West End is home to quite a few Greek restaurants, with Kafe Meze one of the oldest and best-loved.
While Kafe Meze used to hold a prominent spot on the corner of Boundary and Browning streets (now home to the Little Greek Taverna), some years ago it moved over to a renovated cottage on Mollison Street, not far from the Coles Supermarket (and across the road from newcomer The Burrow Cafe and Bar).
I haven't been to Kafe Meze in years, but its footpath menus kept wooing me every time I walked past to do my shopping at Coles. So one Saturday night recently four of us decided to give it a go.
Kafe Meze's frontage is deceptively small -- this is one little restaurant that actually holds an awful lot people. Seating extends from a footpath courtyard through the rooms and rear deck of a pretty wooden cottage and into a large covered area behind the building. This was just as well for us, as the joint was jumping and we didn't have a booking.
A friendly waitress found us a nice table on the rear deck and we sat down to peruse the extensive menu. Appetisers started at $4 for pita bread, and included garlic pita ($6), haloumi ($6), meatballs ($8), and a wide range of dips (eggplant, tzatiki, skordalia, taramasolata -- all $7).
More expensive starters included fried zucchini ($10), spicy sausage ($10), gigantes beans ($11) and marinated octopus ($18).
There was a wide range of interesting salads (Greek, silverbeet, prawn, and octopus -- $10-$15) and lots of meat, seafood and vegetarian mains and plates, starting with souvlakis from $4.50 and going up to a prawn, octopus, quail, lamb or duck plate with salad, chips and pita for $29.
We started by sharing some garlic pita, skordalia (potato and garlic dip), marinated octopus and fried haloumi. It was all good, and better than what I've eaten at many other Greek restaurants. It tasted more authentic and home-made, and we wolfed it down quickly. My only criticism would be that the serving of octopus was very small for the price (though good).
For mains, we ordered some pork souvlaki, a grilled prawn souvlaki, a helping of 'patates' (Greek for 'hot chips'), and a moussaka, which came with a large Greek salad and lemon potatoes.
Again, it was all tasty and appetising, and a cut above what I've eaten elsewhere. The patates were better than your average frozen chip, the prawns were good (though not 'knock your socks off') and the pork and moussaka both did the job.
One thing that did disappoint on the night that we visited, though, was the service. While all the wait staff were pleasant and friendly, our meals took forever and we were forgotten quite a few times.
In Kafe Meze's defence, however, this may have been because the West End Block Party had drawn lots of people into the suburb for the night, and it was obvious that Kafe Meze had had a lot of walk-ins. We did also receive numerous apologies for the delays with our meals, and a discount on our bill.
To finish, we ordered galaktobouriko (custard slice) and melomakarono (honey shortbread), which were both pretty underwhelming.
So, how to summarise my Kafe Meze experience? Well, the starters and mains that we had were definitely better than what we've eaten at quite a few other Greek establishments in West End. But they were also noticeably more expensive ($120 for the four of us). The desserts were not as good as we've had elsewhere, and the service was pleasant but slow and patchy.