This New York ex­port is an as­sault on the senses. But how’s the food?

Esquire Middle East - - IN THIS ISSUE THE EDIT -

Su­per­star chef David My­ers re­veals the dishes that shaped his ca­reer

IF SOME­ONE put an eclec­tic mix of colours and flavours into a can­non and shot you in the face with it, the re­sult­ing blind panic and ring­ing in your ears would re­sem­ble Miss Lily’s.

To de­scribe the con­cept here in a co­he­sive man­ner is al­most im­pos­si­ble, as it ap­pears to com­bine el­e­ments of a New York-style deli with Ja­maican/caribbean street food, sillily named cock­tails and a club, all un­der one (in­cred­i­bly low) roof.

Disco balls hang along­side faux neon ad­ver­tise­ments for vin­tage so­das and colour tele­vi­sions, while en­tire walls are cov­ered with retro-styled posters and vinyl al­bums. Ba­si­cally, think of the hippest man you know (or if none come to mind, just go with a pic­ture of Don­ald Glover wear­ing a sparkly cape); he’d look barely note­wor­thy sat at one of the booths here. Miss Lily’s is a New York ex­port, and this lo­ca­tion in the heart of the Sher­a­ton Grand Ho­tel in Dubai is its first in­ter­na­tional out­post.

So how does the orig­i­nal con­cept trans­late here, in a city that is al­ready home to a huge num­ber of out-there restau­rants (which of­ten pri­ori­tise style over food)?

What’s the vibe?

Did you read the bit about the face can­non? That’s the over­whelm­ing vibe the mo­ment you walk out the lifts and into this res­tau­rant (seem­ingly hid­den in­side faux ship­ping con­tain­ers on the fifth floor of the ho­tel).

Miss Lily’s is dark and grungy, not in the “we’ve been around for 30 years and will never change” kind of way, but in the “we’ve care­fully de­signed our res­tau­rant so no­body can help but take a pic­ture for In­sta­gram” way.

But a lit­tle so­cial me­dia never hurt any­one ( just ask Pepe the Frog), so we can’t pe­nalise them for that. And it cer­tainly at­tracts the pun­ters; on a Tues­day night we find the place near-burst­ing with well-dressed groups – hands and phones per­pet­u­ally out­stretched – at the bar and in­side the two din­ing rooms.

We say ‘full’ – it’s cosy, to say the least. One man lean­ing against the bar would make Miss Lilly’s look busy, but that’s no bad thing. Most Dubai restau­ra­teurs favour 400-per­son su­per-venues, mak­ing this is a re­fresh­ing change. And, of course, there’s also the oblig­a­tory DJ.

How about the food?

You know when you go to a res­tau­rant and the waiter warns you that the food “is go­ing to be a lit­tle spicy” and then it ar­rives and you can barely taste the heat? Miss Lily’s is not this place. Not at all.

The hot pep­per shrimp is not to be tri­fled with, and nei­ther are the in­no­cently named glazed lamb ribs.

They must go through the hot-sauce quicker than neon light­bulbs at Miss Lily’s, but this isn’t crit­i­cism. In­deed, the food here is some of the most au­then­tic Caribbean cui­sine we’ve ever had, es­pe­cially in a city that’s known to wa­ter­down dishes for the sake of get­ting bums on seats.

The jerk chicken is def­i­nitely of note here. That’s down to the flavour and the char on its skin, and cer­tainly not for its ab­hor­rent procla­ma­tion of be­ing “world fa­mous”.

Scratch away at the retro-styled sur­face of Miss Lily’s and there’s quite a lot to like.the food is on point, es­pe­cially if you can stom­ach proper Caribbean spices, and while we’d rather it di­alled the con­cept back just a lit­tle, Miss Lily’s does enough to make it not just unique in Dubai, a city awash with clichéd theme restau­rants, but well worth a visit.

Lily’s pad (left) and the “world fa­mous” jerk chicken (be­low)

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