Thessaloniki: Greek creative cuisine at Mourga
Artsy interiors, sophisticated Greek meze and a lot of authentic meraki all make up for a perfect combo at Thessaloniki's Mourga traditional joint.
Thessaloniki can sometimes be overwhelming with all sorts of new trends popping up. Luckily with Mourga, which has been on the hip radar for about a year now, the success is also rooted in the former establishment of its owners, O Pezodromos.
It was about 2 years ago when I first visited Pezodromos, a simple joint north of Egnatia avenue that was set in the form of a pantry shop with only some daily meze dishes available. Fast forward to today, the place has been refurbished and refitted with a professional old school stove, traditional yet traditional interiors and some more thought into its sophisticated menu... that still changes daily!
As we walk in with another friend on a late weekday afternoon, we're kind of caught off guard as the few empty tables are reserved from those in the know. The waiter kindly offers us a place at the back, along the small bar in front of the kitchen. Despite the gloomy lighting and the fact that it's away from the nicely decorated main room, we still go for it as Giannis Loukakis playfully urges to leave if we don't like it. A natural in small talk and a great authentic figure, Giannis starts to unfold the story of Mourga as he whisks away all sorts of garnishes and sauces on top of the hot pans.
We start off with some sundried tomatoes that are kind of hard to chew but are a treat to our palate as they're washed in Greek virgin olive oil from his father in law down in Mani. Alongside them, a handful of black olives, served just in time to accompany the masterpiece cheese platter: three different cheese cuts, served with homegrown myrtle jam, pickled fern and nettle all topped off with some haroupi crumbs.
The salads arrive and although the black tomato one is nothing special, the one with all the boiled goodies is a really something! Baby cauliflower, baby potatoes and carrot sticks dressed in a dollop of Greek olive oil, beetroot paste and goat's cheese - yum!
The raki flows freely, some more friends join, and by the time we're ready for the main course we can't be bothered to switch tables as Giannis is more or less part of our group. The stories, the laughs, the mood - natural ingredients of homey places in a small town.
The menu is seafood based, so along we play with a nice grilled octopus and legumes dish. Soon comes a frying pan with some tiny red mullets on a bed of tomato and herbs paste - a different and kind of interesting way to serve a red mullet! Finally, the grilled calamari is ready hot off the grill... served over a bed of quinoa. A taste from heaven.
Simple ingredients -purely Greek-, homey environment and a lot of that meraki are three of the main reasons we will indeed be coming back. Again and again. Well done Gianni!