56 Hanbury Street,
(020) 7247 6999
The ViewLondon Review
Hidden down a side street that narrowly avoids the hustle and bustle of Brick Lane is this small cafe-cum-restaurant, offering authentic Bengali cuisine at low, low prices.
Meraz calls itself a cafe and, appearance-wise, that is exactly what you get – no frills, no fuss. Nevertheless, the bright, clean surroundings and cheery lime green and red colour scheme prove inviting, and a respectable amount of space – considering the venue’s size – is available to all.
Despite its side street location and modest size, Meraz still manages to draw in a sizeable crowd; perhaps encouraged by the promise of delicious eats on the cheap. The tone is strictly informal and busy chatter abounds, creating the ideal environment for a casual dinner with friends.
Starters include tandoori lamb chops (£3.25) – a house speciality – which offer a welcome degree of heat that complements, rather than overpowers, their paprika and cumin based marinade. Aloo shami (£2.20) - a dish of mashed potatoes fried with egg yolk and seasoned with mustard and coriander - is also pleasant but perhaps a little bland in flavour. That is, if you disregard its intense spiciness, which you are advised to counter with a well-made mint and yoghurt dressing.
For mains, vegetable biryani (£4.25) is an extremely economical choice; its mountain of well-seasoned basmati rice buries a thick layer of delicately spiced slices of potato, pepper and aubergine, and is served with a sizeable bowl of spicy curry sauce to top it off. This meal also entitles you to one vegetable side dish, and ‘the sukhna nalee sag’ (£2.75 separately) is an extremely popular choice. Consisting of sun-dried spinach fried with garlic coriander, it is comparable to that more familiar staple of Asian restaurants - crispy seaweed – with an intense flavour locked in to its crunchy leaves. At the same time, it manages to avoid the downfall of relying too heavily on extreme saltiness/sweetness – with the fresh taste of the spinach still very much present.
Chana chicken (£4.95) combines large, tender chunks of meat with a filling blend of softened chickpeas and mild spices. As with the majority of the menu, it possesses a wholesome quality that is afforded, in part, by a distinct lack of oiliness. The real guilty treats here are the bread options, which include a neat circle of fluffy peshwari naan (£2.20), enriched by a delectably sweet and creamy coconut filling, and the pan-fried paratha (£1.50) – served as flaky and buttery as you could want.
Without its own alcohol license, Meraz operates a ‘BYOB’ policy. All the usual soft drinks (80p for a can, £1 for juices), teas and coffees are available, as well as a selection of lassis. Mango lassi (£1.65) is truly a winner; soothingly creamy yet light enough to be enjoyed alongside a hefty meal, with the fresh fruit flavour incorporated into the yoghurt perfectly.
The Last Word
Whilst not being the ideal venue for a romantic date or glamorous celebration, Meraz offers incredible value for money - and then some. Sneak away from the aggressive bids for custom on Brick Lane and uncover a true gem of an Indian restaurant, in the guise of a plain and simple cafe.
Meraz Restaurant has been reviewed by 55 users