Abu Dhabi restaurant month is well and truly underway and for those who have still not caught onto this great concept, there is still time to participate. From the 1st – 30th September, some of the capitals best restaurants are offering three course menus at the bargain price of just 195 dirhams per person. Organised by Dining and Nightlife Abu Dhabi, we needed absolutely no excuse to dine out and with Greek cuisine being so difficult to come by. We decided that a visit to Acropolis at the Le Meridien hotel was long overdue.
Following the narrow passageways that lead ‘The Village’ towards the beach, guests will find a collection of bars, nightclubs and restaurants that certainly present an ‘appeal to all’ attitude. Having visited Le Meridien on countless occasions, we’ve never really noticed Acropolis before, due to its discreet entranceway that is marked by a few simply potted Olive Trees and a traditional blue and white theme, synonymous with the Greek island of Santorini.
Acropolis certainly boasts a relaxed atmosphere and judging by the amount of hotel guests dining on a Thursday night, it’s a very popular spot. The decor is simple and resembles a traditional Greek taverna, with a bare concrete floor, brilliant white woodwork and murals depicting the Aegean sea. As an amalgamation of all things stereotypically Greek, Acropolis certainly has a lot to live up to, especially being named after the most famous of Athen’s landmarks and a pinnacle of Greek history.
Unable to pinpoint exactly what it was, we felt that something was missing. Maybe we were dubious because of the negative Zomato reviews or the usage of a ‘Zorba’ font in the menu, that is utilised by literally every Greek restaurant we have ever visited.
Acropolis prides itself on offering authentic Greek cuisine that features fresh seasonal ingredients imported directly from Greece. Now for us, dining would be no easy feat, seeing us our heritage is actually Greek (great grandparents) and we were unlikely to be easily impressed.
With Greek’s being renowned for their hospitality and passion for food, our meal got off to a great start with the arrival of Ouzo – the aniseed flavoured aperitif. Hot and cold mezze soon followed and like the decor, were presented with simplicity and little flare. It has been said that simplicity is the key and that is exactly how we found the food at Acropolis to be. Using ingredients to inspire the senses, the look may be uncomplicated and plain but the flavours certainly make up for the lack of presentation.
The ‘Tzatziki’ offered was a perfectly fresh blend of smooth strained yogurt, garlic and cucumber. A staple of Greek cuisine and the perfect accompaniment for meats or bread. At Acropolis it’s served with ‘Pitoules’ a grilled pitta brea, topped with olive oil and oregano.
Greek Salad is such a simple dish and one that we really appreciated. Referred to as ‘Choriatiki’ on the menu, this mixture of green leaves, tomato, cucumber, olives and the chunkiest feta cheese. Provided a taste of the Mediterranean that is difficult to capture.
A mincemeat and rice dish rolled in cabbage leaves is the Acropolis interpretation of stuffed vine leaves. Known as ‘Lahanodolmades’ the dish was slightly acidic and we actually preferred it to the more traditional vine leaves.
Now it wouldn’t be greek food without something from the sea and the ‘Garides Saganaki’ was our favourite of the mezze. Using large juicy shrimp, cooked in a rich tomato sauce and sprinkled with a generous amount of feta cheese.
Unfortunately not all of the dishes were good and we were really disappointed with the ‘Souzoukakia.’A dish so classic and so engrained in Greek culture that is should have been the standout item. In this instance the fried meatballs in tomato sauce were tasteless, under seasoned and bland, which is such a shame based on the rest of the mezze we sampled.
The first of the main courses redeemed the meal and showed that the chefs at Acropolis can do Greek classics exceedingly well. Likewise it was refreshing to see that the culinary team understand that there is more to Greek cuisine than just souvlaki and taramasalata. The standard of ‘Ya Ya’s Moussaka’ was very high and balanced the textures and flavours of the oven baked eggplant and mincemeat, with the right proportions of béchamel sauce and cheese, to create a cheesy comfort food and a commendable interpretation of this classic dish
Grilled sea bream was beautifully flavoured (and thankfully filleted and deboned at the table) with lashings of lemon and Mediterranean spices. Though we did enjoy this dish, there was nothing specifically Greek about it and not anything to made it stand out from the countless other restaurants that sell similar dishes in this island city.
The ‘Chicken Gyros’ is another staple of Greek cuisine and despite the similarities that run through Mediterranean/Arabic cuisines, this was most definitely a shawarma plate. Though basically a regional variation on the same dish, gyros is usually presented in a wrap and seasoned differently.
Desserts were without a doubt, the best of the three courses on the set menu at Acropolis. When the menu read ‘baklava’ we expected small bite size pieces of nutty flaked pastry. Instead we got a monstrous slab of the sweetest layered baklava that you could imagine, drenched in glistening syrup with hints of cinnamon. Unfortunately our photo does little justice to how good this dish was.
The walnut pie known as ‘Karidopita’ was also a large portion, though more of a cake than a pie. More interesting was the accompaniment of ‘mastic ice cream’ made front plant resin. Mastic is an acquired taste (our waiter described it as tasting like soap) that we relished and even ordered more of. We haven’t seen this on any other menu at the UAE, thus making it a reason to dine at Acropolis, plus it complements the walnut pie spectacularly.
Overall, we found our the dining experience at Acropolis to be a frustrating one. The restaurant is definitely lacking in atmosphere and despite being only 18 months old, is in severe need of a refurbishment and modernisation. Le Meridien was the first hotel built for tourists in Abu Dhabi thirty seven years ago and unfortunately it’s age is beginning to show. With the city around it having progressed, it feels as though the hotel has been somewhat left behind by the modernity that engulfs the surrounding area and something drastic needs to be done to compete – maybe some traditional plate smashing would help?
On a positive note, the service was excellent, with staff having extensive knowledge of the menu. Our waiter Sangeet was particularly charming and attentive, doing his best to ensure that we had a pleasant dining experience. Plus, it would seem that word regarding restaurant month has certainly gotten around, as the majority of our fellow diners were embracing this fantastic promotion.
The food was hit and miss, though all were presented piping hot (which is a rarity).Saying that, none of the food is bad and there are definitely some standout dishes. As one of only a handful of places to dine on Greek cuisine in Abu Dhabi. Acropolis may not offer the best Greek food we have ever had but certainly the best you can get in the Emirate and is a place that will certainly satisfy your cravings for souvlaki and ouzo.
Abu Dhabi restaurant month – sponsored by Dining and Nightlife Abu Dhabi – runs from 1st – 30th September 2016 and offers something for every palate, from Pan Asian, Sushi, Italian, Greek, Indian and Arabic. Each three course menu has been carefully designed by Abu Dhabi chefs who are eager to show off their culinary skills. You can head over to Zomato to book a table or see the menu for each of the participating restaurants:
18 Degrees: Mediterranean – Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel
Acropolis: Greek – Le Méridien
Atayeb: Arabic Mediterranean – Yas Viceroy
Barfly by Buddha Bar: Asian, Sushi – Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal
Belgian Café: Belgian, European – InterContinental Abu Dhabi
Benihana: American, Japanese – Beach Rotana
Benjarong: Thai – Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi
BiCE: Italian – Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Bord Eau: French – Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Brasserie Angelique: French – Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Brassier Flo: French, Seafood – Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
BU: Latin American – The Hub at The Mall, World Trade Centre Mall (Level 4)
Byblos Sur Mer: Lebanese – InterContinental Abu Dhabi
Catch: Seafood, Sushi – Nation Riviera Beach Club
Circo: Italian – InterContinental Abu Dhabi
Crust: Healthy Global Cuisine – Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island
Frankie’s Italian Restaurant & Bar: Italian – Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
Inakaya: Japanese, Sushi – Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
Indigo: Indian Fusion – Beach Rotana
Li Jiang: Southeast Asian – The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
Market Kitchen: Modern American Cuisine with Local Influence – Le Royal Méridien
Noodle Box: Southeast Asian – Yas Viceroy
P&C by Sergi Arola: Spanish – Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Punjab Grill: Indian – Venetian Village, The Ritz Carlton
Rodeo Grill: Fine Steaks and Grills – Beach Rotana
Sontaya: Asian Fusion, Thai – St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Stratos: Revolving Lounge Bar and Grill – Le Royal Méridien
Tamba: Indian Inspired – The Hub at The Mall, World Trade Centre (Level 6)
Todd English’s Olives: Mediterranean – Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal
Tori No Su: Japanese – Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Villa Toscana: Italian – St Regis Abu Dhabi
We were invited to dine at Acropolis. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.