When Lazeeza took over Simply Paris’s Dixon Street location, I somewhat cynically didn’t expect it to last long. Not only was it one of those spots that appeared cursed by the hospitality gods, but as a restaurant Lazeeza seemed unfocused, without a clear point of difference. Nevertheless, it survived 2013, and it seemed time to give it a go.
We sat outside on a warm evening, in the peculiar smokers’ undercroft that seems more festive with a gelato cart parked at the street edge. The list of “Mediterranean cocktails” looked tacky, but we couldn’t resist, and I tried something with the embarrassing name Greeka-Rita, while my more circumspect friend ordered a Negroni. The latter was a decent rendition, while mine was simply a Margarita with a touch of orange juice: pleasant enough, but not appreciably Greek.
Once the third member of our group arrived, we shared a selection of entrées and sides. The saganaki was superb: long fingers of kefalograviera grilled crisp and golden on the outside while softly molten inside. Scallops are not normally my thing, but I made an exception for these plump, sweet morsels in creamy sauce. Everything was slathered in squiggles of balsamic reduction, but this rather dated attempt at ‘classy’ presentation didn’t detract from the inherent quality of the food. More traditional dishes, such as kibbeh and a platter of flatbreads with hummus, baba ghanoush and tzatziki, were spared this indignity.
This also applied to the mains. Shish tawook consisted of simple chicken skewers accompanied by tabbouleh and hummus, and it benefited from unadorned yet thoughtful presentation. My salmon was somewhere in the middle, sitting on a plain mound of creamy orzo alongside carefully arranged broccolini and slow-cooked tomatoes, yet it had been balsamised in an attempt to enliven the slightly bland fish. My friend’s lamb burger was described as “drizzled with feta dressing”, but this was meteorologically inaccurate, as it had been buried in a blizzard of goopy zigzags.
The service was cheerful and mostly efficient, though some would consider our cheeky waiter’s decision to take our order, then come outside on his break and sit at the next table for a swift fag, to be rather too casual. At least the outside area was lively compared to the interior, where unsmiling diners sat in serried rows beneath tourist posters.
We finished with sweet pistachio baklava, lemon tart and a trio of scoops from the gelato cart, but as delicious as they were, next time we might raid the treasures of the dessert cabinet. While some other Mediterranean restaurants may be cheaper, more authentic or more innovative, Lazeeza makes good food, and would be better if it tried just a little less hard to be fashionable.
Address: 41 Dixon Street, Te Aro
Phone: 04 894 6982
Cost: entrées $9–15; mains $18–28
Open: Mon–Fri 7.30am–late, Sat–Sun 8am–late
Drink: Tuatara Hefe $8; Chakana Syrah $7.50/glass, $40/bottle
March café recommendation
With its sleek design, cutesy sandwich names and carefully crafted branding, Toast It could be insufferably twee if its staff didn’t make good sandwiches. Fortunately, they make very, very good sandwiches. Alliteratively assorted into “Farm”, “Fish”, “Fowl”, “Field” and “Favourites”, with extra sections for breakfast and dessert sandwiches, the menu offers a huge range of toasted sandwiches with high-quality ingredients. My favourite so far, despite the cringeworthy name, is Trot-a-lot: bacon, caramelised onion, Camembert and honey mustard. Despite the unappealing outlook over State Highway 1 and the back of Briscoes, it provides a pleasant alternative to the existing sandwich chains.
Address: 103 Vivian Street, Te Aro
Phone: 04 801 7297
Open: Mon–Sun 8am–4pm[/info]