Gaia: Inside Mayfair’s Latest Grecian Palace

By Ellie Smith

2 months ago

Aegean-inspired fare at Dubai-style prices


With every street lined with glitzy restaurants, it’s easy for new openings to get lost amid the madness of Mayfair. You’re competing with juggernauts like Bacchanalia and Sexy Fish, plus a flurry of city stalwarts: The Ritz, Scott’s, Claridge’s. But there’s certainly a big appetite for high-end dining, so if you get it right you’re in the money (quite literally). The latest to turn heads? Gaia: an enormous Greek-inspired restaurant which landed on Dover Street last December. 

Review: GAIA, Mayfair

The fourth in a growing group of eateries which includes outposts in Dubai, Monte Carlo and Doha, Gaia is the brainchild of restaurateur Evgeny Kuzin and British-Nigerian chef Izu Ani. It was only a matter of time before it arrived in London, and with its super-slick interiors and uber-luxe feel, it fits right in amid the city’s most affluent postcode. 

Spread across three floors, Gaia certainly has the wow factor, with the aesthetic designed to channel the sunny Greek isles – albeit with an extra dose of glam. It’s all sparkling chandeliers, marble, whitewashed walls and azure blue furnishings, with neo-classical features throughout: high ceilings, domed arches and Hellenistic statues. It’s definitely not your typical Greek taverna, but staff (of which there is an abundance) do their best to make it feel warm and welcoming. 

So Gaia is certainly beautiful, but here’s that age-old question again: is it all style over substance? Thankfully, no. The sharing-style menu offers decadent takes on Grecian classics: moussaka, spanakopita, fava beans, Greek salad. There’s a big focus on seafood – which is evident from the moment you arrive, thanks to a large display of the day’s catch, piled high with lobsters, oysters, seabass and turbot.

But first: bread. Shortly after sitting down, one of the many waiters will saunter over to offer your choice of bread from a big basket – choose between focaccia, olive bread and more. Dips-wise, the tzatziki is a must: perfectly fresh and creamy, and served with more bread, pillowy pita this time. 

Sea bream carpaccio

Then, it’s time to get stuck into the starters. Gaia’s signature dish is the sea bream carpaccio – served on the bone, and sliced to mimic fish scales (hence its Instagram fame), with three little olive oils on the side: one infused with lemon, another with yuzu, and a third with truffle. It felt a little intimidating at first, but luckily our waiter demonstrated the correct way to enjoy it. The ritual involves dipping your fork in the lemon and the salt, picking up a slice of fish and drizzling it with one of the three little olive oils (lemon first, then truffle at the end as it’s the most potent flavour). It was delicious, as you should hope for a dish that costs £44.

While this was undeniably the star of the starter show, we also enjoyed the meaty grilled octopus, served with a fava bean puree, and the spicy wood oven prawns, which are cooked in a tasty blend of rosemary, harissa and lemon juice.

Lobster pasta

For the mains, you can choose from a selection of fish and your waiter will recommend the best cooking technique. We went for the seabass, opting to have it grilled after deciding we couldn’t wait an hour for the salt bake – although we did spot another table who had and it did look pretty impressive. Nonetheless, the dish was delicious: simply grilled with lemon oil, and sliced in front of us (they’re big on theatrical, tableside activity at Gaia).

Other mains worth trying include the juicy, succulent lamb cutlets, served with more of the tzatziki (yay!), and the opulent, £68-a-pop lobster linguine, cooked in a cherry tomato sauce, another social media hero.

Greek frozen yoghurt

After all this, my dining companion and I were fit to burst, but we were encouraged to find a bit of room for dessert – and were very glad we did. Our meal concluded with the Tarta me Fistikia, a giant peanut butter tart with a salted caramel ganache, and the famed frozen yoghurt tower, served with a side of loukoumades (doughnuts). 

Drinks-wise, choose from an array of Greek-inspired cocktails – the Santorini Spritz, for instance, is a blend of lychee, vodka, rose water and prosecco – alongside an extensive wine list, which focuses on European varieties, including many prestigious vineyards.

THE FINAL WORD

It would be easy to be cynical about this OTT, eye-wateringly expensive Mayfair newbie – but it’s hard not to fall for Gaia’s charms. Tables have been in high demand ever since it opened its doors, and no doubt the buzz will continue throughout 2024.

BOOK IT

50 Dover St, London W1S 4NY, gaia-restaurants.com