Fish Beach Taverna: what’s the catch?

Fish Beach Taverna - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaWhen gorgeous photos of a new Dubai restaurant, Fish Beach Taverna, located at Le Meridien Mina Al Seyahi, start to appear on my Instagram feed, I can’t help but get excited about what promises to be an “Aegean” culinary experience. Memories from my recent travels to Istanbul and Izmir come rushing back. The Aegean sea is flanked by both Turkey and Greece, so perhaps that explains the mismatch between a Turkish seafood menu and a white-washed Greek island setting.

I call six days ahead to make a reservation for a late Saturday lunch, only to be told Fish is fully booked. My first thought is ‘impressive’, but with a little probing, I manage to sway the reservations agent to take my booking for a small table of two. Fast forward to my lunch, and only half the tables are occupied, leaving me less than impressed.

A short walk from the hotel entrance, we’re greeted with a white-washed narrow entryway and pebbled cobbled path, adorned with potted plants that lead to a beautiful open-air taverna with unobstructed views of the beach. Bursts of cobalt blue decorative accents glisten in the sun. With the weather cooling down it carries a breeze that mimics a Greek island vibe. The setting induces happiness, and I find myself relaxing.

Fish Beach Taverna - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaFish Beach Taverna - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

The menu captures the vibrant world of Turkish cuisine with its mix of cold and hot meze, casseroles and a fresh fish display. However, it’s riddled with typos and confused dishes. With the temperature hitting 34C, it’s still a little too hot for a casserole lunch eliminating most of our options for mains – so I decide to order a meze mix and grilled fish. As we settle in, barely taking a sip of our cold Coronas, the waiter tells us that two of the starters are not available. We ask for a third and are told, that too, isn’t available. Disappointed, we opt for a fourth, in the hope this would be our final choice.

Meze is the true highlight of Turkish cuisine capturing the rich culinary taste borrowed from Mediterranean, Slavic and Middle Eastern countries. Gavurdagli is essentially a chopped farmers’ salad topped with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. There’s a clear element of prep involved and lacks the citrusy punch you expect which leaves our palates underwhelmed. The atom, which comes with smoky charred aubergine stirred into a buttery garlic yoghurt, topped with chopped walnuts, and finished off with a drizzle of sweet chilli oil, is delicious. The cool creaminess and sweet yet spicy undertones are comforting. A dish of kabak is equally creamy but less exciting. The zucchini (mixed with yoghurt and fresh dill) is julienned, but grated too thinly leaving it limp and unrecognisable.

Manca is a simple Moorish dish – here it’s a mix of grilled aubergine, tomatoes and green peppers, flavoured with chilli and garlic, and finished with a sharp splash of vinegar. The ahtapot, although misspelled on the menu, is tender and full of flavour, a juicy chunk of spice-dusted octopus marinated in a citrus vinaigrette, served grilled on a terracotta clay pot. It is the best of the starters and goes down a treat. As Turks are known for their cheese, I order ezme – while traditionally known as a paste made from crushed tomatoes and hot peppers, at Fish it’s a mix of four cheeses including a white cheese from Ezine, a cottage cheese, Bryndza made of sheep’s milk, and finally a goat’s cheese – all scooped up and served like ice cream. A velvety smooth texture and a pungent flavour make it an ideal accompaniment to our warm, freshly baked bread.

Mezze at Fish - Fish restaurant Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaFresh fish display - Fish restaurant Dubai - FooDiva

We inspect the fresh fish on display and opt for a whole sea bream simply grilled for our main course. The waiter weighs it up and informs us it will cost a whopping AED245, quite hefty for a medium sized 700g fish that’s just thrown on the grill and served, for all intents and purposes, with a decorative garnish. The fish arrives overcooked and slightly dry, but retains its sweet well-rounded flavour.

Sea bream at Fish - Fish restaurant Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaDesserts at Fish - Fish restaurant Dubai - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

Service definitely requires some fine-tuning. Fresh plates between the starter and main course should be offered – ours are bathing in salad dressing and creamy smudges. Some proper serving utensils would help – when the fish arrives and I ask the waiter to debone it, he seems genuinely confused. Disappointed, I ask for a serving fork and fish knife, only to receive a set of eating utensils making it that much harder to scoop up and serve, let alone enjoy. This is, in my opinion, a real faux pas for a seafood restaurant at a five star hotel. In this setting, a relaxed dining vibe is ideal, but the service shouldn’t be – at least not overtly!

At this point, I’m hoping the desserts will steal the show. There are three to choose from, two of which include mastic ice cream, so much for variation… The incir consists of baked figs stuffed with walnuts and topped with fresh cream. The flavours are subtle and earthy, but I would replace the dried figs with fresh ones to balance the texture with the nuts. The laz borek, a baked filo pastry stuffed with semolina cream, is just about average. The trick is getting the final notes right with a flavoured syrup or custard – in this instance a rose or orange blossom would have been perfect.

Fish Beach Taverna - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaAll in all, the chic interior and beachside setting reel us in, but the catch is in the food and service, leaving us craving a little more finesse from the culinary execution and the customer service. With a hefty AED320 price point per head, some attentive tweaking would go a long way in turning this taverna into something quite spectacular – and not just for the view. For this reason, I’m giving Fish an average FooDiva rating of three out of five knives.

Have you tried Fish? What was your experience like?

Eat well,

Lolly. x

Who is guest reviewer Lolly? A self-proclaimed dayeater, longstanding PR girl and F&B marketeer with a background in hospitality. When she’s not working she shares her tales of wondrous food and drink on her Instagram page.

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
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11 Responses to “Fish Beach Taverna: what’s the catch?”

  1. Melanie November 14, 2016 at 10:01 am

    As a location, I can’t fault Fish. The setting is delightful. However my experience with booking was the same, ‘fully booked for lunch and dinner for two days’, yet taking advice and arriving on spec for lunch at 2pm only a small handful of tables were occupied. We accepted a’table in the sun’ later exchanged for a table in the farthest corner. Why?!

    One of the starters we wanted was unavailable, but the small plates (agree, still too hot for bit eats) were excellent and good value. Will definitely go back (if they allow me to sit down).

    • Lolly November 14, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Hi Melanie,
      Totally agree – It’s the small things like the booking experience and attentive service that really make a difference and set the benchmark. Having said that, they have a chance to turn things around with some fine tuning, (and ensuring all their guests have place to sit!)
      Lolly x

  2. Jolita November 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

    I agree with the misleading booking scenario, on the phone the reservations are fully booked but they accept walk ins.
    I love the set up of this tavern but they need to improve on service as it was a little slow and perhaps have more starters available to meet the demand. When I order grilled fish it came a little dry I believe it was overcooked, the prawn casserole dish didn’t leave me impressed but overall i like the place and I will be back.

  3. Lolly November 14, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Hi Jolita,
    It’s great to hear your feedback on the reservations experience and food quality. It seems there’s a recurring theme among the guests… I agree with you that it deserves another visit in a month or two, they would hopefully have had enough time to address some of these issues!
    Lolly x

  4. GA November 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

    I have eaten at Fish but it was at a dine around event arranged by Foodiva, thought the food was fabulous and the setting is just amazing. Blue is my favourite colour so the decor just blew me away. The food we had that evening was superb. I am not sure I would be too happy at paying 245 AED for a sea bream though!! The reservations system makes you laugh, yet another outlet trying to make you think they are so so busy you can’t get a table. In reality you could probably walk in any tme and grab one. Thank GA x

    • Lolly November 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      I think dining with foodiva will always be quite spectacular! 😉 it’s on my bucket list for sure! Thanks for your feedback lovely.

  5. Elena November 17, 2016 at 10:38 am

    We dined with a group of friends. Location excellent. It reminded me of a Greek island taverna. I thought fish was on the expensive side. Not all starters were available. Service on the slow side.

    • Lolly November 17, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Elena, looks like we have a bit of a consensus with the service and seasonal availabilty. I had a chat with the manager about the missing dishes, and apparently it’s because they import most of the produce directly from Turkey, but I feel they could adopt a more locally sustainable purchasing system which not only makes financial sense but also won’t leave guests dissapointed. Have you read Samantha’s latest article on Boca? I’d love to see more restaurants adopt a similar approach!

  6. Al shiba April 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    The restaurant is great located on the beach of Meridian Mina Syahi Hotel with amazing boats and sea views, small enough to have romantic atmosphere. Unfortunately staffs are not professional and rude. The price are too high for such informal place. AED 360/- for grilled sea bass of 700 g and AED 25/- for each shrimp. So, only lunch for to people costs AED 660/- without drinks. Too expensive for what you get. For this money you could get better service and and better food. It is so sad, with such great location the place is not enough good to visit it again. ??????

  7. Al Shaiba April 23, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    The restaurant is great located on the beach of Meridian Mina Syahi Hotel with amazing boats and sea views, small enough to have romantic atmosphere. Unfortunately staffs are not professional and rude. The price are too high for such informal place. AED 360/- for grilled sea bass of 700 g and AED 25/- for each shrimp. So, only lunch for to people costs AED 660/- without drinks. Too expensive for what you get. For this money you could get better service and and better food. It is so sad, with such great location the place is not enough good to visit it again. ??????

    • Lolly April 26, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Shaiba,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback – you’re so right – the location is stunning! it’s such a shame that the restaurant team haven’t worked on their service and pricing issues during the past few (grace period) months.

      Lolly x

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