Pay homage to Hemmingway, Tolstoy and more in Dubai
In honour of James Joyce and Bloomsday this week, Penelope Walsh discovers the city’s most literary eating experiences.
The literary minded of Dublin are currently gearing up to celebrate one of Ireland’s most famous authors and infamous novels: Ulysses by James Joyce. The events of this seminal modernist text follow the protagonist Leopold Bloom, over 700-odd pages, through one solitary day in his life: June 16 1904. Since 1954, Dublin has marked June 16 as ‘Bloomsday’, an annual festival in honour of Joyce and his work. Others cities have been seen to follow Dublin’s lead, with Bloomsday events now taking place in Australia, Hungary, Italy and the United States. This year, we’re honouring Bloomsday in Dubai, with a menu of Dubai’s answers to famous food scenes from modern and classic literature, as well as literary-inspired venues, so you can eat like the heroes of your favourite books.
Ameera Al Hakawaiti In Desperate in Dubai, perhaps one of the most popular books written about our city, Almaz by Momo is the setting of several plot twists. Without giving too much away, it is here, on two separate visits to the Moroccan restaurant that the fate of Jennifer (aka Lady Luxe’s blonde-wigged alter ego) eventually begins to unravel. In the book, characters Sugar and Nadia also make regular visits to the food court in the same mall (Mall of the Emirates). While it didn’t exist at the time of writing, we recommend Taqado Mexican Kitchen as the pick of this mall’s food court. Almaz by Momo, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha (04 409 8877). Taqado Mexican Kitchen, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha (04 385 1171).
C.S. Lewis In The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, the first book of seven in children’s series The Chronicles Of Narnia, the reader is first introduced to the White Queen as a kindly figure who welcomes Edmund into the warmth of her sleigh and offers him any edible treat his heart desires. If, like Edmund, your request would have been Turkish delight, make your way to Selamlique. The new Turkish coffee boutique sells a selection of these sweet treats, including a variety decorated in gold dust. Selamlique, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 1 (056 114 8470).
Ernest Hemingway The American author’s memoirs of his time in Paris, A Moveable Feast, feature (as the title suggests) plenty of edible indulgences. One decadent item that crops up like a leitmotif are Hemingway’s oysters. You can act like Hemingway in Dubai (within reason, dear reader) by making your way through the selection of oysters at Roberto’s raw bar, including gillardeau, la perle blanche and kumamoto. For a 1920s, jazz age Parisian bistro vibe in keeping with the book, you can also visit The Ivy nearby for the atmosphere, as well as the oysters. Roberto’s, DIFC (04 386 0066). The Ivy, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8767).
Haruki Murakami This Japanese author’s writings give away two of his greatest passions, cooking and music, with the detail given to both in his novels. Detailed descriptions of the meals made by protagonists such as Tengo in 1Q84 read like a cooking lesson. In Norwegian Wood, narrator Toru is impressed by Midori’s cooking skills, after she prepares a banquet of pickles, aubergine, mackerel and more, all made in the delicate Kansai-style, which fittingly, she has learnt from a book. At TOMO in Dubai, you can try a number of Kansai-inspired dishes, including hiyashi nasu agedashi, which is deep fried aubergine served in a cold ashi broth. TOMO, Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (04 357 7888).
James Joyce The hero of Ulysses, hearty meat eater Leopold Bloom, is described as having a particular taste for the more peculiar cuts and ‘inner organs’ including giblets, gizzards, heart, liver and kidneys. A less intimidating taste of offal than Bloom’s own bizarre diet is chicken liver paté, which can be sampled at the Rivington Grill as a blackboard special, in addition to little known dessert ‘queen of puddings’. In the novel it appears as one of the dishes Gerty Macdowell is most accomplished at making, despite wishing she could eat something more ‘poetical’ containing violets and roses (Gerty should have come to the Middle East). Rivington Grill, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 423 0903). Other location: Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6464).
Leo Tolstoy Amid the Red Square and Bolshoi ballet themed haunts at Dubai’s Russian hotel, Moscow Hotel in Deira, is a literary venue for you to explore. The Tolstoy Library and Lounge is (you guessed it) a shrine to Leo, the writer responsible for War and Peace and Anna Karenina. The bar combines the ambience of a 19th Century gentlemen’s den, with classical music and dark leather seating. There’s even a collection of Tostoy’s complete works on the shelves for you to peruse. Tolstoy Library and Lounge, Moscow Hotel, Deira (04 228 8222).
Marcel Proust At the beginning of In Remembrance Of Things Past, the narrator (identified only as ‘M’) dips his madeleine cakes into a cup of tea, and in doing so is struck by a series of undredged memories from his past, significant and lengthy enough to fill the following volumes of this work (six in total). While we can’t promise similar revelations will occur, for the Proustian tea and madeleine experience, Parisian-inspired Madeleine Café & Boulangerie is the go-to spot, since its signature is freshly baked madeleine cakes in three flavours (orange, chocolate and pistacchio). Madeleine Café & Boulangerie, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 438 4335).
Thomas Mann From the moment Hans Cathorp visits the santorium in The Magic Mountain, his days become punctuated by the generous and hearty Berghof meals. The meals are described in great detail, and become one of the few activities to entertain the invalid residents. In fact, it has been argued that it is the food that keeps Hans at this mountain retreat for so long. Hans’ first meal is the extensive breakfast spread, and for your own equivalent feast of oatmeal and scrambled eggs and more, we suggest Baker and Spice for a delicious selection that includes eggs, granola, pancakes, pastries and local favourite shakshouka. Baker and Spice, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 425 2240). Other locations: Dubai Marina, behind Marina Promenade Building (04 362 4686).
Victor Hugo The author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is honoured in Dubai with his own café. Inspired by his work, Hugo Café is decorated in a Parisian style (complete with a Place Victor Hugo street sign), the walls are adorned with pictures of Hugo himself, as well as covers of his famous novels, while diners can pick up a copy of these texts from the bookshelves to read over a coffee. Hugo Café, Palm Strip Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 386 3100).
Virginia Woolf During a dinner scene in To The Lighthouse, matriarch Mrs Ramsay stares into the abyss of the boeuf en daube she is about to serve, and anxiously wonders whether the dish is overcooked and what her guests will make of it, provoking an unrelated chain of thoughts and memories. Woolf fans can indulge with another classic, French beef stew, boeuf bourguignon, at Bistro Madeleine. Bistro Madeleine, InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).