What can this famed Lebanese export bring to the DIFC scene that doesn’t already exist?
Al Fattan Currency House in DIFC has seen its fair share of closures. While Sass Café held it together for an impressive five years, others were not so lucky. R Trader, Jekyll & Hyde, Beefbar, Cle and Crazy Fish each lasted little more than a year.
So, it’s with some apprehension we head to the building’s latest opening, Antika Bar, a famed export from Lebanon’s Beirut now calling Al Fattan home. The office tower is eerily quiet, and it’s a welcome contrast to enter the colourful, striking restaurant on the podium level.
It has the same high ceilings and split-level arrangement as its predecessor Sass Café, but that’s about it when it comes to similarities. A floor to ceiling cabinet lines almost the entirety of the back wall filled with kitsch antiques; the bar is kitted out to look like the front of a retro Lebanese theatre; plush furnishings add vibrancy; while neon lights and carousel horses descending from the ceiling make look fun. It’s bright and dramatic and ticks all the boxes for a restaurant that’s been designed to be photographed.
The Levantine menu is split between mezze, salads, mains and desserts. Kick off with the bright pink beetroot feta foam (Dhs45) from the mezze section, which is arguably our favourite dish of the evening. Soft and creamy feta whipped with beetroot is light and tasty, drizzled with truffle oil and green salsa.
The shawarma chicken roll with tzatziki (Dhs60) is a perfect portion for sharing and while the chicken is tender, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. A creamy keshek with black truffle (Dhs55) is as expected, a creamy consistency that’s simply presented, well-seasoned and complimented by generous shavings of black truffle.
The crunchy fattoush with roasted beetroot (Dhs50) is a nice salad of baby gem, cucumber, tomato and vinegar, that serves well as a lighter bar food option. The main courses are where the more international influence comes in, with a beef slider (Dhs90) and grilled chicken (Dhs70) both flavourful options. The beef slider is served simply with tomato, onion and molasses, while the grilled chicken is served on a bed of hindbeh (sautéed greens) with molasses butter enriching the flavours.
Finishing things on a sweet note, order the Ashta ice cream (Dhs60), a traditional Arabic dessert topped with cotton candy and pistachio for added crunch.
This is fuss free but thoughtful Levantine cuisine that’s been well designed to accompany an evening of drinks and entertainment.
It’s worth noting that the entertainment doesn’t kick in until after 11pm, but Antika Bar has been designed as a late-night destination, and serves its purpose well.