If you can criticise Gurman – an unassuming Russian restaurant in Dubai Media City – for anything, it isn’t lack of authenticity. The interiors are sparse, not unlike the monolithic structures of Soviet suburbia. Small photographs of Moscow hang on plain white walls, a red bookshelf holds a few battered foreign language tomes and when we arrive (on a Tuesday lunchtime) it’s full of Russian chatter. A good sign. So far, so Russian.
The majority of the menu is made up of traditional dishes including herring under the coat, vareniki (dumplings) and borscht soup. The herring under the coat had serious potential. Each individual ingredient – the beetroot, the onion, the slightly rare herring – was beautiful and fresh, and the salad as a whole would have been lovely and light had it not experienced a classic Russian death by mayonnaise. Gurman embraces the nation’s passion for this condiment with vigour. If you share the enthusiasm, dive in. Connoisseurs of Eastern European cuisine will no doubt consider this dish to be nothing less than an expertly made salad, particularly when spread over the chunky slices of warm, crusty brown bread from the basket.
The solyanka soup arrived minutes later, nicely seasoned and hearty; full of finely diced pickles and lovely tender beef, without even the slightest trace of fat. But it was let down by the side of fried potatoes with onion and mushroom – greasy comfort food, chunkily cut and liberally seasoned.
At this point, there was still no sign of our second appetiser and main. But when they did eventually arrive, the vareniki were a stodgy, guilty pleasure worth waiting for. Perfect pastry stuffed with creamy mashed potato in butter sauce and crème fraiche on the side to dollop on top. Our chebureki appetiser – juicy beef (and not much else) encased in buttery, flaky homemade pastry – arrived last, just as we were poised to cancel it. Bigger than both our mains by far, we reccommend ordering this and the vareniki to share, if you’re feeling extra indulgent.
Gurman is perhaps not exciting enough to make a special trip for, and service, while pleasant, is a little haphazard. But if you’re in the area, give it a go. It’s refreshingly true to its roots, and the pastry dishes certainly won’t disappoint.
The bill (for two) 1 x herring under the coat Dhs30 1 x chebureki Dhs24 1 x solyanka Dhs36 1 x vareniki with potato Dhs20 1 x fried potato with onion and mushroom Dhs18 1 x French fries Dhs12 1 x sparkling water Dhs15 Total (excluding service) Dhs155