Is this segment supposed to be monthly? Lucky it’s not my day job…. Reviews follow detailing a few places I’ve checked out in recent weeks. Please comment if you’ve been – I’d love to hear your opinion too.
Mitts and trays 7.5/10
We couldn’t get into Farzi one Saturday afternoon, so found what appeared to be the next best option in City Walk. M&T is bright and white, very Hamptons in style. The menu is international, and although appears unadventurous at first glance, is peppered with some interesting highlights (e.g. wagyu lollipops with sticky bbq sauce, and madras chicken curry with beautifully roasted spices), most priced under 100AED. Bread coming to the table (complimentary) is freshly baked and as fluffy as a toy poodle. The food is well presented, and comes across as thoughtfully made – unfortunately the service has inefficiencies and appears lazy. Dessert list needs some balance (too much cake, no ice cream, no zingy fresh-tasting options). Overall, worth a visit though, and I will likely return to try their lamb chops and short rib.
Eat Greek 8/10
Another secondary choice (Common Grounds was full and we sat at the bar for over 5 minutes before we walked out without being acknowledged), but thankfully, quite a beauty. I can almost taste those soutzoukakia now – fragrantly spiced lamb and beef meatballs in zesty tomato sauce. We stuck with the traditional recipes, partnering those with a moussaka (again, beautifully spiced) and tzatziki (dense and rich). Service was quick, efficient and accommodating enough that our waiter suggested they could make a Greek salad without it’s main ingredient of cucumber (my husband is irrationally phobic), which arrived bursting with colour, flavour and at least 20 dirhams worth of astounding ripe tomatoes. Lovely modern decor, only letdowns are that it’s in a mall and doesn’t serve Mini ouzo.
With an increase in licensed venues, JLT is becoming my new favourite place to head out for dinner. The roads are not too busy, the area littered with cabs, and it’s possible in good weather to walk between venues, many of which would get my rating of 8/10 or over. Couqley was recommended to me last week, whilst I was bemoaning the price of wine in Dubai restaurants. It didn’t disappoint, with bottles starting at 95AED, and no less than 27 of them under 200. The menu is very traditional, which is at odds with the decor (looks like an English pub because they bought the wrong chairs) and the staff (no Frenchies in sight), but it’s a damn sight cheaper than La Serre, so let’s compare apples with pommes, shall we? Crab cakes were spectacular, bread tasted like it had come out of a genuine boulangerie and the bar tender makes a mean old fashioned.
Billionaire Mansion 5.5/10
Some would love this place – it’s flashy Dubai, sceney and expensive, full of male lawyers, old gulf money and gorgeous Lebanese and Russian women. To me it’s pretending to be Music Hall, pretending to have serious food, pretending to have billionaire clientelle. The place is not woeful, but there is a great lack of cohesion. The bar area has unusual flow, and the staff don’t seem to know whether they should serve you at the tables or make you go to the bar. The dining room has a stage to the side, meaning that views from some areas are skewed. Music is so loud that you feel like you should get up and dance, but there’s no space. The menu is almost Japanese, almost Turkish, almost Italian. Granted, some of the dishes were good, but with prices hovering around at least 450 AED per person, just for food? Well… 4.5/10, with an extra half-mark each for the harmonica player and sardonic pop-art, because everyone needs more of both in their lives.
Bistro des Arts 7.5/10
In Dubai, brunch usually takes the form of a raucous medieval banquet, so it’s a pleasure to find one that does it old school. First, it starts at brunchtime, which is of course, between breakfast and lunch (11am). Secondly, the menu is properly brunchy, with eggs featuring at every turn, pancakes, galettes, and a spread involving viennoiserie, fresh fruit, charcuterie and cheese. Drinks match, with Aperol spritz being order of the day – a perfect low-alcohol way to start the morning. In typical Bistro des Arts fashion, it’s very demure, elegantly casual and French. Not so good for gluten dodgers or gluttonous drunkards. Well priced at 99 Aed or 199 including alcoholic drinks.
The opposite of the brunch above, this weekly occasion has the true potential to go haywire. It’s a similar deal to Bubblicious at the Westin, where several restaurant areas join forces so there’s a range of different ambiences on offer, and about a hundred various cuisines. I tried it on opening weekend (comped), so take the rating with a grain of salt, but I think this could be one of the great ones. There is a myriad of live cooking stations, cocktails galore, an outdoor plastic picnic area complete with astroturf, and a spread of home-made chocolates that just about made me faint. We’ll be back for another go, and hopefully by then they’ve managed their queue issue on entry, and their welcome cocktail which currently tastes like Benadryl. 395 AED including drinks.
Cocktail kitchen 9/10
I just love this place. It’s got nearly everything I miss about bars back in Melbourne. First, it isn’t just a bar – the food is good enough to class the venue as a restaurant in it’s own right (international nibbles and comfort food in the main). Then it has a range of weekly specials/happy hours that make you realise you should be down there often. It has bearded bartenders in leather aprons. The bar is long and communal, and there are other nooks and spaces designed specifically to make fraternisation easy. The music is just on that chic side of indie, as are the drinks, which are full of hipster ingredients like bitters and boutique gin. It’s just easy. Unless of course it’s busy, which it nearly always is.
*A guide to ratings: These take into account the price, quality, service and the facilities, and in effect are a value rating. A venue with mains at 30AED has just as much chance of getting a 10/10 as a fine dining establishment.
- 0-2/10 = exceptionally overpriced or outragiously awful. Avoid at all costs.
- 3-5/10 = overpriced in respect to quality. Lacklustre. Don’t eat there unless there are no other options.
- 6-7/10 = reasonable value. Check other options in the area just in case, but not a bad choice over-all.
- 8-9/10= worth seeking out. Tremendous food and ambience. Possibly the best restaurant in the area.
- 10/10 = As good as it gets. Stop what you’re doing, book a table now.