Traditional and affordable tapas with a picturesque balcony 23 Reviews
- Picture 1 of 2
After a summer-long renovation, Al Hambra has reopened its doors in time for peak season. Not only does the Spanish-themed restaurant boast a new look, but it now offers a new, more streamlined menu, which was enough to pique our curiosity and tempt us to the lavish Al Qasr hotel for a visit.
The restaurant’s splendid setting promises much – after making our way through the gilt-edged lobby of Al Qasr, through the restaurant’s moody Mediterranean interior and out under of the billowing canopies of the balcony, the food already had a lot to live up to.
Aside from a change in aesthetics, Al Hambra has adopted a ‘less is more’ attitude to its menu, which has been slimmed down to focus on tapas and a handful of other Spanish favourites such as paella. As such, ordering proved to be pretty straightforward, made all the easier by our helpful waitress who was so well-versed in the menu that she even managed a lisp when pronouncing the dishes. After being talked through our options in a brilliant Spanish accent, we selected an array of tapas and a jug of traditional Iberian beverage, rounding off our order with a pan of chicken and seafood paella.
Satisfied with our order, we sat back and took in the ambience of the warm evening at the Madinat. Yet it wasn’t long before we grew a little restless waiting for our drinks, which arrived only after a gentle reminder to our waitress. A warm, generously proportioned loaf of bread landed on our table shortly afterwards, followed in turn by the tapas, which, on the whole, proved to be worth the wait.
Patatas bravas, an old favourite, were a winner – hearty potato chunks doused in a rich, spicy tomato sauce, brought alive by a sprinkling of rosemary. The calamari were refreshingly tender (not at all rubbery, as with so many lesser incarnations of the dish), boasting a light, flavoursome batter and served with a fresh side of aioli. The chorizo frito was another high point, thanks to its juicy marinated peppers, crisp shallots and roasted tomatoes. Yet for me the highlight was the albondigas – juicy meatballs in a flavoursome garlicky tomato sauce, which we mopped up with the remnants of bread.
The weakest tapas option, however, was the pimentos con queso. The sweet baby peppers were limp and tasteless, and the cheese stuffing had a slimy rather than soft texture.
All in all, taking tapas on Al Hambra’s picturesque balcony is a highly recommended experience, though we suggest you avoid the paella; our order of chicken and seafood (a recommendation, no less) was hugely disappointing. Presented in the pan, the dish looked little more than a brown, congealed and wholly unappetising mess. Sadly, in this instance, appearances weren’t deceptive – the stodgy, over-salty rice cloaked any flavour the rest of ingredients might have offered and we left most of the dish untouched.
Luckily, this disappointing conclusion didn’t detract from an otherwise very pleasant dining experience, accentuated by Al Hambra’s entirely reasonable prices – two tapas and a glass of traditional Spanish beverage for Dhs65, four tapas and a 250ml jug for Dhs105, or six tapas and a 500ml jug for Dhs145. The deals continue until late December, but even when they end the prices promise to remain affordable, especially considering Al Hambra’s lavish environs. We’re already planning a return visit, providing we can get a table.
The bill (for two)
6x tapas (including a jug of Spanish beverage) Dhs145
1x paella Dhs90
Total (excluding service) Dhs235
Time Out Dubai,
- Previous reviews
- 15 April,2013- reviewed by Time Out Dubai staff
- 22 March,2012- reviewed by Time Out Dubai staff
- 26 March,2008- reviewed by Jeremy Lawrence
- 12 March,2007- reviewed by Time Out Dubai Staff
- 14 February,2007- reviewed by Time Out Dubai Staff
- 16 January,2006- reviewed by Matthew Lee
- 01 September,2004- reviewed by Matthew Lee
Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.