There’s been a notable increase in new restaurants north of the Umgeni River. And dominating that scene are reliable, bankable cuisine style favourites: pizzas, pastas and burgers. And mostly no complaints from me, but I am a little burgered-out. Enter Gazi, a little Greek souvlaki cafe in Umhlanga, which emerged a few weeks ago and one which I’ve been drooling in anticipation for since hearing of it. For a coastal city, we are surprisingly starved of Greek eateries. We have the climate and the ingredients but surprisingly, the variety of Mediterranean-style restaurants on offer are a little lacking. That is not to say we don’t have any, but it’s limited to less than a handful scattered around the greater Durban areas.
Gazi is a district in Athens, surrounding the old industrial gasworks precinct, that is now known as a vibey neighbourhood for its clubs, cafes and art spaces and has inspired the name of the restaurant. That, and the fact that they cook on gas and coal (load shedding be damned!). It’s a catchy little name and it speaks of the simplicity of the food on offer.
The menu is just two pages (excluding drinks section) which is great; in my hot-so-humble opinion, restaurants should focus on doing a few items well instead of many items badly. The premise of the food is simple: it’s mostly light food, skewered or served as part of a mezze. Souvlaki just means skewer – kebabs, sosaties or whatever you call impaling various bite-sized food pieces on a stick and roasting it. We had a moussaka, chicken souvlaki with tzatziki, lamb keftedes and some hummus and pita on the side. The tzatziki is creamy, no skimping on cheap yoghurt for that one. The coal-roasting came through on the chicken souvlaki pieces, giving them a fire-roasted flavour, the moussaka was rich (the heaviest thing we ordered, really) and I regretted not ordering the keftedes for myself – they were little meatbally nuggets of awesome, especially when smothered in the tzatziki (which I ended up putting on and in everything, except my coffee.)
The decor is light, and sets the Greek-island theme well, with the roughly laid prerequisite white pebbles along the walls, rustic whitewashed and light wood furniture, quaint shelving and a bright open-plan interior. It’s perfect for Durban summers (and winters), seated outside and enjoying a breeze.
The service could be a little better, as it was a bit slow and the waitrons did not seem as confident about menu knowledge as they should be, but they are new so I’m sure that will be addressed.
I’m looking forward to spending a lot of lazy lunches there, throwing back many brikis of hot, sweet Greek coffee.