There are many perks that come with this job, whether it’s exploring the city via its diverse cuisine, eating out at flashy new restaurants every week, or meeting the young, up-and-coming chefs who are champing at the bit to make a name for themselves in Dubai’s highly competitive dining scene. But the assignments I enjoy the most are those that are slightly more bizarre, which is why I was excited and intrigued in equal measure about Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club’s latest dining innovation: a barbecue mounted aboard a floating doughnut.
Dining on doughnuts is one thing, but dining upon one is another matter altogether, especially when it’s floating on Dubai Creek. Of course, said doughnut isn’t made from deep-fried flour dough (which isn’t renowned for its flotation properties); instead it’s a name given to the doughnut-shaped floating barbecue stations that have recently launched at Dubai Creek Club restaurant The Boardwalk. The boats have been imported from Germany, where they’ve long been enjoyed by holidaymakers on the Bavarian lakes. What made them of particular interest to me was the fact diners are provided with a cool box of food and drink, a smouldering, charcoal barbecue and left to their own devices for a couple of hours.
Though barbecuing is a skill inherent to all men, multitasking is not, and I couldn’t comprehend how it would be possible to navigate the high seas (well, the creek) and prepare lunch at the same. My lack of nautical experience also made me worry about colliding with a cargo freighter, cruise ship or private yacht – all of which were bigger and seemingly less likely to sink than a doughnut.
My fears were partially allayed as myself and Time Out’s online editor, Jamie Goodwin (pictured above) made our way down to the marina to see that the calm, empty waters offered very little by way of obstacles – the aforementioned freighters and cruise ships only pass through the creek when the Floating Bridge opens at 10pm. I was further reassured by the nautically attired gentleman who greeted us at the dock. While Captain Julian was new to doughnuts, he did have a good few years of sailing experience under his belt and assured us that sinking was not an option. ‘We won’t sink,’ he said confidently, ‘because I can’t swim.’ As good a reason as any, I suppose.
After signing various disclaimers we stepped into our bobbing, orange doughnut and gingerly shuffled around the circular table. Crockery and glassware had already been set out, held in place by specially designed cup and plate holders to prevent sliding and spillage in the (unlikely) event of turbulent seas. The barbecue was smouldering and two generous cool boxes were securely stowed. We were ready to set sail.
It was easy to see why The Boardwalk’s staff are relatively unconcerned at the prospect of guests making off with their doughnuts. With a top speed of three knots an hour, even the most determined of pirates can’t get far and, while each of the eco-friendly, electrically powered vessels has four hours of battery life, there’s a limited supply of food and water. For a two-hour voyage, however, there’s more than enough to go round – the cool box is packed with cold mezze starters, green beans and hummus, salad, coleslaw with sultanas, olives, a platter of ribeye steak, chicken breasts, fish, prawns, and jacket potatoes, as well as a fruit platter and a colourful collection of macaroons, éclairs and, of course, doughnuts.
Captain Julian was manning our doughnut (the services of a captain cost diners an extra Dhs200), meaning we could concentrate on the barbecue, which was easier than I’d imagined. The snail-like pace of the doughnut through the water meant that red-hot embers didn’t fly into my face/set my shirt on fire as I had imagined. What’s more, the stout, circular shape of the craft meant I could go about my chef duties with little fear of losing my balance and falling headfirst into the creek.
There were only four of us on board (Captain Julian included), so moving various platters from the cool box to the barbecue was straightforward, though I imagine it would have been more difficult had there been more souls on board. So what of the food? As a rule, gimmicky dining experiences tend to place an emphasis on style over substance, but this happily was not the case on the doughnut. The wagyu steaks managed to retain their tenderness and flavour in spite of my ham-fisted barbecue skills, and the pre-marinated chicken was smoky and soft. As expected, the fish proved trickier to barbecue because it had a habit of sticking to the grill, while the prawns made a point of falling through the grating into the charcoal below.
The flurry of activity around the barbecue station had distracted us from what was going on around us on the creek. Captain Julian had taken us as far as the Floating Bridge, before meandering alongside the banks of Creek Park. Having found our sea legs and filled our boots with meat and mezze, Captain Julian shuffled over to allow us to take the helm. The doughnuts are, by design, very user friendly and can be sent forwards, backwards and stopped with a twist of the throttle on the rudder stick, but such is the speed (or lack thereof) we were certain we weren’t moving anywhere. Stepping in before he had a full-scale mutiny on his hands, Captain Julian gently assured us that we were making progress, pointing out that the Yacht Club was a lot bigger than it had been and thus we were getting nearer. His sound logic calmed us, and we were happy to let him reassume command of the bridge and turn our attentions to the fruit and dessert platter.
As we drifted homeward, with the sun on our backs and gentle breeze in our hair, I found myself a little disappointed that dinner on a doughnut wasn’t as wacky as I’d been expecting. Instead, it proved a wholly relaxing experience, and has the potential to be a Dubai hit – great for guests or an alternative to brunch (especially once the doughnuts get their imminent alcohol licence).
There are, of course, a few minor improvements that need to be made – namely finding a replacement for the endangered hammour currently being served, and giving Captain Julian a proper captain’s hat. And maybe a cutlass. Dine on a doughnut packages are charged per six people for two hours of sailing time and include the Tasty Mix (Dhs1,200), MeditArabian Delights (Dhs1,550), Creekside Indulgence (Dhs1,950) or the afternoon tea package (Dhs950). The services of a captain cost an extra Dhs200. Available daily noon-9pm. The Boardwalk, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira, www.dubaigolf.com (04 295 6000).BBQ Donut