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