It's very possible to have upmarket Greek food at Opa
Island life in Dubai
As someone who grew up on a diet of pool-deep olive oil and uncompromised helpings of bread with flecks of oregano and crumbles of feta scattered on EVERYTHING, Greek cuisine is my DNA.
But my fix of it has always been the preserve of extended summer holidays in the homeland – not in the Middle East. So when all of a sudden there's an influx of Greek restaurants in Dubai – some fancy, some folky – it got my inner stringent yiayia (grandma) critic out.
Opa (a word typically said in collective merriment), is located in Fairmont Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road. But for all intents and purposes it sits on its own like an island, with the colourings of the Cyclades – that wholesome blue and white and curling cypresses and eye-popping bougainvillea flowers.
So, Opa's menu is actually rather uncomplicated. I was expecting it to be overloaded with items that are so far from holistically Hellenic food, it may as well be 'international'. That being said, there are some items that are so delightfully fancy and taste-bud igniting, with an added flair of Greekness.
We start with the usual suspects: a medley of tzatziki, tarama and spicy feta dips with a steaming pile of not-too-thick-bread. All three are laced with a citrus touch and true to form, a heap of garlic. A thorough break into the cuisine.
I'd heard a lot of noise about the tuna tartare – note, it's not necessarily Greek but given the dollop of Greek yoghurt and crispy koulouri (sesame bread) it's now a convert. All I can say, because words fail me in this moment, is that it was like walking on air.
A personal favourite (but can easily be done wrong) is flaming saganaki: that's Graviera cheese with a sophisticated blend of ouzo and lemon which also came with a side pyro-performance. Dubai has definitely come a long way from rubbery halloumi and sad-looking salad – Opa's Greek salad has possibly the juiciest and cooling tomatoes ever, as if fresh from the Laiki agora (look it up).
The childhood comforts of a spanakopita are found in Opa's homemade pie featuring leek, spinach, dill and feta cheese. Wound up in a spring-roll fashion, the presentation is slightly different to the square-shaped filo I'm used to but the taste is profoundly perfect.
The lamb chops are next-level tender and quite frankly, not that lamby (a good thing). I find it to be a melting and soft fibre that is not trying too hard to please but discreetly goes above and beyond anyway. Definitely the star dish.The lobster orzo is luscious in portion (and generous in the actual lobster pieces) and has a sweet kick to it after you swallow, which tbh, is a fun surprise. In all, the mains are robust.
Crucially, dessert is a stand-out. The Opa baklava sundae is everything you want in a dessert: an optimistic pile up of filo, ice-cream and yep, baklava filled with pistachio cream and smashed pistachio, too.
Of course, true to form (and what we've seen all over social media) the staff get their opa on and do some Zorba and Sirtaki stuff. Plate-smashing and everything. Most of the guests are non-Greek and therefore wholly entertained and participatory – even if their leg work is a tad questionable, the staff makes up for with killer skill.
So, for a menu of upscale traditional grub and live island feels, Opa excites on all counts. Even to a very seasoned Greek.