Food over views
THE CROFT MAY NOW BE THE BEST REASON TO VISIT DUBAI MARINA’S MARRIOTT HARBOUR HOTEL
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.