image“My favourite was the duck…”

“The duck? I didn’t have duck. Did you steal my duck?”

“I did no such thing – I saw you with it. In fact, I think I heard you groan.”

“That was the pigeon. My favourite too, or maybe second to the living forest.”

“Pigeon, no way. I asked the server. She specifically told me duck…” Continue inane duck v squab themed squabble over mystery succulent morsels in the final dish, then follow the tangent into conspiracy theories.

After all, perhaps the staff at Enigma don’t actually want us to know what we ate. Repeated requests for menus met with firm denial, each and every time. This dishes will remain virtually unchanged for three months, I suppose, so the last thing you want is a blogger posting the exact progression and ruining all the surprise.

imagePhase one of Enigma is “Vanguard” – temporary baby of Quique Dacosta, chef with an impressive resume; 3 Michelin stars, World’s 50 best restaurants, Spanish national prize for Gastronomy and general object of hero worship by foodies all over the world. It’s an impressive start, and I do wonder if following acts will be as exciting.

I will go into the food shortly, but first I’d like to praise the ambience developed for this quarter. At the risk of getting a little deep, I will say I enjoyed the links between the mood of the name, image and concept. Vanguard of course means the ones leading the charge, so that’s an obvious one. Service keeps the mystery churning along nicely. There is no menu, you get what you are given, it’s your job to try and discern ingredients. At one point, they turn off all the lights and masked maenads present dishes simultaneously to all tables, palate cleansers lit up in the dark like glow worms. On the maenads – are they that at all (horned servants to Dionysus)? Or perhaps the symbolism is for Minos, the king of the land of the maze and the Minotaur? Another puzzle in itself.

imageVanguard at Enigma is a fine dining, degustation offer. One menu, a dozen courses, no choices. It’s something that has been available over Europe and other parts of the world for quite some time, but unusually, is the first I know to break the market here (There are good degustation offers, but they tend to hide within the protective confines of supplementary à la carte menus). It’s a hard sell here, with a market full of tourists and expats with different palates and preferences, but I’m hoping this Vanguard is exactly what it promises – a preliminary exploration bringing an influx of more experimental cuisine behind it. Fingers crossed.

Food is interesting and worth the elevated price of a minimum of 750 Dirhams (not including drinks). Remember it’s a one-off, something special, and I guarantee there’s nothing else quite the same in Dubai. I’ll keep most of it under wraps, but expect theatrics, contrasting flavours, unusual textures, and a likelihood that you will eat charcoal, dirt and ashes and love them. Most dishes were excellent, a couple spectacular, one a little meh. The only thing I’d really like to see improved is the vegetarian offering. There was a meatless option, but the dishes lacked the punch of their protein-laden compatriots. In this market, at that price, I’d like a little more ‘wow’.

Vanguard continues until the April 12, so try while it’s on. Who knows what we might get next…


Please note – dining was done at the opening night, and was not paid for by me. If you think that might have affected the way I wrote this review, I suppose you should take that into account.

4 thoughts on “A pigeon, wrapped in a mystery, inside an Enigma at Palazzo Versace”

  1. I love that you got the words maenads into a blog post. So glad we experienced this. Honestly thought I might hate it but despite the slight over sweetness running through the vegetarian dishes it was a thrilling evening for all the senses. Can the next offering be as exciting? I too question if anyone can top this – but how exciting to anticipate.

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