Shopping for groceries at Jones the Grocer

I’m a fairly literal person. As far as I’m concerned, if you are going to call yourself something, it must reflect what you are. Otherwise it causes disappointment for everyone on the receiving end of your name and your offer. A wine called “The Chocolate Block” must be big and rich and sweet. A hotel called “The Beach” must actually be next to a beach. “Jones the Grocer” must actually be a Grocery store owned by Mr or Ms Jones.

So, as I seem to be the only Australian who has never been to the store before, I naively strolled into Jones the Grocer to buy something for dinner.

grocer [groh-ser]
noun
the owner or operator of a store that sells general food supplies and certain non-edible articles of household use, as soaps and paper products.
Origin:
1325–75; Middle English < Old French gross ( i ) er wholesale merchant.

I walked out five minutes later, disappointed. It is in fact a cafe, with wallpaper made of expensive but spectacular looking gourmet pastas and olive oils. Yes, groceries, I admit – there is a small selection of refrigerated items, and a large selection of that gorgeous stuff that we never actually use in the kitchen, like flavoured polenta, panforte, fruit pastes and meat rubs. I could have rustled up a dinner I suppose, but it would have cost me 200AED for some spaghetti with sausage and napoli.

But….
I kind of liked the look of the cafe, so I arranged to meet a couple of friends there a couple of days later. Walking into the architecturally slick shed at noon with a grumbling tummy, I found myself in a much more positive frame of mind. No disappointment, no confusion, just awe and hunger. This time I loved it, and not just because I discovered the cheese room hidden at the back of the store.
Even at 12, the place was pumping. Full of a wonderful blend of Jumeirah Janes, young locals in national dress and nearby office workers, the aroma of a mediterranian kitchen. The chatter reverberates off the high ceilings, not to loud, almost musical with the clinking of crockery and the clanging of cutlery. It bustles with efficiency – the service is as polished as the decor.

We sat on the couches and ordered off a menu both tempting and comprehensive. My coeliac and totally sugar and dairy free friend managed to find something (no mean feat), as did the health nut, and me, the lover of all things rich and fattening. There is breakfast, sandwiches, salads and real main courses. I had the grilled chicken with harissa and couscous. If I had seen the desserts earlier, I may have started with something lighter. Nevermind, I was more than satisfied.

The kitchen is open, and the chefs work like a machine, as they must when on show. They’ve obviously had a long day already by the look of the very impressive and exact pastries and the house-baked bread. To the left of the kitchen are pretty culinary gadgets for sale, and a blackboard advertising the next cooking class. To the right is my previously undiscovered treasure, the cheese room.
It’s not just a cheese room, but a deli. There are more than 50 varieties of cheese – soft, hard, white, yellow, blue, cow, sheep, goat, with or without rind, aged and fresh. Not only that, but the accompaniments – moscatel grapes still on the stalks, verjus, quince paste. Then there is the meat section. No pork of course, but so much more than Carrefour or Geant seem to rustle up – bresaola, chicken chorizo, lamb salami, smoked turkey. All sliced with a beautiful red-enameled manual contraption that makes my friend want to go into the business.

The area is tended by a British lady who knows and loves the product. She’s happy to let you sample, and in fact, encourages it. This is what sets it apart from the Galeries Lafayette cheese room, and will make me return – not the prices, which are probably as sharp as a mature Stilton, but the fact that she will make sure I get exactly what I want – it saves money (and heartburn) in the long run.

So. Lesson learned. First impressions count, but only until they are quashed by superior secondary ones. Go to Jones, but not for groceries, and you will definitely NOT be disappointed.

—————————————

Jones the Grocer is located on Sheikh Zayed Rd in Al Manara. The easiest way to get there is to take the Al Thanya exit and backtrack along the sliproad. Trading Hours are 8:00am – 10:30pm except Friday, Saturday, and Public Holidays: 9:00am – 10:30pm

There are also venues in Abu Dhabi, and this is where they initially entered the UAE market. They are more established, and apparently more comprehensive than the Dubai version. They can be found in Al Mamoura, Kalidiyah and al Raha Gardens, with another opening in Sowwah Square soon. From what I have heard, one of them also has a liquor license. www.jonesthegrocer.com

9 Comments

  1. Nice write-up Sarah and enjoyed reading your experience of JtG. I went there two nights ago for dinner and the food was hit or miss and the service wasn't polished at all. I would go back just for the cheese room, though.

  2. This place sounds intriguing. Awesome pics as usual.

  3. Thanks VC! Oh dear Sandy – bad service? Maybe I just got the three good members of staff when I went (also two days ago). Thought it was too good to be true in Dubai!

  4. Great time there with you Sarah. Great post, you say things in a way that I never could..

  5. I wouldn't go there for grocery shopping either – apart from cheese! I did buy some lapsang souchong tea recently that was very bitter, have been meaning to return it πŸ™ Glad to read service has improved from when I reviewed. http://foodiva.net/2011/07/keeping-up-with-jones-the-grocer-dubai/The Al Mamoura and Al Raha Garden locations are a little cosier. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Loved your description……I thought it was a grocers too πŸ™‚ And from the way you described them so aptly, I can tell who your co-diners were πŸ˜‰

  7. They are the only place here that seems to know that lox on a bagel needs cream cheese. Awesome lay of the jtg land.

  8. πŸ™‚ loved reading this post :)) I love their cheeses, and the food is really good as well… I totally agree about the name!

  9. I go to the Al Mamoura and Khalidiya ones fairly regularly, because they have, hands down, the best coffee in Abu Dhabi – which, in truth, wouldn't be hard, but it's not only the best coffee here, it's great coffee. Even the coffee though can be a bit hit and miss I find. Usually fantastic, sometimes not so much. They just took my favourite thing (the bircher muesli) off the menu and replaced it with porridge which seemed an odd thing to do, but maybe I was the only one who thought that bircher muesli was amongst the finest I'd ever had.

Some other suggestions or opinion to add? Please comment