From French fine dining to Japanese banquets and Italian gastronomy, Friday reviews some of Dubai’s best spots for haute cuisine
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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 MJrestaurants@jumeirah.com.
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 email@example.com.