The answer is yes, but not in a way you would expect…

When a restaurant backed by the likes of the Cristiano Ronaldo and the Rafael Nadal comes to your city, you don’t really know what to expect. You assume it’s going to be grand and expensive, a bit pretentious, maybe with an air of intended exclusivity for the highly enlightened. That was Tatel for me.

When you step inside Tatel, it presents like a Dubai restaurant. You know the template, a very specific breed of venues where lavish aesthetics are king and Asian-fusions or parallel of every palatable variety are rampant. But something is different. There is a warmth there, a genuinity that makes you feel welcome immediately – a shadow of homely Spanish hospitality, perhaps.

tatel

Ambiance

The theme is red, with crimson in the curtains and low orange lighting, elevated by huge abstract chandeliers, marble tabletops and dark, velveteen furniture. The sit down tables are packed with couples and groups in search for chic dinners – I can see it becoming a date night or special occasion hotspot because it’s not casual enough for a spontaneous visit. One ought to plan and plan many have done, as the space is high and buzzing with music and conversation.

tatel

The bar, on the other hand, has a life of it’s own. Standing tables, bar chairs and a window-esque design with dollhouse curtains. Here, you come as you are, you smoke, you have a drink and you have a ‘night out in town’. In my line of sight, I can see the bartender dancing around behind the bar to the strains of live saxophone and a luxurious voice as he shakes and stirs. A patron joins him from across the other side. It’s Friday indeed.

Food

For our starters, we order the ensaladilla TATEL con gamba (Dhs85), the ensalada de aguacate (Dhs90), as recommended by our lovely servers, and the pulpo a la parrilla (Dhs145). The ensalada is my favourite – chilled, creamy avocado nestled in crispy, lamb’s lettuce, flavoured with mascarpone cheese and earthy pine nuts. It’s a relatively simple dish and still has the most complex profile while also staying light.

The ensaladilla tastes and looks a bit like tuna mayonnaise, which is what the ingredients would end up doing if made in your home kitchen on a random Tuesday, but here we have soft potato, kimchi mayonnaise and a layer of shrimp carpaccio to go with the tuna belly. It’s good, but the carpaccio feels like a vanity excess – barely shows up.

tatel

The pulpo is interesting – the chewy octopus is perfectly smoky, the potato adds some depth to the bite and parsley mayonnaise and Canarian mojo sauce bring all the zest. The textures are delightful and the dish is incredibly moreish.

Of course, you don’t dine at a Spanish spot without trying the paella (Dhs360). Rice back home is a symbol of celebration and sharing, and the joy of togetherness. Tatel wins with this one – as is usually, an enormous metal dish of unadulterated, un-Dubai-fied crispy-bottomed rice topped with hearty helpings of shrimp, squid and sea bass. The seafood bisque flavours the grains so perfectly, you can’t not go for seconds. The solomillo madurado a la brasa (Dhs225) is prime grilled tenderloin – the sauce is rich, salty, slow-cooked goodness and the mash cuts the fat well.

You might also like

J1 Beach: The 13 beach clubs and restaurants replacing La Mer
Michelin Guide 2024: Here are all the Michelin Star restaurants in Dubai

tatel

We end our meal with the nuestra famosa tarta de queso, a cheesecake that has garnered awards, we are told by our server. Upon first bite, you understand why. The inside so creamy, almost oozing out of the perfect pyramid of it’s malty base and ice cream to go with. A sweet, sweet ending.

When we’re done with our meal, I feel a sense of satisfaction. Yes, Tatel is expensive, but it’s worth it. The generous portions, the old-money decor and the from-the-heart service gives it a touch of comforting, unassuming class.

What’s On verdict: Tatel is that rich friend that never makes you feel poor.

Tatel, Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, Sun to Wed, 7pm to 1am, Thurs to Sat, 7pm to 2am, Tel: (0) 4 215 2121, @tatel.dubai

Images: Supplied