Time Out reveals the coup de grace of cuisine in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Time Out visits the finest French restaurants in Dubai to bring you our favourite places to feast on foie gras and tuck into terrine. Oooh la la!
Bistro Madeleine: As you step through the door at this InterContinental venue, there’s no mistaking where you’re supposed to be. Red checked cloths adorn the Parisian-style tables, Edith Piaf-style melodies fill your ears and the smell of sautéeing onions wafts from the kitchen – we half expected Marcel Marceau to appear, offer us a Gauloise and break into an impromptu mime. But far from being tacky, the overall effect is rather charming. While the staff themselves aren’t French, they’re friendly and eager to please, proffering a menu packed with authentic Gallic dishes: cassoulet, coq au vin and croque monsieur all feature, alongside a specials menu that’s written entirely in French (it’ll give you a chance to practise your long-forgotten school vocabulary, or you can ask the staff to translate). The food itself, while not as outstanding as at French neighbour Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, is competent, reliable and great value – you can grab a filling, homely meal for two and get change from a Dhs200 note. We also hear the breakfast is worth a look. Early morning croissants and chocolat chaud supped from a creekside table? Why, Monsieur, you are really spoiling us.
InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1111).
Café Chic: Always just shy of trendy, this otherwise excellent French restaurant has, at various intervals, served some of the city’s best (and most traditional) Gallic fare. It quietly relaunched in July last year but still hasn’t managed to attract the crowds it deserves. Starters of king prawn ravoli and a tuna and salmon carpaccio (served with winkle butter) were simple dishes that worked but didn’t astound. A milk-fed veal tenderloin was presented brilliantly: each side formed a neat square and the whole represented an attractive grid but again lacked a little flavour, though came with an interesting pumpkin gratin. A lobster plate served like a haute TV dinner with a mini-cauldron of lobster and coral soup was filling but, again, lacked seasoning. Save room for the restaurant’s signature soufflés, of which half a dozen are on offer. The strawberry version is the most intense dish of the lot. Café Chic still has potential, which would normally be a promising sign. But considering that the restaurant has been around for nearly 10 years, it needs to really fulfill this.
Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000).
Le Classique: Smart, polished and refreshingly traditional, Le Classique is a welcome throwback to the classy European restaurants of yesteryear. With exceptional service and remarkable attention to detail, this is a charming location that effortlessly whisks you away with its simple yet elegant style. Yes, it's on the prim and proper side of things (you may even have to straighten your tie and polish your boots for evening meals) but that said, the staff do a wonderful job in making you feel comfortable, and you can't help but be seduced by the whole experience. While the lush green views of Emirates Golf Club, and the elegant interior provide tranquility, it's the food that really impresses. The menu boasts a confident and assured range with a sense of adventure throughout. Each dish is beautifully presented and crafted. The lamb chop with herb crust, eggplant cannelloni and Provençal tian is exquisite. And it's not just the mains that excite; the white chocolate parfait with tonka bean and poached strawberry is first-class and underlines the restaurant's sense of craft and invention. Although it may not leave you entirely full and it may not the easiest on the wallet, Le Classique should offer enough class and chic to convince the shrewdest of purists.
Emirates Golf Course (04 380 2222).
Margaux:Margaux, poor Margaux. Wonderful French food hampered by its location. The restaurant boasts a sleek, stylish interior – save for some very strange pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Fergie with an orangutan. Unfortunately, the terrace’s position right under the very loud speakers for the Burj Khalifa's fountains mean you’re routinely deafened by the music that bursts out every 15 minutes to accompany the world’s tallest water jets. However, the restaurant offers a fantastic selection of modern French wonders with a slight Asian edge – lunchtime treats include asparagus wrapped in wafer thin wagyu which makes an excellent starter before going full tilt into the most wonderfully presented wagyu burger with peppers, rocket and gruyere. All their a la carte beef is aged for 60 days and although the menu’s concise, it leaves your mouth watering. You can’t have a French meal without a crème brulee and the trio here is one of joy.
Souk al Bahar (04 439 7555).
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire:Aside from the quirky, contemporary and rather romantic décor or the wondrous culinary creations that you’d have thought belonged in a children’s fantasy book, perhaps Reflets' biggest selling point (if it’s not too louche to describe such a decadent demure restaurant as having a ‘selling point’) is the sublime service. Cuisine of such complication (as is Gagnaire’s want) needs translating and explaining, a task that is carried out with gentle politeness and genuine warmth by the maitre d’ – your guide to what is always a memorable culinary journey. The sommelier is equally professional and the rest of the waiting staff exude a dignity that is rarely seen in Dubai’s restaurants. This isn’t to say that the food plays second fiddle. Menus such as the lamb based L’Agneaux du Quercy , and the oyster Les Huitres tease and please the palate to equal measure, each dish providing sensory surprises and push the boundaries of culinary creation. An absolutely unforgettable experience.
InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Festival City (04 701 1111).
Rostang:The first time we set out to Rostang we loaded up our wallets and donned our best glad-rags, expecting a fine-dining experience in two star Michelin chef Michel Rostang’s eatery. Rather refreshingly, however, the high ceilinged spot is more accordion music and steak frites than foie gras and Ravel (it’s also always jam packed with kids). The brasserie has decent service, a great and affordable breakfast menu, as well as a seafood bar. The dinner menu is interestingly split into two sections – one half a range of house dishes, and the other a selection of signature dishes straight from the encyclopaedic cuisine knowledge of Michel himself. The latter half is the most appealing – the escargots are garlicky, and, the little suckers slip down nicely,. The béarnaise sauce that accompanies the steak frites is delectable and the Alaskan crab is incredibly rich (be aware that it comes out cold however). As for the sweet stuff we’re particularly fond of the brioche-like profiteroles with their dreamy chocolate sauce, and if you let them know you’re there for a special occasion you’ll be brought out a delectable chocolate mousse cake. While it doesn’t feel as high end as expected, this isn't a bad thing, Rostang is a great spot for a lively and hearty meal. Heartiness comes with one downside though: our waistline suffers.
Atlantis Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Traiteur:In a city that has too long been reputed for excess, decadence and style over substance, it’s refreshing and reassuring to eat at a restaurant that defies such stereotypes with quality at every turn. The venue, for one, is stylish and spacious and boasts a wonderful alfresco terrace, which affords views of the yachts docked in the marina and the silhouette of the faraway Khalifa. The menu, meanwhile, features simple, yet sublime French fare. Clichéd as it may sound, but the snail starter is rich, garlicky and will have you fantasising about it for weeks to come. Likewise the duck is the freshest, juiciest specimen of a bird that you’re ever likely to sample in Dubai. Our only quibble might be the service, which is a little over-attentive at times, but this is just us looking for a minor flaw to prove that Traiteur isn’t just a figment of our dinnertime dreams.
Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).