We see what's on the menu at revamped dining hub in Garhoud
Century Villlage, the little oasis of al-fresco dining in Garhoud, has recently had a facelift. Pushing its global credentials, the area offers a selection of cuisines hailing from Portugal to Japan and India to Italy. Each venue offers outdoor seating, perfect for the winter months, with most licensed to serve drinks. The main change to the area has been the terrace, which has been redesigned with plenty of greenery, fountains and pergolas, making it a pleasant spot in which to spend the cooler evenings.
Al-fresco may be the main charm at Century Village, but some of the venues also have interesting interiors for those who want to head inside, and there is also regular live music performed throughout most of the week. While much – menus and decor included – has remained the same, some of the restaurants have used the revamp as an excuse to refresh their menus, with new items added, and we hear there are more changes due to be implemented in the coming months. Now that the complex has reopened, after being closed since July, we decided to head down to see how the relaunch has shaped up. Next to The Irish Village, The Aviation Club, Garhoud, www.centuryvillage.ae.
Asmak: This restaurant specialises in seafood – specifically Lebanese-style seafood. The interior shouts out the concept in a way that’s clear, cute, but thankfully not too kitsch. Sea-themed elements that add to the atmospheric setting include webbed netting hanging from the ceiling and paddles mounted on the walls, while focal points include a the glass-floored area filled with seashells, as if you’re looking at the bottom of the sea, and a decorative fish tank full of tropical species (though they’re not for eating purposes, unless you’ve been watching A Fish Called Wanda). There is also a fishmonger-style counter where you can choose what you’d like the kitchen to prepare from the selection of fresh fish and seafood (unfortunately, that selection also includes the overfished hammour – naughty, naughty). As a sister venture to nearby Lebanese restaurant Mazaj, the venue takes a similar tour of Lebanese-style mezze and mixed grills, although crucially, with more of an emphasis on fresh seafood and fish. (04 282 5377)
Da Gama: Portuguese readers won’t need to be told that Da Gama is named after a veritable national hero in Portugal. Vasco de Gama was an explorer during the Portuguese age of discovery, credited with being the first to sail to India. Fitting, then, that the façade of this restaurant is decked in swirling blue, white and silver waves. It also feels a little more like a nightspot than an eatery, with an icy white, virtually UV-coloured and shiny exterior. The interior continues the nightclub vibe, complete with a DJ booth in the centre of the room and bar-style seating on sofas, rather than at dinner tables. The menu is primarily Portuguese: the house special is espetadas, a churrasco- style skewer of grilled meat, carved at the table. Jarring with the concept, but apparently popular with the punters, there’s also a selection of Mexican dishes including fajitas and burritos. A few international dishes have just been added to the menu, such as lemon pepper chicken and wasabi prawns. (04 282 3636)
Forn Saj: Forn Saj isn’t exactly a restaurant – there’s no interior to speak of. It is essentially an Arabic bakery: the interior of this hole-in the wall venue features a traditional oven, churning out piping-hot Arabic breads such as saj and pitta. The house special is manakish. (04 361 6848)
La Vigna: Behind the façade of this Italian restaurant hides an atmospheric interior. Decked out like a rustic Italian tavern, this impression is created thanks to exposed brick walls, the standard red and white checked tablecloths and wooden barrels dotted about the place. The menu offers a classic itinerary of Italian standards: hot and cold antipasti, salads, risotto, pasta and pizza, plus meat and fish mains, and a few healthier options. While the selection is traditional, rather than creative, the pasta list sounds particularly promising, offering unusual home-made varieties such as panzerotti (half moon-shaped pasta), as well as the option of creating a dish to your liking by choosing first the type of pasta you’d like, and then the sauce. (04 282 0030)
Masala Craft: This Indian chain sits tucked away at the furthest reaches of Century Village. Unfortunately, this venue doesn’t offer the same supremely cheap thali options seen at other venues of the same name. However, the menu of Indian dishes offers plenty of meat, as well as vegetable options, and now offers a few additional healthy items. We’re told that the lamb dishes are something of a speciality: house signatures include khusk raan (lamb leg prepared with dry spices) and majmal da chops, aka grilled lamb chops marinated in yoghurt and mustard paste. (04 282 9626)
Mazaj: This Lebanese chain boasts branches across the city, serving a classic menu of hot and cold mezze, grilled meats and breads. The food is satisfying, if not groundbreaking, although a new menu is due to be launched in December. The interior has been renovated in sand and saffron colours, with a rustic Middle Eastern feel. The outside seating is cosy, with wooden conservatory-style benches and cushions. (04 282 1566/04 282 9952)
Sarband: This Persian restaurant is a notable spot in Century Village. The interior is particularly pleasant, since the decor manages to be modern and simple, yet still distinctly Persian. The interior space is bright and colourful (walls are painted in block colours, simply and minimally adorned with calligraphy). There are cosy little alcoves and an open kitchen of sorts at the back, where the restaurant’s grill oven is separated from diners by tinted glass. In an area where al-fresco dining is the raison d’être of most diners’ visits, the terrace seating is particularly nice, with majilis-style cushioned seats raised on little wooden platforms. The menu offers traditional Persian dishes, but the rice dishes and kebabs are a particular speciality. House recommendations include zereshk polo: saffron infused rice with sweet and sour barberries and chicken. (04 283 3891)
St Tropez Bistro: The interiors at this steakhouse make St Tropez one of the most attractive and quirky venues in Century Village. Kitsch as it may be, every inch of the walls is covered with portraits of movie icons past and present, the moody palette of dark wood and faded crimson evoking the feeling of a Parisian bar or bistro from days of yore. The simple menu offers a good choice of steaks, including Australian wagyu, grain-fed Angus marbled beef and New Zealand free-range beef and lamb. (04 286 9029)
Sushi Sushi: This causal Japanese eatery claims it was the very first conveyor-belt sushi venue to open in Dubai. It boasts a sushi counter at the back: you can sit near the conveyor belt and watch the chef hard at work, or opt to settle on a cosy sofa by the window or out on the terrace for some al-fresco dining. Sushi and sashimi dominate the menu, but guests can also tuck into noodles dishes and teppanyaki, plus new items such as the Japanese frozen rice cakes for dessert. The venue also offers a cracking deal on Tuesday and Saturday nights, where guests can feast on unlimited sushi and sashimi, alongside beverages and a generous number of set dishes, for Dhs189. (04 282 9908)
The Sapphire: While the interior here lacks a little style, there’s something unique about the wood-panelled indoor and outdoor spaces that make this restaurant feel like a cricket pavilion or turn-of-the-century colonial house. The menu offers casual pan-Asian classics such as yakitori, papaya salad and curry laksa, with a few European dishes thrown in for good measure. The main attractions, however, are the steaks, which you can cook yourself at the table using the ‘stonegrill’ – a hot volcanic stone. (04 286 8520)