A Spanish fiesta of inventive flavours that make for a true afternoon treat
Time Out Dubai staff
The first thing you’ll notice on your way to this brunch is how un-Dubai this bit of City Walk feels. Not least because you have to walk through “London Lane”, with its streetscape modelled to look like the UK capital city down to every last detail, including a brick wall, street sign and even shop fronts. And red telephone box, of course. Then, when you get to The Square – which is also home to LIMA Dubai and Galvin Dubai – it feels a world away from City Walk. It’s much quieter and more stripped back than the shininess of the shopping district’s main thoroughfare. It’s calm, quiet and relaxed. It’s still quite new and the buzz has yet to catch on, which we’re sure it will soon enough with the trio of restaurants housed here.
We’ve visited Toro + Ko before, and our experience was a mixed bag to say the least. But we came away feeling that this restaurant has potential, so we had to come back to see how it does brunch.
We arrive curious and hungry a little after noon and already a few tables are taken.
We’re seated outside – the best place to be in this licensed area, and also at the restaurant currently, since inside feels dark and a little sterile owing to it being so shiny, new and empty. That said, though, the décor is incredibly cool and on trend.
Food is served to your table and there’s no menu. We’re told we get a selection of tapas to begin, main courses of steak and paella – you get to choose between seafood and chicken – and a selection of desserts to round off the afternoon feast.
Slick staff who exude confidence and style talk us though the menu and banter with us for a bit as they talk us through prices – a great start. Soon after, a selection of cold charcuterie arrives. It’s served on intensely rustic, flaky Catalan bread, with a classic accompaniment of fresh, puréed, garlicky tomatoes. It’s a light, crisp and a refreshing start that whets our appetites.
Also worth mentioning in this first round of cold delicacies is the tartar de atún – the freshest, most delicate cubes of zesty tuna tartare, accompanied by a vibrant, inventive guacamole. The smashed avocado comes with a garnish of basil and a berry vinaigrette. It also comes topped with fresh blackberries and raspberries – an unusual mix of ingredients that vibe off each other, bringing different textures and tastes that both ping off your palate and balance nicely.
Next up are the creamy croquettes with their deliciously crisp coats – the chicken one, with its tender shreds of delicately smoked meat, is the highlight. There are also tiny, patatas bravas topped with aioli, and corn on the cob smothered in a marinade of aioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged Roncal cheese. It’s awkward to eat if we’re honest, but that mix of flavours keeps us nibbling nonetheless.
A lightly golden tortilla arrives, stuffed with the softest potatoes. It disappears in seconds.
After a breather, we tuck into the steak. Cooked medium to our request, it comes sliced and blushing within, graduating to pale brown, with textures following suit – tender and buttery in the middle and meaty and juicy at the edges. Combined with the cubed chips, crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside, and seasoned padron peppers, it’s an excellent dish. But the stand-out of the mains is the paella. Perfectly cooked rice comes with mountains of chunky seafood adding to the deep flavours.
By the time we get to dessert we’re stuffed, but can’t pass up on the crisp, golden, sugar-dusted churros, which are worth a visit alone. A creamy rice pudding and refreshing, slushy blood orange sorbet complete the round-up.
This is a culinary journey we’ll happily go on again. And we think you should, too. Dhs325 (soft drinks), Dhs450 (house beverages), Dhs550 (bubbly). Fri noon-4pm. The Square, City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 590 5433).
The bottom line An incredibly tasty feast of Spanish treats.