pretend to like it.”

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis said this to decorator Billy Baldwin as she welcomed him to the island of Skorpios. Several years earlier she had married a Greek shipping magnate – Aristotle Onassis. It’s not in the Greek custom to pretend. Have you noticed? They say it as it is.

I think that’s what Jackie was saying – you better like this, Baldwin, because Greek food is excellent and you better not pretend you do. I could be wrong, but Jackie’s not around for me to ask. Either way, eating at Maria’s, a Greek restaurant in Cape Town, no pretending is needed.

Maria's on Dunkley

Dunkley Square is a little city haven

Greek for lunch

Lunch with Maria

Since our Rhino Africa offices are a minute walk away, we find ourselves at Maria’s very often. Walk past and you’ll probably spot a Rhino African there at lunch time at one of the outside tables under the trees or at night with fairy lights adding a dreamy Midsummer Night’s feel.

There’s something very European about Dunkley Square. Tucked away between buildings on the outskirts of the city centre, Dunkley is like a mini version of Greece’s Syntagma Square.

Video Man

Video Man

The only way to start a dining experience here is with the mezés. We like to order a different one each and share and sample the lot. The mucver (courgettes, feta and onion balls) is Ross’ favourite, while Craig’s pick is the keftedes (fried meat balls) and mine the spanakopita (phyllo pastry filled with feta cheese). Ryan’s favourite is the beer.

Other options include dolmades, calamata olives, pita breads and dips with humus and tzatziki, tiropitakia, stuffed calamari, fresh west coast mussels, and fried halloumi.

Dessert and all

Wining and dining

Nothing like a lunchtime beer...

Nothing like a lunch time beer...

I’ve never been to Paros or Mykonos but having been to Maria’s I think I might like it. The wine is served in little glasses, not wine glasses – very Greek – and there is a range of beers on offer, including &Union Steph Weiss, Darling Slow Beer or Bonecrusher, Jack Black, Peroni and more.

Inside is a very intimate affair. Tables are close together and Greek music plays over the hum of voices and cutlery. It’s quite casual yet charming, with mellow waiters and chalkboard menus hanging on the walls. You can also sit upstairs where there is another room and bar counter.

Lunch, anyone?

Greek mucver pitas, anyone?

Greek chicken mayo pita and chips

Best pitas in town

For bigger meals, the pita breads are great, with chicken, lamb and vegetable options, as well as the vegetable or lamb moussaka, Patagonian calamari, slow roasted Greek lamb – with tzatziki in a pita or burger, free range chicken mayo salad, hake in beer batter and various specials of the day. The food is great and prices, well, I’ve seen worse.

It’s best you frequent Maria’s when not in a rush. Firstly, so you can savour as many of the mezés as possible and still fit in a mains, and vino. Secondly, because Maria’s is a great place to chill, under the trees is my favourite. Thirdly, because the waiters are, well, quite laid back. Let’s just say Greek time is not so different from African time.

All in all, this is a great place to go for Greek food in Cape Town and perfect for just about any occasion – business, pleasure, birthdays, dates. Just don’t break your plates here – it’s not that type of Greek restaurant.

Maria and her pets

Maria's attracts a diverse crowd

Contact:

Maria’s Cafe
31 Barnett Street, Dunkley Square, Gardens
Cape Town

021 461 3333