Big month, things are getting busy, so let’s get straight down to it. Local focus this week, plenty of Jumeirah Beach Road action, and a couple of events that have been and gone for the moment, but you must keep your eye open for in the future
Cafes and Casual
I can cook cupcakes myself. They are easy, cheap, and I can flavour them any way I please (usually with over-ripe bananas, because that’s always what’s left in the fruit bowl). So it takes quite a lot to get me to buy one for 16AED. This time it was the diet. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel child, and I’d just spent an hour reading calories on the back of jars in Carrefour, and filling my trolley with rabbit food and bird seed. And there it was, in the mall, glaring at me. Hummingbird Bakery, all pink and black like a fancy underwear shop, but full of sugary lacy things rather than fluffy unmentionables. I ordered a carrot cupcake. The frosting wasn’t sour enough and there was way too much of it. The tea came as a teabag next to a cup of almost boiling water. Should have made them myself, or in fact, not eaten the cake at all. So here’s a 6/10, partially attributed to my guilt, but also to the lack of perfection in a 16 dirham cupcake.
Let’s be broad here, I only tried one, and it wasn’t the one I wanted to try, because the line for Salt had about 20 people in it, and Bob’s had 1. Looks like I actually got the better end of the stick however, because Salt’s burgers are being criticized for being small and dry, and yet Bob’s fish and chips were quite awesome – a thick, fresh slab of hamour (I’m sorry, I know it’s not sustainable, but the alternatives were cod and cream dory… not much better) with golden crunchy batter, and a stack of crisp, thick, hot chips – easily enough for two in one serve for 54AED. Salt has the better location, dining area, and pricing (from 25AED per burger), but Bob’s has it over them in the food stakes by the sound of it.
I’d been on tenterhooks waiting for this one. Scott and Nick of Table 9 fame have taken their sweet time getting back into a restaurant kitchen since signing onto some mysterious venture with Spinneys last year. Finally we can get a taste of their kitchen again. First visit was a little disappointing – I chose a dish I could have cooked at home (endive and walnut salad). Resolution – do not go to restaurants while dieting. Second visit happened because a friend dragged me down after seeing my boo-hoo on instagram, telling me I was wrong. Much better – some masterstock slow-cooked beef cheek on very fresh greens, and a mandarin cheesecake. Drinks are home-brewed and cute (ginger ale is a winner). Definitely the best choice for a feed in Mercato mall.
This is not the first restaurant for Al Fanar, who have been operating in Festival city for some time, proudly being one of the only places in the city where you can get authentic Emirati cuisine (Ishita unblogged has reviewed that outlet here). It’s an almost eerie ecperience, walking from a 1990s shopping mall into what looks and feels like an 1890s bait in Bastakiya, but it works quite well. Service is unobtrusive and efficient, and the surroundings are airy and accommodating, whilst having plenty of nooks and private corners. Food is generally very good, and ingredients (particularly salads) are bursting with freshness. Definitely try the Koftat Samak (coriander and fish patties) and Machboos deyay (chicken with spices, lemon and rice), and lqeimat (Arabic doughnuts). For other authentic Emirati experiences, look to the SMCCU for the cultural breakfast or lunch.
Second time I’ve dined, and it’s been far too long in-between. I was really looking forward to popping down to Omnia for some healthy food (plenty of sugar free, paleo and gluten free items on the menu) with Silvena Rowe’s modern middle eastern flair. I’d remembered the orange-blossom roasted baby chicken, and the velvet cheesecake (the only unhealthy item on the menu) , and couldn’t wait to get back. It’s a beautifully decorated venue, whimsical and vibrant, just like the lady herself, with hanging gardens, peacocks and butterflies (pictures here). Only downers, I think with her new ventures just about to burst forth (Omnia Slim and Omnia by Silvena), it looks like the pot’s off the boil a little. Many dishes were not available, and the terrace, although well furnished and endowed with harbour view, somehow lacks continuity with the restaurant. I’m sure it will be back up to an 8.5 or 9/10 soon. Now I wish she’d open a food truck on the beach…
I’ve talked about it before, and will again. My favourite Iranian restaurant in Dubai, and yet it’s the kids who continually drag me down there. I’m not sure what they love so much about it. Perhaps it’s because of the feeling that you are eating in someone’s (somewhat lavishly overdecorated) home? Maybe it’s the allure of the entry, being able to swing your car into the drive and have a valet remove it, allowing you to feel a little posh as you walk past marble tiling and tinkling water features? It might be the sweets shop that you can stop at while you’re waiting to leave, and Sam, behind the counter, who always gives the kids a free tasting of cookies he knows very well they have eaten before? Or, it’s simply the food – incredible fresh-baked bread, gorgeous grills, crisp salads, flavoursome dips and condiments, melt-in-the-mouth stews. Definitely try the Jojeh Masti (chicken and yoghurt kebabs), Kashk o Bademjan (roasted eggplant dip with whey) and vanilla ice cream (actually a mastic ice cream with the slightest persian flavour)
Third time in at Kaftan, this occasion by request of an 11 year old for his birthday dinner. He simply adores the doner sandwich and Turkish ice creams, and relishes the view of Wild Wadi’s Tantrum Alley directly over the road. I believe Kaftan has the best Turkish food I have tasted in Dubai recently (Although it is some time since I have been to Lalezar or Ottomans), and although on the steeper side for an unlicensed venue, it’s overall good value, particularly when you factor in the stunning garden surrounds, and kind attentive service. Must-try dishes are kestaneli lahana sarma (chestnut-stuffed cabbage rolls), Sigara boregi (cheese pies) and Terkib-I Cesidiyye (lamb with almonds and quince).
You know how last year, everyone wanted to get on the guest lists for those secret suppers held by No. 57? Well, I didn’t ever get invited, and I was gutted. But now there’s a new dinner club in town, and I got a guernsey. Samantha Wood of Foodiva hosted this one (previous ones have been at Armani Dubai and Ronda Locatelli), joining forces with Ghaf Kitchen and Le Meridien for a Mediterranean evening. I had a great time ruining my stilettos on the turf near the beach, listening to Juliana Down and the lapping Arabian Gulf, munching on braised oxtail ravioli and heirloom tomato salad. It’s a fantastic concept by Peroni, so wait for your golden ticket – who knows, your six-degrees of separation may get you closer to Club Uno than mine did to the No. 57 dinners last year.
I haven’t dined at Nobu yet (yes, I know) and thought it would finally be my chance. I nearly cancelled my booking when I realised this wasn’t going to be in the restaurant itself. Luckily I had some friends talk sense into me. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa was in the building, along with chefs from nearly all of his other restaurants, and they had all brought forward a signature dish. Favourite of the day was a glazed sea-bass from Perth, with carrot miso puree and sunchoke chips, but very many followed close behind (You can have a look at the photos here). Add this to free-flow Perrier Jouet and some flamboyant house cocktails, service by managers and sommeliers from Nobu restaurants all over the planet, wicked DJ, and it made for a very good meal out for 590AED. Loses 1 point for unimaginative house wines and another 1/2 because I asked Mr Nobu to dance to Billie Jean with me, and he disappeared….
This occurs every year, some time around the end of October, this year on Friday the 24th. In celebration, my husband and I popped a bottle of Louis Roederer NV and spent the evening in the garden in this delicious weather getting all bubbly and writing personality profiles for all the Champagne brands we’ve drunk this year. You can find them here.