My Big Fat Greek Dinner

When a man’s stomach is full it makes no difference whether he is rich or poor.” Euripides

Tired of your usual dining options? Fancy trying somewhere different that serves traditional Mediterranean cuisine but not sure where to go? I have just the answer, Acropolis the traditional style restaurant located at the heart of Le Méridien Hotel offers the only authentic Greek food in the capital, cooked by chefs that are natives of Greece.

FullSizeRender-131Acropolis restaurant, named after the famous Greek citadel in Athens, overlooks the central garden of the hotel and has a large outdoor terrace that’s perfect for cooler months and a spacious interior that feels like a homely taverna. Genuine touches such as blue and white checked tablecloths, scenic paintings of quaint Greek towns and mounted ceramic plates (no actual plate smashing disappointingly) are coupled with an extremely warm welcome that adds to the overall ambiance, I felt like I was back on holiday in Crete. The concept is quite simple, bringing the spirit of Greek culture to the capital’s dining scene and mixing it with the sensational flavours of Mediterranean cuisine offering an affordable experience for diners to enjoy.

FullSizeRender-129The menu at Acropolis, devised by executive Chef Patrick Van Velzen who spent more than eight years in Greece, is vast and very reasonably priced. Greek food really lends itself to a vegetarian diet and I was impressed with the selection of dishes available in both the salad and Mezzedakia (Mezze) section but also slightly overwhelmed with so much choice. Our gracious host for the evening, assistant manager Kostas suggested he bring a selection of mezze (different from the Arabic version) for us to share which was the perfect solution. Plates and plates full of colourful and flavoursome food arrived and in a cuisine rich in home produced olive oil, lemon juice, vegetables, fragrant herbs and legumes and a climate that lends itself to producing fresh seasonal ingredients (Acropolis imports produce straight from Greece), it was hardly surprising that everything looked so appetising. Of course the more recognisable and traditional Greek staples of olives, feta, yogurt and pita bread made an appearance but they were served alongside many dishes I had never tried before and that was exciting.

FullSizeRender-128Our personal mezze selection included many vegetarian delights starting with a Spitiko Tzatziki greek yoghurt dip with cucumber and garlic which was served with warm Pitoules grilled pita bread triangles and Fava combining chickpeas with olive oil and fresh onions. The traditional Greek salad Choriatiki was next up, fresh and full of olives with cucumber, tomatoes and a sizeable portion of tangy crumbly white feta cheese, Îșαλός (so good). Prasini had a hefty chunk of my favourite grilled halloumi cheese resting on green lettuce partnered perfectly with a sweet balsamic dressing. My most-liked dish along with the cheeses, was Kolokithokeftedes delightful little crispy patties filled with delicious shredded zucchini (courgette) served with mint and yoghurt dip, really the perfect vegetarian option for little old me. Next up to taste was Chef Kostas Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) an attractive swirl of filo pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese, very tasty and eaten as a snack in its native Greece but also perfect as delicious starter, lunch or light dinner.

Traditionally in Greek cuisine meat is not that prominent in the daily diet, more likely reserved for festivals and special occasions but Acropolis offers an array of dishes perfect for meat eaters, such as my fellow diner. She feasted on Souzoukakia, classic fried meatballs with tomato sauce, a special prawn dish with a fresh tomato and onion sauce which was prepared by chef Markou Loudovika, who originates from Athens from his Mistiko piato (chef’s secret) section of the menu and a succulent chicken thigh skewer, all so good that her plate was completely empty at the end!

All that food and we hadn’t even got to the main course (Kyrios piato) yet! We couldn’t visit a Greek restaurant and not order Ya ya’s Mousaka which is probably the most famous Greek dish worldwide and let me just say the eggplant (aubergine) prepared in the oven with mince meat, bechamel sauce and topped with gratinated cheese disappeared very rapidly, with lots of appreciative noises. I would like to request, for purely selfish reasons of course, that  a vegetarian version of the mousaka makes an appearance on the menu in the future as I love eggplant so much! I had Gemista, a pepper stuffed with tomatoes, zucchini and aromatic rice and vegetables. We didn’t try the other famous traditional Greek dish Gyros which is chicken marinated and roasted with tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, pita bread and potatoes, something to take the other half to try next time I visit.

FullSizeRender-132Next up was a sample of traditional Greek desserts (Glyka) but sadly no Mousse sokolata (Chocolate mousse) that I was craving. We feasted on Karidopita a walnut pie which I would describe more as a cake. A moist and extra syrupy walnut cake with an aroma of cinnamon and grounded clove, served with mastic ice-cream made from the resin from the mastic tree. Apparently in the Ionian sea islands this cake is used to represent happiness and abundance and I can see why, its heaven on a plate. We also had something I have experienced before, Baklava rich sweet layers of filo pastry filled with chopped pistachio nuts and drizzled with sweet syrup. Traditionally Greek Baklava has its roots in ancient Greece and both the desserts we ate come under the category of Siropiasta meaning syrupy Greek desserts. We finished off with a strong and bitter flavoured cold Greek coffee, a cappuccino freddo. This summer version of a cappuccino is enriched with crushed ice and cold milk froth creating a think top layer and drunk through a straw. This unique refreshing caffeinated beverage which is perfect for hot summer days in Greece, but in all honestly it was a tad strong for a weak latte lover like me, especially at 10pm. See the full Acropolis menu here

FullSizeRender-134The restaurant’s Greek character is enhanced with a live Greek band playing traditional music from Tuesday to Saturday but as we dined on a Monday evening we missed out on the entertainment and the sharp metallic sound of the traditional Bouzouki (stringed instrument not dissimilar to the Oud or Mandolin). No plate smashing, no shouting of OPA! and no dancing but an excellent evening all the same and an excuse to go back and experience the entertainment and of course the chocolate mousse.

FullSizeRender-133All the staff we encountered were extremely friendly and welcoming, talking us through the menu options and even presenting us with a glass of bubbly while we decided, I was most impressed by this alone. The menu offers home-style recipes that have been handed down through generations of Greek families and recreated by the chefs here in the UAE. If you like the thought of dining in a cozy taverna style setting (while imagining you are on a small Greek island awash with white walls and bright blue accents) that offers an authentic Greek dining experience then Acropolis is a perfect location for you and here’s the best bit it’s right on your doorstep in the heart of Abu Dhabi.

Kali Oreksi!

*GIVEAWAY* The lovely people at the Le Meridian Hotel has given anaexpatabroad readers the opportunity to WIN a dinner for two worth AED 400 at Acropolis restaurant. To participate in the Giveaway you need to visit anexpatabroad on Facebook, tag a friend or two and answer the prize question. Good Luck 😉

FullSizeRender-130Acropolis Restaurant

Location: Le MĂ©ridien Hotel

Opening Times: week days 7:00pm – 11:00pm, weekends 1:00pm till 11:00pm

Telephone: 02 644 6666

Website: www.acropolisabudhabi.com

I was invited to review this restaurant but the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.