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Marta's Workshop, a café-cum-restaurant-cum-atelier cum-tapas bar, has an interesting concept: simple and delicious food created (mostly) with locally sourced fresh produce. With a dainty veranda awash with sunlight against the backdrop of modern high-rises in Jumeirah Lake Towers, this lunch-only restaurant is unlike any other in Dubai.
Created by Marta Yanci, Dubai's own celebrity chef, the restaurant operates out of a hired space in the Swiss Tower, which is also home to Marta's Kitchen, her family run boutique catering service. Marta's Workshop is an eating haven during lunch hours, but only on weekdays. The seating is limited to 20 people and covers the veranda and the counter inside. One will have to return disappointed if prior reservations have not been made. The bright red wall is inviting and there's a huge black- board with the day's menu handwritten in chalk. Jazz music plays softly in the background and the place exudes the warmth of home.
Stepping out on the veranda, you see tiny tin buckets planted with colourful petunias and posies. Green ferns flank the wooden fence that demarcates the café on the terrace from the adjoining restaurant's space.
Creative and tasty
Chances are that you will be served by the charming Yanci and her team of five chefs. The food is presented in a unique way: there are no waiters, the water is on the house and you have to make your own coffee — no frills and no hidden costs. But rest assured that you will be tasting some great food at a decent price (a main course starts at Dh40).
The menu is creative and uses fresh ingredients. Picks include locally sourced burrata with marinated cherry tomatoes and peas, sea bream on a bed of creamy carrots and peas and a fruit tartare with mango sorbet and strawberry sap.
For the mains, Yanci suggests carrot and hoisin dumplings or the beef fillet. The dish is prepared with smoked potato mousseline and caramelized onions or sweet potato. For desserts, she offers a choice of her favourites — chocolate and coffee your way or the choco crinkles, coffee cream and home-made espresso ice cream.
Born in San Sebastián in Spain, Yanci gives a Spanish touch to her dishes. Her cooking philosophy? ''To maximise taste and texture. We blend different cuisines in our workshop and catering,'' she says. ''I basically pick whatever I like from a cuisine and incorporate it — be it local, Vietnamese or French. Also, blending our cuisines with Emirati fare makes perfect sense.''
Her culinary journey began in 2011 when she won Dubai One's Amateur Chef Competition and today she is part of Dubai's culinary landscape. When asked about the challenges she faces as a female chef, she laughs and says, ''None really. In fact, people are quite nice.''
While there is a set menu, it changes daily depending on the availability of fresh seasonal produce. You can find the day's menu on the restaurant's Facebook page as well. Have a look to see if it suits your dietary preferences and head out to the Martha's Workshop after calling to reserve a seat.
Marta Yanci took the place on rent at a fixed rate for a three-year contract. Now rents have increased by 100 per cent per sq ft but she doesn't plan to move anywhere else. From an annual rent of Dh169,000, it is expected to go up to Dh230,000 per annum in the next two years. ''I can't double my prices, so I will have to sell a lot of canapés,'' she says.
Read about another Hidden Gem which is well worth a rummage
Source: Ishita B. Saha, Special to Property Weekly
The writer is founder of IshitaUnblogged, a culinary travel blog, and Foodemagdxb.com