Restau­rant re­views

From French fine din­ing to Ja­panese ban­quets and Ital­ian gas­tron­omy, Fri­day re­views some of Dubai’s best spots for haute cui­sine

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

Dubai’s hottest hide­outs for haute cui­sine.

Celebri­ties, One & Only Royal Mi­rage

In a set­ting as lux­u­ri­ous as the One & Only Royal Mi­rage it should be no sur­prise that the Euro­peanstyle restau­rant is the epitome of el­e­gance and fine din­ing.

But the crys­tal chan­de­liers, sleek gold and black fur­nish­ings, and spec­tac­u­lar view over The Palace Es­planade are enough to make the most dis­cern­ing of din­ers gasp, or at least mouth a ‘wow’ or two.

Add to that a menu most Miche­lin-starred chefs from France, Italy or the UK would envy, and it’s enough to leave most pa­trons drool­ing. And we were no dif­fer­ent.

We were greeted by the French restau­rant man­ager Damien Planchenault and swept to a ta­ble over­look­ing the Es­planade, re­splen­dent with twinkly lights, paths wind­ing be­tween pools of glis­ten­ing wa­ter and an inky sky.

The restau­rant and sump­tu­ous sur­round­ings were a vis­ual feast and I had no doubt the food would more than match up. So I couldn’t wait to try my starter of a roasted as­para­gus soup while my hus­band or­dered beef carpac­cio, which came with a shal­lot dress­ing and Parme­san.

My soup was ex­quis­ite: creamy with a smooth, roasted flavour that rolled around my tongue. “Nice?” my hus­band asked, de­mol­ish­ing his beef. My smile said ev­ery­thing.

My hus­band was in full-on car­ni­vore mode and or­dered the Wagyu fil­let with black pep­per and raisin sauce, while I couldn’t de­cide be­tween a ‘panache’ of veg­etable gnoc­chi with baby ar­ti­chokes, or wild mushroom risotto with truf­fle oil. I took so long mak­ing up my mind that the man­ager of­fered to make me starter por­tions of both so I could sat­isfy my culi­nary crav­ings.

De­lighted, I sat back, soak­ing in the chic at­mos­phere and play­ing one of my favourite restau­rant games – guess­ing what the other din­ers will or­der and then be­com­ing con­sumed by food envy. There were myr­iad din­ers with dif­fer­ent tastes – well-dressed men tuck­ing into lob­ster ravi­oli, su­per-groomed women del­i­cately de­vour­ing their racks of lamb.

“Di­vine,” my hus­band an­nounced of his main, which was ten­der, juicy and medium rare, just how he likes it.

My risotto was packed with mush­rooms that were flavour­some and hearty, but my gnocci was a gas­tro­nomic de­light. Panache, I learnt from the man­ager, is the French word for flam­boy­ant man­ner or reck­less courage and that’s just how the dish was pre­sented – a gor­geous tum­ble of colours and flavours. I couldn’t eat it fast enough, and had to bat my hus­band’s fork away as he was des­per­ate to try it.

He wouldn’t make do with just the risotto, which was lovely, and wanted to taste what was ob­vi­ously the veg­e­tar­ian star of the show. Even­tu­ally, I let him try it, and saw his eyes widen with epi­curean joy.

It was a hard act to fol­low but the mille­feuille of rasp­ber­ries, vanilla ice cream and mint jelly was a re­fresh­ing and sweet sign-off for both of us.

With a name like Celebri­ties I could un­der­stand why Mariah Carey is said to be a fan when she’s in Dubai. But you don’t need to rub shoul­ders with world-fa­mous singers to know this restau­rant is a must-visit – the menu is enough of a top act all by it­self. De­tails: Call 04 399 9999 or email Fb.acourt@one­an­don­ly­royalmi­

Se­greto, Mad­i­nat Jumeirah

Mad­i­nat Jumeirah by night is al­ways go­ing to be a beau­ti­ful set­ting, but add in a tran­quil abra ride through twin­kling canals, can­dlelit al­fresco ta­bles, soft Ital­ian mu­sic and gourmet fare and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more ro­man­tic place to eat this side of Italy.

If you haven’t done it yet I highly rec­om­mend the abra ex­pe­ri­ence – pick one up from any of the sta­tions along the Mad­i­nat and you’re trans­ported to a new, mag­i­cal ver­sion of Dubai – ev­ery­thing fades into fairy light, a span­gled glow as the whoosh of the dark wa­ter and the gen­tle whis­per­ing of the wind fill your senses.

My hus­band and I ar­rived at the lit­tle dock by Se­greto and were shown to our wa­ter-side ta­ble, which had a stun­ning view of the curv­ing canals and Ara­bic ar­chi­tec­ture of the Mad­i­nat com­plex.

We were wel­comed by restau­rant man­ager, Delian, who played the part of an Ital­ian nonna as he talked us through the Sar­dinian-in­flu­enced menu, in­sist­ing we try a soup and pasta course as well as the usual starter and main.

But first we were pre­sented with a com­pli­men­tary amuse bouche of pap­pardelle pasta with parme­san fon­due and truf­fle shav­ings – an el­e­gantly de­li­cious lit­tle touch that let us know we were in for the proper haute cui­sine ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, com­bined with the ir­re­sistibly cakey fo­cac­cia and feather-light cia­batta, it was clear we were go­ing to have to pace our­selves if we wanted to make the most of all that Se­greto had to of­fer.

The key to proper Ital­ian food is, of course, good-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, and this is no more vi­tal than in a dish like my bur­rata salad starter, where the stan­dard of the cheese can make or break it. But it was bet­ter than I could have dreamed of – pil­lowy, out-ofthis-world creamy, and per­fectly com­ple­mented by a tangy tomato pesto, while my hus­band savoured a del­i­cate beef carpac­cio with porcini mush­rooms. Hav­ing eaten the equiv­a­lent of a three-course meal al­ready, our soup course was up next. My seafood and tomato stew was a saf­frony bowl of whole­some tasti­ness, burst­ing with fresh herbs, while my hus­band’s mine­strone was hearty and packed with spicy aro­mas.

To Delian’s dis­may our strain­ing stom­achs meant the pasta course was to­tally out of the ques­tion, so next up was grilled snap­per with Mediter­ranean veg­eta­bles for me – mouth­wa­ter­ingly moist with a but­tery, cr­sipy skin – and melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked os­sobucco (veal shanks and po­lenta) for my hus­band.

Fi­nally, we were de­feated. But there was no way Delian was let­ting us get away with­out dessert.

We rounded ev­ery­thing off with a darkly de­li­cious tiramisu – given a kick with amaretto macaroons – for the per­fect sweet end­ing to a ro­man­tic evening. De­tails: Call 04 366 6730 or email MJrestau­

Wheeler’s of St James, DIFC

When it comes to restau­rants in Dubai, there are some vi­tal in­gre­di­ents for suc­cess – good food, a celebrity chef and fan­tas­tic ser­vice – but like houses it’s mostly down to lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion. And Wheeler’s of St James, just like its Lon­don coun­ter­part, ticks all the boxes. Nes­tled in culi­nary hot spot DIFC, the lat­est of­fer­ing from Marco Pierre White builds on the her­itage of the UK’s orig­i­nal seafood restau­rant with a Dubai twist.

It’s un­der­stated at first glance – all shiny floors, big win­dows and crisp white table­cloths, but there’s plenty of glitz to go round, with coral reef chan­de­liers and hur­ri­cane can­dles.

Sadly there was no sign of Marco, but his sig­na­ture dish – the fish and chips with mushy peas – is al­ready leg­endary among DIFC’s dis­cern­ing din­ers, no mean feat for a restau­rant that opened only at the be­gin­ning of the year. So my guest’s main was a no brainer but what about starters? We were spoilt for choice, with seafood, soup, in­ven­tive sal­ads, meat and veg­e­tar­ian op­tions.

I went for a mar­i­nated bur­rata and tomato tart, which melted in the mouth and packed a pow­er­ful punch with kala­mata olives and rocket pesto, while my guest opted for Ir­ish crab claws cooked in gar­lic. “I could eat that again,” he de­clared, rub­bing his stom­ach, but I in­sisted he try the fish and chips while I couldn’t de­cide be­tween the tomato risotto or but­ter­nut squash and pars­ley ravi­oli.

In the end I went for the pasta and didn’t re­gret it. The ravi­oli was beau­ti­fully cooked – al dente with a fill­ing burst­ing with flavour, which came ac­com­pa­nied by lentils, spinach and tomato dress­ing. It sounded heavy but was light, de­li­cious and looked good enough to in­sta­gram to all my friends.

It was a gen­er­ous por­tion, but so tasty I quickly de­voured the lot. That meant I could steal my friend’s triple- cooked chips, and even a spoon­ful of creamy mushy peas, as he de­clared the bat­tered fresh cod as good as any­thing he’d eaten back in the UK.

Stuffed, we in­sisted on a breather and sat chat­ting and soak­ing up the re­lax­ing at­mos­phere. The clien­tele were a mixed bunch – col­leagues din­ing straight from work and cou­ples try­ing out Marco’s lat­est eaterie. The at­ten­tive staff worked tire­lessly to make the ex­pe­ri­ence as en­joy­able as pos­si­ble.

Fi­nally, we had room for dessert and I couldn’t re­sist the white choco­late and peanut cheese­cake, which came with pop­corn ice cream. It was an ex­plo­sion of flavours that made me dive back into the dish for more. My more grown-up guest chose the cheese plat­ter, which he fin­ished off with a big grin.

A fan­tas­tic ad­di­tion to the food scene here so book a ta­ble fast – I pre­dict it’ll be hard to get one soon.

De­tails: Call 04 386 0899 or email reser­va­tions@wheel­ers­

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