Tashas | Marsa Al Bateen

Tashas has only been open for a short time and is already causing quite a stir on the Abu Dhabi dining scene. Tucked away in the new dining enclave of Marsa Al Bateen, it’s almost as if a new foodie revolution popped up overnight.

Set amidst calm azure waters and offering appealing views of private offshore islands and the famous bridge to nowhere (Hodariyat Bridge), the location of Tashas is part of the draw. An expansive outside terrace will likely prove popular in the cooler months but the bright interiors are more than sufficient, when the option of dining alfresco is removed due to the intense summer heat

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Tasha’s Al Bateen marks the South African brands first foray into the capital and follows hot on the heels of thirteen successful openings in South Africa and two in Dubai (Jumeirah & Outlet Village). Don’t expect identikit designs though, as each location is unique, with the design reflected in both the decor and menu. Here in Abu Dhabi the theme is distinctly Mediterranean, boasting natural tones, potted plants, wicker baskets and a focal layered ceiling installation by South African Elonah O’Neil. resembling waves made up of intricate paper designs.

For the indecisive amongst us, dining at Tashas could prove problematic as the choices are overwhelming. Diners are given not one, but two menus to choose from. The large classic menu is available in every branch of Tashas worldwide, while the smaller (and more manageable) ‘inspired by menu’ is a one page affair of Spanish-inspired tapas dishes. We visited on a Thursday lunchtime and found the place to be heaving, so take full advantage of the browsing time provided, while waiting for a table.

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Turkish Delight Mocktail

After a few minutes we’re led to a small table by the window, bathed in natural light and offering impressive waterfront views. It’s a nice set-up that feels cosy and almost homely but perhaps the tables have been crammed a little too close together to make for a truly comfortable dining experience. Service comes from a team of friendly South Africans who, despite the busy nature of the restaurant, remain calm and professional at all times. The service style is particularly engaging, and with it being such a rarity to see somewhere so busy in Abu Dhabi. We’re truly impressed that the service manages to cope and the wait time for food is minimal.

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Beef Carpaccio

As we peruse the menu of sandwiches, salads, quesadillas and pastas, our waitress can clearly see we’re a little lost. She interjects with recommendations, while genuinely trying to hone in on the dishes that would suit us best. We adore the thin slices of Beef Carpaccio which is one of the best we’ve tried in the capital, topped with cheese, capers and a drizzle of olive oil, it’s an absolute delight. The same can be said for the creamy Burrata, which maintains its consistency, laid on top of a bed of cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and seasoned simply with a touch of salt and pepper.

From the ‘inspired by’ menu we opt for Spicy Prawns, arriving to the table de-shelled with a warm pitta bread. The prawns are not as fiery as you might expect but offer a good texture, we only wish for more heat and a larger portion.

Our main courses include the Steak Tagliata and the Chicken Vol-au-vent with herb salad. The latter a sure fire contender for most Instagrammed dish in Abu Dhabi this month. We’re pleased to see that the 250g of steak is cooked as requested (a pink medium) and comes tossed in cherry tomatoes, fresh rocket, sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts, amidst a sauce made from chilli, ginger, garlic and soya. It’s a large portion and one that offers good flavours, made all the more appealing from the serving of Truffle Fries that accompanies it.

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Chicken Vol-au-vent

The vol-au-vent dish is the definition of the comfort food that the Tashas brand is baed upon. Three large and golden pastry cases are filled with a rich and creamy sauce that is beautifully flavoured but perhaps a little too heavy. It invokes nostalgic childhood memories of New Year’s Eve parties in the 1980s where the vol-au-vent was deemed the hight of sophistication, albeit these ones are presents in a  super-sized format.

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Crema Catalana

Desserts are limited to just five options and include Pumpkin Fritters (already on the list for our next visit), Poached Pears and a Bread & Butter Pudding. We sample the Crema Catalana which appears with so much spun sugar that it resembles the hair of US president Donald Trump! It’s a well prepared dessert but one that veers somewhat on the sweet side.  Meanwhile, the Daxa’s Chocolate Slice is absolute heaven, offering a light and moist chocolate sponge, topped with caramelised hazelnuts, vanilla ice-cream and a milk chocolate pouring sauce. It’s a great dessert and one we can see ourselves returning for.

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Daxa’s Chocolate Slice

Tashas also offers an extensive beverage menu of mocktails, juices, coffees and teas. Much like the food, its difficult to narrow down your options but we can certainly recommend the Roasted Hazelnut Macciato and the Pequeno Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate, which our dining partner and fellow blogger/hot chocolate obsessive Delaine (@oftravelsandtales) informs us is one of the best in town. We also sampled the Turkish Delight mocktail, comprising rose syrup, cranberry juice and pistachio nuts served over ice. For lovers of the Turkish confectionary staple, this is a must try.

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Tashas has proven extremely popular with the local Emirati population and it’s easy to see why. Despite the relatively casual setting, the food is more akin to the quality of fine dining, with each dish made to order (nothing is pre-prepared). The portions are very generous but some may deem the price point to be a little on the high side. Tashas is certainly shaking up the popular cafe culture of the UAE with its personalised approach, offering a strong brand that doesn’t feel like part of a soulless chain.

Tashas founder Natasha Sideris is looking to expand the brand with three more stores opening in 2017. Her vision is to offer food that’s comforting and simple, where the quality of ingredients take centre stage in a menu of classic favourites. It’s a concept that has certainly struck a chord with diners and for those looking to replicate this idea at home, Tashas offers a number of key ingredients and Sideris’ cook book for purchase.

Location: Unit B02, Marsa Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Website: http://www.tashascafe.com/locations/abu-dhabi/al-bateen/
Hours: 8am – midnight
Phone: 02 445 0890

We were invited to dine at Tasha’s. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE

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