We had dinner at the second One and Only resort in Dubai the other night. There has been one in the Mina Seyahi area if Dubai for a few years now, and you might have gathered that it’s one of my  favorite haunts. What I have christened Second and Almost had a soft opening a month or so ago, and for some reason or another, nobody we know has ventured out there.

I booked at “Stay” by Yannick Alleno, a three star Michelin chef (le Meurice hotel in Paris). Strange choice in name…. “Dine”, or “gorge”, or even “Mange” (which I know has an unfortunate meaning in English, but at least means “eat” en Francais) would have been more appropriate. I have in a past life been a sommelier (poncy wine waiter), and as much as I wanted people to come and eat, drink and be merry, I thoroughly wanted them to leave, preferably after leaving me a nice tip – which I deserved because I was very nice, polite, clever, and at that point had a lovely bum that they could watch as I wiggled my way back to the cellar in a short skirt and heels.

The new One and Only hotel is on Palm Jumeirah, right at the tip of the West Cresent, and here we found out why nobody else has been yet. It is so far down the crescent that it is agonizingly close to the mainland, despite the fact that you have just paid 50 dhirims to get there (cabs are cheap here, so trust me, that’s bad). Where’s my private yacht when I need it? But, the view is superb at night, when the construction that abounds and surrounds is embraced by darkness.

The hotel is equally as beautiful as the other One and Only, but instead of the terra-cotta and ochre desert fort-like walls, it is chalky white and adorned like the Alhambra. Inside is marble that reflects like a mirror, water pools with petals, flickering candles encased in glass and steel like precious ornaments, and dozens of staff that stand quietly in niches until the moment they are needed to cater for your every whim. I acted the tourist and photographed everything, including my own reflection in the floor. Hambone was less than amused, but is slowly getting used to this new obsession (although I have been banned from taking the tripod out to dinner).

The restaurant itself is more contemporary. It’s a celebration in plush monotone – Art Nouveau inspired panels, glass, chrome, black velvet, silver painted tables, and glittering cut crystal. Above our heads loomed enormous black chandeliers, and beneath our feet, a plush rug with psychadelic swirls that was so dense I nearly lost my balance in heels. There is plenty of space – we had no tables within a decent cat-swing, and they had cleverly positioned the furniture so that nobody looked directly onto another diner, however the acoustics of the room did make me feel a little like everyone might be able to hear me if I got loud. Better limit it to two wines.

I’d like to give you the good news first, so rather than take you step by step, I’m going to jump straight into the food, which is superb. It is fairly French, as you would imagine, with a surprisingly large amount of pasta (generally as a small part of the dish, rather than the old bowl of spag bog and fettucini carbonara), which might upset the gluten-phobes, but pleased me no end. I had sea-bass tartare for entree, which took me a little out of my comfort zone (I generally like my raw fish pink), but was worth the effort. It was fresh and clean, as white as the plate it was served on, and mixed with just the right ingredients to give sufficient tartness and salt to the sweet flesh of the fish. Hambone had the most delectable piece of tennis-ball sized mozzerella, which again was perfectly white, and oozed deliciously in the centre to merge with the aromatic pistou (pesto) and sweet tomatoes.

Main was wagyu steak with pepper sauce (safe, but perfect) for him, and for me, a veal tenderloin with home-made macaroni, jus and parmesan. As tender as Hambone’s steak, but small, round and girly, with the macaroni in an unbroken ring around the little veal cylinder, holding in the loose gravy and keeping everything perfectly moist. As I cut into the pasta, white sauce dribbled out of the tube, and swirled into the jus making it thick and creamy.

Immediately after clearing the plates we were brought petit fours that included teeny-tiny blackberry macaroons that I could have eaten a dozen of. And when they realised we did not want dessert, they brought us more chocolates and dates and things that I am regretting while I walk an extra two kilometres every day this week.

The winelist was also fantastic. As I mentioned, I used to be a sommelier, and I actually studied wine for four years, so I tend to be a bit picky in this area. This has tempered during my Dubai residence, both due to price and range, but I still manage to get by without drinking too much rubbish. The Sommelier at Stay is wonderful – he is excited, passionate, knowledgable and brave. And French. He has listed enough wines of interest by the glass that we opted to go this way despite the bottle prices being surprisingly reasonable both for a fine dining restaurant and Dubai. I had a remarkably good Cataratto from Sicily – the cheapest white on the list, but I was saving myself for a glass of Bordeaux for mains. Hambone played it safe again with Chablis, but had a Nero d’Avola (great fruity/spicy Calabrian red) after.

Here’s where things went south. I finished my white shortly after Hambone got his glass of red, but was ignored for about five minutes. Then I finally called someone over and asked for the 90 dhirim a glass 2005 Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux I had been thinking about. I asked for it again five minutes later, and again five minutes after that. It might have been two – but I was VERY thirsty, and our happy Sommelier was nowhere to be seen. Finally it arrived, but it was the 2007. Now I know that this is a 7/10 vintage as compared to the 10/10 that I had ordered. So I asked for the 2005 instead. I had to wait another 5 minutes before the Sommelier returned to tell me about his issue. He had sampled and ordered the 2005, but the 2007 had arrived instead. There was no 2005. This is quite typical of Dubai, and not so surprising considering it is in a Muslim country, but a great shame non-the-less. I tried the 2007 but it was particularly average and I ended up with something else. I did not have the heart to tell the Sommelier that the 2007 was not only average, but full of brett (Brettanomyces – a wine fault that affects the entire vintage and in this case stank of Band-aids and rancid almond essence).

When we wanted the bill we also had to ask three times at 5-minute intervals. I would have been fine with this and other examples of slow service if:
1. they had not been charging prices of 90AED for entrees and 210 AED for mains (about $25 and $60) and
2. there had not been 6 waiters fluffing around 6 seated tables doing nothing in particular.

It’s a crying shame. I feel sorry for the Sommelier, who has just landed in Dubai after years of tropical serenety and good wine ordering experiences in the Maldives. And I feel sorry for the chef, who has created a superb menu, and trained a kitchen to present it perfectly. And finally, for the architect and interior designers who put this stunning restaurant together. I hope somebody who works there reads this, because I want to go back. But I want to see some improvement on the service front first.

If you are interested in photography, check out my other blog – sandpit diaries

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