La Strega is a recently opened Italian restaurant at the venerable Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa in Dubai Marina. Why it’s only open from 6pm to midnight is a mystery because its pizzeria alone would pack in the report guests, leave alone the temptation of an Italian restaurant with both wine and beer on tap – true fact. There are two routes for getting to ‘the witch’ (which is what La Strega means in Italian), through Latitude Bar 25 or a short ride up in the lift beside their must-visit Indian restaurant, Indya by Vineet. Either way, you will enter a homely environment made romantic courtesy of a splendid view of the resort and that beautiful beach.
The La Strega menu covers all the Italian favourites from pastas to pizzas and salads to steaks. We started with the excellent Tagliere Di Salumi & Formaggi, a generous selection of Italian pork cold cuts and cheeses, marmalade and rosemary focaccia. Before going on, let me tell you that I will return to La Strega for this alone, it was that good. In fact, the only other cold cuts board I have had this good in Dubai was at Nola’s in JLT.
I found and quickly ordered one of my favourite pasta dishes, Lobster Spaghetti. My brother-in-law, a pescatarian, ordered the Tagliatelle Alla Norma which is served with a tomato and ricotta cheese sauce, fried eggplant and fresh basil. And finally, my cousin, a decade-old member of Le Royal Méridien Dubai, ordered the Straccetti Di Pollo, sautéed strips of chicken with lemon and rocket. All good and happy then? You bet…until it took an agonisingly long 45 minutes (I kid you not) from starter to when our mains were finally served. By then we had not just finished our starter but had started nibbling on our red and white checkered napkins.
It’s very difficult writing objectively after an incident like that but here goes; my lobster spaghetti was only okay, nothing close to my favourite, the Spaghetti all’astice at Scalini at the Four Seasons Resort on Jumeirah Beach Road which at AED 160 is only marginally more expensive than the AED130 La Strega charge for their version. If I want to be brutally honest (which comes with being kept waiting and hungry for most of your meal), the seafood linguine at Carluccio’s brought a bigger smile to my face. Neither my cousin nor my brother-in-law went further than, good but not worth the wait, for their food.
Where La Strega clawed back some respectability was with their desserts which were offered to us as a means of making up for the delay. The Tiramisu was really good but the Sbriciolata, served with fresh berries, was nothing less than orgasmic.
I found the staff at La Strega friendly, accommodating and attentive. It’s a pity they did not communicate the delay to us; a second bag of bread (they serve their bread in a bag not a basket), an offer of another round of drinks (which we would have happily paid for ourselves) or a little something from the kitchen to keep us occupied and going, would have avoided the delay escalating into a grievance. But kudos to their young supervisor, Marika, who bravely stood through our hunger induced complaints. Apologising profusely, she coaxed us into having some cake (the tiramisu and sbriciolata) and promised it would not happen again. Tamam.
There’s a lot to like about La Strega, not least the ambience and the smiley service. I would go back for the amazing cold cuts and cheese board which I’d love to simply have with some wine and maybe some grapes. But I’d also like to try their pizzas, particularly because they’re one of few pizzerias which offer pizzas with pork. Na, there’s a lot going on there which, when looked at objectively and without bias, warrants a second visit. And then there’s that wine on tap.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join me on Instagram @ravenousxerxes or email me on email@example.com.