Where: 87 Albert St
Phone: (09) 3090 933
Vegetarians: Plenty of options
Watch out for: The arc lights
Bottom line: Poor food, vague service
A restaurant's name must convey, in a few syllables, the experience a diner might expect. Most places make a mess of this, but it seems to me that Mozetta elevates opaqueness to an art form.
The word, I discover, is a variant spelling of "mozzetta" which is the name for the shoulder-length cloak worn by the Pope. Whether applying it to a restaurant starts Italian Catholics salivating I have no idea since I am a lapsed Anglican, but I have to say that I don't immediately associate His Holiness with the pleasure of eating and drinking - well, with pleasure of any sort, actually.
The vaguely Italian sound of the name might have got the tastebuds standing to attention but the halal "Mediterranean" food it purports to serve is from the very eastern end of the Med and, to be more precise, a bit into Asia Minor.
Nothing wrong with that, of course (well, there was, actually; read on), but it seems to me that the best names for a place that serves couscous with figs or chermoula fish are not to be found in a catalogue of Vatican regalia.
You would have thought that the proprietors of Mozetta would be aware of the importance of naming. Its near neighbours include the unambiguous A Little Italy, The Mexican Cafe and Mai Thai, and it is something of a sister establishment to Sahaa in Khyber Pass. That place used to be called Marco's but they changed the name because they realised people were arriving expecting Italian food.
Mozetta had been open a month when we visited, so what we encountered cannot reasonably be ascribed to teething troubles. It occupies a ground-floor streetfront space in a characterless office building and is presumably intended to attract lunchtime custom with large bowls of Middle Eastern-inspired salads in a glass cabinet. The pulling power of this display, it has to be said, had wilted somewhat by evening, when the half-full bowls were still there: it created a tired impression, which was not to lift in the next couple of hours.
The fitout has included the inexplicable decision to angle blinding spotlights into the dining space which makes sitting in there an experience halfway between being on stage and undergoing a dental examination. Perfectly nauseating artwork fails to warm the starkness.
We dawdled over a bottle of wine bought from the nearby off-licence and waited, first for service and then for the food. The kitchen, visible through a hatch, was a frenzy of activity but it seemed like months before anything arrived. This was hard to understand given our choices: fried calamari and falafel are not noted favourites of the Slow Cooking movement, after all, and the only one of our mains that wasn't pre-prepared was a salmon fillet.
As to quality, the less said the better. One of our guests described a lamb-and-apple tagine as "not bad, I suppose" but I suspect he was exaggerating for effect. The Professor's meatballs and spaghetti were as good as any Girl Guide camp food she has ever eaten. A chicken leg was not so much roasted as desiccated. When we asked for some pita bread, the waitress established, after a long search, that they didn't have any.
Two of the four desserts were likewise unavailable although, to be fair, they gave two of us complimentary servings of desserts we didn't want. An orange almond cake was moistly excellent, but for $10 I reckon it should have come with a belly dancer.