Some might say this is a little incongruous. It’s a nightclub. I mean, we all know the restaurant is there, serving food every night, but if only the beautiful people go, does anybody really eat it?
In fact, I might say it myself. I remember when the Cavalli Club opened. I was way too old and uncool for it then. And I still was when I nabbed a Living Social half-price deal last year. I could only dine at the 8pm sitting, I was told. We were ushered up the black carpeted oesophagus that is the stairwell to our table near the kitchen, and given the cheap menu (we were not allowed the entire menu on the deal), and we dined fairly much alone under a faux starlit sky until the music suddenly got louder and we looked around to find ourselves in the midst of pulsating gemstone colours and gold lurex over spray-on tans.
I’m not really a clubber. I used to be, about 100 years ago, when alcohol didn’t put me to sleep, and I didn’t dread the 6am wake-up with children the next day. Now I just can’t do it.
So why was I there again? Camellia Bojtor, PR manager of the club, had convinced me that The Cavalli Club is not just a Club, but a restaurant and lounge as well, and they want to get this message across. This wine dinner was the first in a series of “Cavalli Connoisseurs” evenings. To start it off with a bang, they brought the son of Roberto Cavalli, Tommaso, and his own wine, over from Tuscany for an intimate evening of food and wine.
Branding a wine with an already successful name in a different field is a risky business. There have been some remarkable flops in Australia – Greg Norman Estates (the wine was surprisingly OK), and Olivia Newton John (not OK) were a couple I can recall. There is already a Cavalli vodka, which in my impression, works. Ferragamo own a wine estate not far from Cavalli, but choose to keep their name off the label, so as not to confuse the marketing message. After all, one associates red wine with close gatherings, cozy evenings, warm luxuries, cheese, dinner, candles, possibly tweed and pompous old men with bulbous noses. Not really leopard skin couture, swarovski by the tonne, and skinny party-hard celebrities.
Saying that, the Cavalli wines are actually very good. We started with the Le Redini 2009, a straight Merlot, made with the fruit not designated to be of style for the Tenuta Degli Dei. It’s creamy, sweet fruited, with blackberry and cherry, a little herbacious nuance and a medium body. It finishes a little fast, but is ultimately a very drinkable wine. Most of our table were surprised by the sweet fruit flavour and smooth palate, used to as they are to lighter Merlots with stalky backbones.
The Tenuta Degli Dei is a Bordeaux blend – not a typical Tuscan varietal for the flagship wine here. Some would criticise, I commend. It’s a modern wine, carefully made under the watchful eye of Carlo Ferrini (one of the foremost Wine contractors in Italy – dare I use the word guru?) Full of berries, rich and chocolatey, with a lovely smokey salt and pepper nose. It, like the Merlot, is velvetty soft, probably due to vigorous sorting after picking, and lack of stems during pressing. However, the wine is also fined for 12 months prior to bottling, which also has this effect, although it may limit the wine’s aging potential.
I have tasted wines a little like this before. I asked Tommaso if he were trying to emulate a particular style. He loves Bordeaux, he says, but I don’t think this wine is like any Bordeaux I have tried. I compared it to a Cyril Henschke – a stunning Eden Valley Cabernet. He was not amused. Tuscany, an age-old classic, similar to an upstart Aussie? But wine fashion is not the same as clothing. Europe may have been style leaders in the past, but the innovators are in the new world. He should have been proud, and I challenge him to try the Cyril and dislike it.
But this night wasn’t just about wine, it was also about food. I remember being moderately impressed with the (somewhat reduced) offering on my previous visit. This time, again, the food was good. The scallops were deliciously plump – the best I have had recently. The steak was nicely smoked. The chocolate fondant came with some gorgeous blackberries dressed in sugar crystals, which mirrored the image of the chandeliered ceiling. It was good – not great.
But what is great about the Cavalli? It’s personality. The night had been themed around the Tuscan heart – waiters were garbed in traditional stripes, rustic candelabra adorned the tables, the music was toned. During dinner, a goddess in white belted out some exceptionally good opera. Those who queued and entered closer to midnight, as we left would be surprised to say the least, if they knew what had gone on earlier that night. But that’s what Cavalli does, isn’t it? He puts together zebra stripes, faux fur, glittering crystals and gold, black and flurescent pink, and he makes it work. Why not throw red wine and opera into the mix?
So I might say that Cavalli Club is not my style, but in its own peculiar way. the night was well pulled off. We marvelled at the decor, we ate all the food off our plates, we enjoyed the wine, we laughed, and then we danced. I would do it all over again.
Upon leaving, we were presented with an embellished bottle of Cavalli’s 2005 Tenuta Degli Dei. The wine they sell at 890AED on the list. But I soon discovered that the bottle was all we had – a beautiful, leather boxed, but totally empty keepsake of the night. And unfortunately it drives home that message of style… over substance. But does it really matter?
Cavalli Club and Restaurant is located at the rear of the Fairmont Hotel, on Sheikh Zayed Rd (map)
Dinner Reservations required
Landline: 04 332-9260
Hotline: 050 856-6044
Cavalli Connoisseurs will continue, with a dinner with Chef Rolando Lolli on Feb 8, then Spanish and Japanese themed evenings after then. Wine packages start from AED 250, food packages start from the same.
This particular dinner was paid for by the Cavalli Club. The review however is unpaid.