There are two types of people in Dubai: those who go to Madinat Jumeirah, and those who don’t. We are big advocates for the former, although it’s easy to understand the argument against the maze of the souk and crowds of tourists.
Placed in the heart of the destination, facing the iconic Madinat waterways is the new home-grown concept, Taverna Greek Kitchen.
Neighboured by Trader Vic’s, the locale is buzzing. Taverna’s alfresco tables are placed in a hub of atmosphere, reminiscent of that you would find on a European strip.
Stepping inside, the low ceiling, wooden beams and mosaicked thick brick walls surround you to give the sensation of an old country cellar. The rustic décor is drawn together with wood, stone and cotton to create a neutral colour palette throughout.
The first point of contact comes from within the semi-open kitchen, a chef is beaming at us and within the first five seconds of arrival, we’re made to feel like family. A fresh fish display is brimming with sea bass, red snapper and rock fish; all of which can be grilled on the wood-fired grill, roasted or salt-baked with lemon oil.
Sat snug on the booth-side of a table in the back, we have a prime view of the entire restaurant but for once we’re not people-watching other customers – the energy of the staff has caught our attention.
While modern Greek music plays in the background, waiters, bar staff and chefs can be seen dancing, singing and making each other laugh the entire night, providing a genuinely uplifting atmosphere.
We start with three appetisers to share, although when they arrive the portions are so large that we decide one would have been enough.
The kadaifi prawns (Dhs60) are beautifully crisp and crunchy, drizzled in a surprisingly sweet strawberry sauce and accompanied by a fresh and juicy seaweed salad. The fried calamari (Dhs48) is thankfully not over-battered but could’ve been warmer and crispier.
Our waiter provides a wealth of knowledge about the menu, recommending the paidakia (Dhs150) and moussaka (Dhs110) for our mains. The former arrives on a huge wooden block; 500 grams of thinly sliced lamb chops with chunky oregano fries. The meat is juicy and tender although there are slivers of fat that we could have done without, while the fries are topped with crumbly feta cheese.
It’s difficult to go wrong with a moussaka but Taverna excels all the same. The size is not overwhelming and still succeeds in serving as a warm and hearty course. The top layer of mash is deliciously creamy, oven baked to form a crunchy barrier overlaying the dish.
Our final course comes in the form of a chocolate soufflé (Dhs55). Grabbing a spoon, we burst through a sheet of glistening chocolate on the surface, revealing the aroma of rich chocolate cake topped with soft vanilla ice-cream.
Impossible not to finish, by the end of the meal we’re tempted to ask the obliging staff to just roll us out.
Taverna Greek Kitchen, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Sun to Wed noon to midnight, Thur to Sat noon to 1am. Tel: (04) 589 5665. tavernagreek.ae