As we drove past one half-built hotel after another, our taxi driver became increasingly antsy, muttering that we must have gone the wrong way. He even questioned whether One&Only The Palm even existed. It does, of course; it just takes a little while to get to the far tip of the Palm’s ‘halo’ – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, if you will. Pulling into the drive of the opulent, romantically lit hotel was almost enough to make the journey worth it, but we hadn’t come all this way just to have a look – we were here to sample the offerings of Zest, one of the One&Only’s three restaurants.

We were heartened to find the interior in keeping with the hotel’s pervading aesthetic. All silvers, mirrors and snowy whites, Zest marries opulence with an accessible layout and laid-back vibe. My mind was already conjuring images of a hip and high-end brunch taking place here, though I later learned that there are no plans for one (yet). As inviting as the decor was, we opted for a table outside on the terrace, which provided us with views of Dubai’s tall, twinkling coastline.

It took us a while to divert our gaze away from the view and onto the menu, which offers guests a choice of starters and mains, each prepared in either a ‘Western’, ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Asian’ style. Starters consist of salmon, prawn, tomato or pasta, whereas mains cover meat and poultry (beef, lamb, chicken or quail) or seafood (tuna, sea bass, scallops, or crab). A fun concept, yes, but only if it’s done well. Could Zest deliver?

We started with prawns – my date went West (steamed with crunchy green vegetables), while I headed East. My prawn dim sum had been overly steamed, while the viscous skin suffocated the prawn interior. My date’s salad was better, though there was very little to it – we were hoping for more from a dish costing Dhs90.

Little had improved by the time the main course arrived. The ‘Middle-Eastern’ curried tuna was served in an exotic tagine pot, though what lay within looked little more than a lifeless, nondescript rice dish, which didn’t do much for the taste buds either. Meanwhile, the quail, cooked in a cocotte with green peas and served with diced smoked duck breast, was, for some inexplicable reason, garnished with lettuce leaves. Not only did this ruin the dish’s appearance, but made for awkward eating (I was in no mood to pick out cold lettuce leaves to get to my food). The quail itself was tough – as you might expect from a game bird – though lacked the unique flavour so typical of game.

Zest pitches itself as a restaurant that serves simple, well-made food. It succeeds with the former, but until the venue raises its game on the latter, there’s little reason to endure the mutterings of a disgruntled taxi driver on the way to the Palm’s outer echelons.

The bill (for two)
1x Citrus-infused dim sum
1x Steamed prawns Dhs90
1x Tuna curry Dhs145
1x Quail with duck breast Dhs120
Total (excluding service) Dhs445