This new deli sits slap-bang in the middle of consciously concept-driven ‘fusion’ design store THE One.
It’s a minuscule café space – and not particularly attention-grabbing until you’ve walked in to it – but it’s designed with an appetising eye for aesthetics. It boasts a standard deli counter set-up, with blackboard and sandwiches sitting behind glass. Beyond that is the tiny seating area: edgy and slightly industrial, it has the low-ceilinged and dimly-lit ambience of a basement bar, filled with hefty wooden furniture in various designs. The decor was unexpected for an in-store café, and I rather liked it.
The focal point for my friend and I was the ‘bookshelf’ wallpaper, depicting a library shelf of catalogued classics and criticism – the longer we stared at it, the more we both quite fancied a roll ourselves. Yet we disagreed over the huge price tags (in every sense) strewn over each object in the café, which may have been practical, but seemed like an annoying distraction from my lunch.
Determined not to be waylaid by design any longer, we scoured the menu. This simple, uncluttered list, with daily changing options for soups, salads, sandwiches and juices, was easy to navigate, with fresh and appetising options. We started with some healthy-sounding soups, each matched with an imaginative variety of bread. The spinach and fennel soup tasted lively and cleansing, with a distinct but not overwhelmingly fennel flavour. The carrot bread that accompanied it, which was more like a lovely, buttery muffin, was packed with vegetables, and plenty of cohesive flavours coming from each.
The carrot and coriander soup was decent but not quite as successful – it was thin and watery in both flavour and consistency. The Cajun couscous bread was equally thin in terms of the warmth and spice I’d expected from the description, but it was still deliciously moist, sweet and cakey. Sadly, having been so interested by the vegetable juices (as well as those made with fruit), the tomato, carrot and basil was really disappointing, with a bitter, cutting background to it.
From the list on the menu and the display at the deli, the toasted sandwiches seemed to be infinitely less unique than the salads. From the two salads we ordered, the radish and bean salad with herb tahini and the green papaya, mango and orange chicken both looked wonderfully fresh, lively and colourful. The radish and butterbean salad was particularly elegant, and proved to be delicate, refreshing and fragrant thanks to the herb tahini, with plenty of crisp and crunchy textures. The chicken salad wasn’t quite as exotic and vibrant in flavour as it had sounded – of the several fruit flavours involved, only the mango was particularly attention-grabbing – but it was still an enjoyable, light and healthy concoction.
The final touch in this nutritious meal was provided by our dessert of pumpkin, apricot and pecan cake. This rich, dark and moist sponge had a syrupy, jam-like sweetness provided by the apricot. The overwhelming sense of freshness and clarity of flavour gave the cake a home-made quality: while it was decadent in its depth of flavour, I felt as though I was eating something healthy and packed with good ingredients.
Despite a few dishes that could do with tweaking, for the most part THE One Deli’s food feels diverting, revitalising and good for you – yet your taste buds certainly won’t suffer for it.
The bill (for two) 1x large water Dhs8 1x carrot and coriander soup Dhs22 1x spinach and fennel soup Dhs22 1x radish and bean salad Dhs24 1x chicken salad Dhs28 1x cake Dhs18 1x vegetable juice Dhs18 2x coffee Dhs28 Total (excluding service) Dhs168
THE One Deli