FooDiva should have heard of Giannino, the Michelin and celebrity star-studded Italian restaurant in Milan – but the fact is I hadn’t and the concept has now descended on Dubai at the spankingly all-white, all-new Meydan Beach Club. Where’s that you may ask as I did? Exactly where the derelict sales centre stood on JBR Walk, opposite the Movenpick.
We walked in on a Friday evening the weekend before last to find a brightly lit restaurant and lounge bar with only a handful of tables occupied. Plush lime green banquettes, plump purple cushions and crisp white tablecloths make for a rather regal feel. I hadn’t appreciated until we asked for the wine list that Giannino was still in soft opening, despite having opened over a month ago. Only a couple of wines were available as their Italian wine list was still on order – rather odd don’t you think given this restaurant is operated by Meydan, i.e. the same outfit as Bab Al Shams and the racecourse? Ordering two glasses of prosecco, the waitress appeared confused as it wasn’t on the limited drinks list and wandered off, only for another waitress to return with a chilled bottle ready to pour into wine glasses. No thanks, we’d like champagne flutes please and off she scuttered to fetch some. If you’ve got them why not offer them? Apparently, tableware was also still on order [note, FooDiva was recognised hence the soft opening explanation.]
The menu is divided into antipasti, the pasta primi piatti, risotto, soups and onto fish, meat and classical Milanese specialities for mains. Given the prices…more on that later…FooDiva and Italian chef for hire and author Maurizio Pelli settled on a couple of pasta dishes for starters. My spaghetti arrived perfectly al dente and sprinkled with fresh pepperoncino – but rather than the listed red onion it was swimming in a little too much green spring onion making for a rather watery sauce whilst drowning out the piquant pepperoncino. Meanwhile, M’s fresh, plump tortelli was stuffed with potatoes and string beans, drizzled with Genoese curd, basil pesto sauce and a handful of pine nuts. Fussy M declared it an exceptionally executed dish, whilst FooDiva gobbled one and looked on with food envy.
My main course of choice had to be the Milanese signature dish of pan fried and breaded veal cutlet – all 280 grams of thick, chunky Dutch veal - a dish the Viennese also stake claim to. With a dash of lemon making for a crunchy yet velvety breaded coat, the meat was so moist and cooked perfectly pink. M argued that a thin boneless veal escalope, a la Viennese-style is a better option for the Milanese, but oh no FooDiva was happily hanging onto this goodie. Crackling slithers of fresh purple potato crisps and juicy oven-baked cherry tomatoes on the vine made for a light and ideal accompaniment. M’s Scottish octopus grilled on coals was as soft as butter – the most tender I have ever, ever tasted. Groan…more food envy. A mellow puree of squash and yellow bell pepper sauce with a tang of tart balsamic was all that was required to mop it up.
We shared a dessert of rhubarb jelly cubes, which once we’d succumbed to the gelatinous texture of the first bite, were tangy and moreish - dipped into a light yoghurt and sprinkled with a biscuit crumble and the odd blueberry. A modern day adaptation of rhubarb crumble, but hardly Italian. Like Roberto’s, perhaps avoid the fusion influence and stick to simple authentic Italian desserts such as the tiramisu, which in all fairness we didn’t try.
Now for the bad news, prices are extortionate with our primi piatti starters at AED 130 – 160 (antipasti is similarly priced), and mains AED 170 – 250 each! On a par with its Italian godfather we were told when I expressed my horror. A glass of prosecco AED 95. With booze as we know so much more expensive in Dubai, the dining out experience at Giannino here is at a much higher premium than Milan. The food may have impressed, but for a beach club location on a casual strip of Dubai where the service requires fine-tuning, Giannino is pricing itself out of this market and potentially out of diners. A real shame but for that reason, here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating. Reduce your pricing and you may be up for a four, and perhaps even an Italian stallion accolade.
Giannino is located at Meydan Beach Club on JBR Walk (opposite Movenpick). T; +971 4 4333777. E; email@example.com Open daily for lunch and dinner. Price per person including a couple of glasses of Prosecco each AED 600. Licensed. Daily beach club pass AED 495 including an AED 250 credit on F&B.
Would you pay that kind of price for a licensed Italian restaurant in this location? As always, love to hear your feedback.