If you live in the UAE and you have an Instagram account, there’s little chance that the opening of Fish Beach Taverna earlier this year passed you by. The idyllic little Aegean spot, situated right on the beach at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi, barely needs a filter. Fairy lights twinkle in glass jars hung from palm trees, the furniture is of the rustic, whitewashed variety and there’s even a blue door dividing the terrace space from the beach itself, where diners paddle between courses, the surf lapping gently up to the first line of tables. Pretty doesn’t come close.
With all this blue and white-hued beauty, it would have been fairly easy for the food to take a back seat. But thankfully, it seems to have been given as much careful thought as the interiors, and a host of independent fishermen in Turkey have seen their businesses thrive thanks to the kitchen’s careful sourcing.
Fish, of course, is the name of the game, though the menu somehow manages to remain inventive. We started by sharing some impeccable and ambitious hot and cold mezze plates, each as delicious as the last. Rock samphire comes pickled, studded with walnuts and pomegranate seeds and drizzled with olive oil. A dish of lavrek, salted chunks of sea bass served cold with fresh rosemary and oregano, orange and olive oil, is light and tasty, while a warm dish of balik kofte, sea bass and sea bream fritters mixed with parsley, onion, garlic and cheese, comes in a seriously moreish homemade tomato sauce. Arguably the pick of the mezzes though, despite making a mockery of our best dietary intentions, is beyaz. Three chunky triangles of feta, battered, pan-fried and topped with sesame and honey, it’s a salty but sweet joy, and well worth every last calorie. Even cheese, it seems, can be improved upon with a bit of deep-frying
While the mains menu boasts a variety of tasty sounding casseroles, plus some meat and veggie options, it’s hard to look past the day’s fresh catch, displayed on ice near the entrance to the restaurant. We select a huge fresh sea bass and eschew pan-fry, deep-fry and steaming options in favour of the huge outdoor grill. It’s the right decision. Filleted to serve two people, the fish arrives on a pair of wooden boards, the skin charred to a bubbling crisp, the flesh moist beneath. It’s simple, and it’s pretty much perfect. Sides of tomato rice and grilled asparagus with more of that homemade tomato sauce are lovely, but go unfinished in favour of the star of the show.
Sadly too full for dessert, we eek out the last of our glasses of wine, trying to stay just a little while longer before heading back out into the city traffic. It might be just off bustling Beach Road, but Fish feels miles from anywhere and it’s all the better for it. Now, if only all those Instagrammers would put their phones down for a moment…
Le Méridien Mina Seyahi, Beach Road, Dubai, Sun to Thur 6.30pm to 11pm, Fri and Sat noon to 11pm. Tel: (04) 5117373. Taxi: Le Méridien Mina Seyahi. fish-dubai.com
DOING SOME GOOD
Chef Haluk Cetinler on supporting small fishing businesses in the Aegean
How do you source the seafood at Fish?
We only work with the best available ingredients in the market and all of our fish and seafood is imported from our local fishermen in the Aegean in order to provide our guests with an amazing experience that focuses on quality. We had several tastings to find the very best, and we work closely with our Turkish fishermen to ensure the high quality and consistency remains at all times
Why did you feel it was so important to source that way, and how does it help with traceability?
In order to provide an authentic experience, it’s very important for us that the quality and taste of the ingredients remain true to their origins. It’s helped us tremendously to trace where all of our products come from, and we are in constant contact with our fishermen. All our fish and seafood is wild caught, so the variety changes every week, and by having that close relationship we ensure we only receive the best.
How does your method help those fishermen involved?
The relationship is mutually beneficial, and by providing them with constant, long-lasting business, they are able to invest in improving their equipment, and their overall operations.
How much of your other produce are you able to source within the Gulf region?
Our products come from all over the world, as we only work with ingredients that are in season. Many of our vegetables are also imported from the Aegean region and we work with several local partners on products that are developed specially for us here.
How important do you think sustainability and traceability are to customers here?
They are incredibly important. Simply, we must know where everything comes from in order to guarantee the quality of the product.