The moment I stepped into the warm, low-lit ambiance of Avli, candles atmospherically flickering, a sea of soothing soft tones, I realised I had made a sartorial mistake. Wearing a shouty bright print seemed almost garish in such a sophisticated environment.
There’s an automatic hand sanitiser at the entrance – and you can see the fully masked team in the bright open kitchen plating up – as your temperature is taken before you get escorted to your table. I might not have made it to Mykonos this year but immediately felt transported to the Greek isles with potted olive plants echoing the courtyards – or avli – that it’s named after. Restauranteur Natasha Sideris’s eatery has kept it’s seating the same as it always was – but they’ve placed discrete cards on tables indicating some are not to be used due to social distancing.
We opted for a corner table so we could get maximum people watching with minimal contact and were soon happily ensconced, tangy Cycladic Punch mocktail in hand, perusing the menu. Our server expertly guided us through all the plates, explaining that portions made for sharing.
We found this to be the case even when it came to the ‘mezedes’ – small dishes that allegedly “don’t fill you up” but turned out to be far more generous than we anticipated.
Everything we sampled from the extensive menu; there’s plenty to pick from whether you are vegetarian, pescatarian or a confirmed carnivore, was perfectly executed and delight for all the senses. Soon our table was full of our selection of starters.
One of their signatures is the feta saganaki – rich, salty feta teamed with crisp phyllo pastry and thyme-topped sticky honey. The perfect combination of flavours. The crisp calamari came with creamy black aioli – squid ink pumping up the umami tones.
We didn’t think we could come to a Greek spot without trying lamb meatballs, while we mopped up the tomato butter and herby yogurt sauce with the freshly baked pita bread that kept us company from the beginning. A tuna tartare lightened things up with the decadent addition of truffle making it an unusual but winning pairing.
Everyone raves about their slow cooked lamb shank, that comes perched on rich tomato orzo with crisp sage adding texture. We followed the crowd – and our waitress’ advice – and were not disappointed by the bowl of comfort food that came to our table.
Though we were already full from our first round, we rallied and polished off most of the (very filling) plate. And the moreish oregano fries that we couldn’t resist.
We were tempted by a fig cheesecake and Amira’s sticky orange cake with toffee caramel but couldn’t even manage the enticing rose-tinged watermelon sorbet at the end. But this just gives us another reason to return.
Avli literally ticks all the boxes for a special night out – something that most of us need during Covid times. The food, atmosphere, lighting and even the music have been so well thought out to make it a really complete – albeit pricey – dining experience. It would be the ideal spot for a family meal out as you’d get to fully appreciate the breadth of the menu. Our not-so-small sampling whet our appetite to come back again and there’s an excellent AED120 set menu (with lots of choice) that’s served up for lunch during the week.
- For more information call +971 4 359 0008 or visit avlibytashas.com. Find Avli by Tashas at ground level, Gate Village building 9, Dubai International Financial Centre.