Food over views


Virtuozity - - Fine Dining -

IT MUST FEEL DAUNT­ING to open up a new restau­rant in a ho­tel that al­ready fea­tures one of Dubai’s favourite din­ner spots. One would imag­ine it would feel like be­ing at a Rolex con­ven­tion while try­ing to ped­dle tick­ets for the Omega ap­pre­ci­a­tion show across the road—your wares might be very nice, but ev­ery­one’s al­ready in the area to fo­cus on some­thing else.

Nev­er­the­less, this hasn’t stopped Bri­tish chef Dar­ren Velvick from tak­ing a crack at giv­ing Dubai Ma­rina’s Mar­riott Har­bour Ho­tel a sec­ond main at­trac­tion for food and drinks fans to visit—the first be­ing the beloved Ob­ser­va­tory, which owes its pop­u­lar­ity to its stun­ning views of Dubai as much it does its food. And be­cause his new restau­rant, The Croft, of­fers lit­tle in the way of views (be­ing on fifth floor), its food had bet­ter be some­thing spe­cial.

Velvick needn’t be wor­ried. While The Ob­ser­va­tory of­fers high-minded in­ter­na­tional cui­sine with a Euro­pean in­flu­ence (much like his pre­vi­ous Dubai restau­rant, Ta­ble 9), The Croft opts for a more ca­sual and com­fort­ing ap­proach to food. With a menu chock full of modern takes on Bri­tish and Nor­man clas­sics, it’s easy to see the in­flu­ence that celebrity chefs Gor­don Ram­say and Mar­cus Ware­ing have had on Velvick—he trained with both of them.

But at The Croft, Velvick’s also had the op­por­tu­nity to be more cre­ative with his food, mean­ing it’s not all burg­ers or fish and chips (two dishes that The Croft does beau­ti­fully, by the way). There are also great in­ter­pre­ta­tions of in­ter­na­tional dishes honed by a Bri­tish chef’s tastes, such as the or­ganic salmon teriyaki with sautéed bok choy, sesame and white radish. There’s also the chef sen­til mum’s curry, with aubergine, tomato, chick­peas, rice and raita.

That said, the bet­ter items of the menu are more of the hearty Bri­tish com­fort food va­ri­ety—along the same lines as Ram­say’s new At­lantis restau­rant, Bread Street. They’re clas­sic dishes, but pre­pared to such ex­act­ing stan­dards that you can’t help but won­der at them. The leek and ched­dar sausages, with mash po­tato and mus­tard sauce, are a per­fect ex­am­ple of this. The home­made sausages, made from the freshest pro­duce, pro­vide the most sat­is­fy­ing ex­te­rior crispi­ness, jux­ta­posed bril­liantly against the creami­ness of the mash. While the pan-roasted foie gras, as it should, melts in the mouth along­side the ap­ple and black­berry crum­ble with which it’s served.

Like the food, the restau­rant it­self evokes a na­ture of com­fort, with guests seated at dark, heavy, wooden ta­bles, atop plush leather seats. The light­ing is low and moody, but cosy—and all the bet­ter for it. Af­ter all, if you’ve not got The Ob­ser­va­tory’s view to play with, why not go in the other di­rec­tion, pro­vid­ing a safe haven from the noise of the city out­side? The Croft does this bril­liantly and with plenty of style. The ho­tel may have just gained a new star restau­rant.

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