Kitchen Confident Filed on July 29, 2021

Chef Silvena Rowe has proudly infused both her heritage and 30 years of experience into her restaurant Nassau

Traverse across the sun-soaked coastlines of the Levant while you dine on decadent and fresh flavours in the breezy interiors of Nassau. Revive your senses and revel in the good life as you escape to the Mediterranean through scrumptious cuisine.

Nassau was started by popular chef and former MasterChef Bulgaria judge, Silvena Rowe, who brings her Bulgarian-Turkish heritage into every dish on the menu.

With more than 30 years of industry experience, Rowe is particularly well-known across the region for her novel approach to dining, bringing more power to superfoods and antioxidants, and being a longtime champion of sourcing local, fresh and organic produce. Rowe is also an international celebrity, regularly appearing on TV, from BBC 1’s popular ‘Saturday Kitchen’ to her judging roles on US Food Network’s ‘Chopped’. Upholding her philosophy of fine-tuning fine dining for a healthy lifestyle, Nassau is her latest endeavour that is taking the city by storm.

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How was the journey of building Nassau from the ground up? How did the name come about?

Featuring a high-end community lifestyle, Jumeirah Golf Estates is a vibrant neighbourhood that had no restaurants in the early years of its launch. Since the community grew, Nassau came about to cater to individuals with exceptional taste. Nassau was created as a beautiful Mediterranean restaurant keeping in mind strong Eastern Mediterranean influences. Simply put, my cuisine is healthy, wholesome and plant-based, but at the same time, features the best quality meat, fish and other animal products.

The team had a major brainstorm when it came to deciding the name. There were a few names floating around before we agreed to name it ‘Nassau’. It is the capital of the Bahamas, another beautiful, interesting and exotic golf destination with lush greenery.

What parts of Mediterranean culture are imbibed into the restaurant?

Since, I am half Turkish I have embedded many flavours from the Ottoman culture, but also of the Silk Road — eastern and western flavours are mixed together. We even have some Japanese and Far Eastern elements. The spices and herbs that I utilise are something that could be picked up on the route of the Silk Road.

What is the key to good Mediterranean food?

Lightness, zest, texture, colour, freshness, seasonality, and a good plant base.

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What are your speciality items on the menu? Which varieties have been best-sellers so far?

Black truffle labneh topped with delicious, crunchy, locally grown, organic baby vegetables. I also have a phenomenal smoked aubergine with cherry tomato and pomegranate topped with Japanese sesame shiso leaf dressing. We have a simple iceberg lettuce salad but with a million-dollar dressing of 42 ingredients featuring Japanese flavours.

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The best-sellers are the Velvet Vanilla Cheesecake and a 48-hour slow-cooked Ottoman-style shoulder of lamb with truffled celeriac purée. The 72-hour slow-braised rib of Angus beef with caramelised onions and Caprese-style pan-seared Atlantic sea bass fillet with tomato basil sauce, grilled fennel, artichoke, capers and olives are also a favourite of many diners.

What does your European-Arabian heritage bring to the table?

It brings authenticity and flavours that are easy, uncomplicated, unadulterated. I am not a British Chef who decided to cook Turkish food, nor am I an Indian chef who decided to cook French food. I rely on my heritage, the food I was brought up with, the food that runs in my veins and is in my power. So creating a delicious amalgamation of eastern and western Mediterranean food, incorporated with flavours from the Far East comes very easily to me. I have spent several years in Japan, learning to cook the cuisine to achieve this combination.

How did you ride out the pandemic?

The pandemic was challenging for the F&B industry in general. Obviously, business slowed down, we were closed only for three months so thankfully we did not suffer that much. We are lucky that we have our own community and Nassau is exceptionally popular in the surrounding area. We would obviously love to be the go-to destination of all in Dubai, however, we simply exist to be the pleasure and leisure of our community that has over 2,000 villas.

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What sets Nassau apart from similar restaurants in Dubai? How do you gauge the popularity of Mediterranean food in Dubai?

Mediterranean food is easy. It’s easily digestible due to its light nature. People understand it like Italian or French cuisine — food that can be eaten daily. It is the food of the islands of Greece and therefore, is very much plant-based. Featuring key ingredients like olive oil, rosemary, delicious fresh vegetables and fruits that are picked and eaten within season.

Nassau is different from other restaurants simply because of the prominence and the use of mostly organic produce and the highest quality of meat. We probably have the highest quality of steak in Dubai so far.

What does the future look like for Nassau?

We are doing fantastic right now. I cannot predict a future as these are uncertain times, but we try to ensure that we are a success. The team ensures that the people experience diversity in the menu. I change the menu every eight months introducing new seasonal ingredients throughout the year. Most of my vegetables are locally sourced; which brings a crisp, fresh and organic experience. Nassau will keep going as it is the jewel on the crown of all the F&B offerings in our community, Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Any advice to budding ‘foodpreneurs’ in the UAE?

I will always say any entrepreneur needs two things; caution and passion. When you invest, ensure that you are passionate about the field but also at the same time take caution. You need to ensure that you are filling a gap in the market, not just repeatedly opening the same concept as others and oversaturating it.

Nisthula Nagarajan

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