This cross-river excursion to sample the food at the Meze Grill came from looking at some Instagram Stories a friend had posted from Greece.
I immediately longed to be there, in fact, I immediately longed to be anywhere other than Fife on an overcast day.
In the olden days BC (before Covid) you might solve this hunger by jumping on a plane.
Right now though, the best I can do is whip up some hummus in the NutriBullet while settling down with Claudia Roden’s enticingly simple Invitation to Mediterranean Cooking (published 1997), as exciting an invitation as I might hope to receive in 2021.
One of the many delights of social media is seeing other people’s holiday and food photos, something I never thought I’d admit to in the days before I became so rooted to a life spent within a 100-mile radius of my front door.
If the holiday photos combine blue skies with vibrantly-coloured fruit and veg and some fish fresh from the Med then it’s just about possible to forget wanting to turn the heating on here in the homeland, as you ponder whether burning peat in September really will guarantee you a place in Hell.
Back in the pre-digital day, when you’d take camera film into Boots to be processed, you’d then have to wait a week for your holiday snaps to come back from the lab. The sense of anticipation was palpable, although in truth many of the photos weren’t really worth the cost of printing them.
Getting the finished photos was just the start though – then came the inevitable viewings when you’d excitedly show pictures of your pasty legs, a glass of retsina and some dolmades to anyone who came within your orbit for more than 10 seconds.
Inspired by overseas
Abroad was genuinely exciting – just as it would be now. Plus ca change.
Mediterranean food was such a big deal and so aspirational that I remember some “Flash Harrys” would even have screening parties where they’d project their holiday snaps on the wall while the grown-ups would sit around drinking warm Asti Spumante and eating olives.
As the drear unfolded we kids would long for anything other than this – even an early death seemed preferable.
This rite of passage to being an adult – really, learning how to say “no, you’re OK, really!” when someone tries to dig out a photo of some life-changing taramasalata they had on Santorini – has largely gone now that many of us share so widely online.
I haven’t been on holiday for many years although I did go to a wedding in Sicily last year in the period between lockdowns. This trip was enough to remind me of the joys of being abroad, not least the sun, the food and the chance to experience a different culture and a hot tub on your balcony.
If the eye has to travel then Covid has meant the journeys have become shorter and shorter.
When we were young and my mum was really poor she had a stock answer to people who would ask if we were going on holiday that year. This pre-determined response happened often, at times when a week in a chalet at Butlins in Ayr proved as unaffordable and out of bounds for our single-parent family as a week on Mustique.
In these lean years my mum would proudly announce that we would be going “a day here and a day there” – here was Lochee and there was inevitably Tentsmuir or Broughty Ferry, a hop, skip and a jump away from our real lives.
Broughty Ferry’s own taste of the Med
Thus, when looking for somewhere to eat last Sunday, and needing a cuisine which would transport us to another world, we ended up in Broughty Ferry at Meze Grill which, according to their website, offers “Mediterranean taste in Broughty Ferry”. We’re there!
I’m happy to report that the restaurant’s claim is true.
Tucked away down a narrow lane, Meze Grill is a bit of a find and was exactly what we wanted on a balmy Sunday evening. It did feel like being on holiday. Even my neighbour and dining companion David, often the less effusive of our duo, said he felt transformed – although that was also because the choices within Mediterranean food are so good for vegetarians.
It was great to discover this place because finding somewhere good to eat on a Sunday in Tayside isn’t as easy as you’d think, while Monday and Tuesday are nearly impossible, with most places still closed. This does make me wonder why someone doesn’t break the mould and, you know, be adventurous and try opening on a Monday or Tuesday?
I can’t be the only person who wants to eat out at the start of the week and if it wasn’t for the excellent Jute at DCA (packed on a recent Tuesday evening – I rest my case) and Franks (good but the menu really needs to change soon before I can recite it off by heart), there would be nowhere decent to go in Dundee.
Anyway, props to the Meze Grill – not only open on a Sunday but they pick up the phone within seconds when you ring to book a table and they’re incredibly friendly.
This is just my kind of place for a no-fuss meal that will transport you to sunnier climes. Firstly, it looks really good, you instantly feel you’re on a Greek island which can only be a good thing when you’re actually parked round the corner on Fort Street and your own bed is 20 minutes away.
The Aegean blue on the walls, the Turkish tiles and the bare wooden floors are all just right – simple, unpretentious and timeless, although it has to be
said this is a timelessness rooted in the 70s.
The bar literally looks like a taverna by the side of the water on some unspoilt peninsula that involves a ferry ride and factor 50.
There are glasses hanging from the ceiling and a wicker wine holder that Alison Steadman could easily have brandished as a weapon of social mobility in Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party. And – joy! – the cocktail of the month is scrawled on a blackboard and is a shark bite (£7.75).
You’re already in a great mood by the time you sit down at one of the scrubbed pine tables, berthed under an overhead light made of raffia and adjacent to a mirror encased in twigs.
It’s a look that is beyond kitsch and it’s truly transformative because it feels authentic to so many interiors we’ve all sat in on holiday, themselves such amalgamations of cultures, tastes and styles that they instantly create a joyful feeling – like finding a burst of colour in a monochrome world.
The food was great and of course we ordered too much.
Hummus (£5.95) was notably good and came with excellent home-made bread which would have been even better served warm.
The hummus had a nice spicy kick and came anointed with a slick of olive oil and some chilli on the top. Although I felt the consistency was a bit thin and I prefer a more pronounced lemon flavour, it tasted great and the tahini gave it a good depth.
The bread was so good and so plentiful that we took the leftovers home and I ate it for breakfast the next day – it’s so much better heated and I love the juxtaposition of hot bread with hummus and tabbouleh (£5.95) which was our second vegetarian starter.
The tabbouleh was excellent, bursting with fresh parsley and diced tomato although, again, I would go heavier on the lemon. A third starter of Turkish chorizo fried with tomatoes, peppers and onions (£5.95) was equally great.
David’s main course of halloumi kebab was dauntingly huge, the halloumi nicely charred, served on a bed of pungently spiced rice (£12.95).
It was only after leaving the restaurant that we realised this dish should have come with sauces which would have lifted the dryness of the combination of cheese and rice, which was delicious but a bit one-note.
My main course of Iskender kebab was described on the menu as slightly spicy but was actually so assertively spiced that I swear I felt a dopamine rush.
Served on a flatbread and flavoured with a “special sauce” that was itself covered in yoghurt, this was a fine dish – my chicken shish was £18.95 while lamb shish and lamb kofte are also available at £19.95. A mix of chicken and lamb kofte is £22.95 but I fear it would have defeated me.
We’d eaten a lot of food.
Just as we retired from active service the next table’s mixed grill arrived.
Served on a huge platter, this was probably the largest plate of food I’ve ever seen – quite the thing of wonder. This orgy of meat is priced at £45.95 for two and £85 for four.
Service here is excellent and we particularly loved our brilliant waiter Jalal who was both charming and knowledgeable, taking an evident pride in his job and in what the restaurant offers.
It’s also great to see into the open kitchen where we watched the chef prepare our dinner while topping up the smoking charcoal grill which is the centre of operations.
It was a pleasure to eat at Meze. This is simple food using good ingredients, done well – and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to pull off.
There’s certainly a dearth of such places in the Dundee area and it was lovely to find somewhere that didn’t offer classic food reductively. Great stuff!
Address: Meze Grill, 3-5 Erskine Lane, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, DD5 1DG.
T: 01382 775050
Price: Starters from £5.95, Mains from £10.95, Dessert from £3.95
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 4/5
- Surroundings: 4/5