Unpretentious grub at the Intercontinental Hotel 20 Reviews
A French-style two-course meal. Dhs75 Timings: Noon-3pm (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Sample lobster, tiger prawns, oysters, mussels and crab. Dhs160 per person; Dhs300 per couple Timings: 7pm-11pm (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday)
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Bistro Madeleine is a ballsy little entity. Situated down the hall from Dubai’s newest culinary goliath, Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire, the petite bistro faces some stiff competition. Undoubtedly, it is hoping to escape comparison by billing itself as a quaint little eatery, plucked from the very streets of Paris. Or perhaps, by offering unpretentious grub and considerably cheaper fare, it imagines itself the InterContinental’s humble hero? A veritable David in the desert?
Fortunately, the tiny bistro offers some excellent – if simple – food, saving it from the dire fate of empty banquet halls. My dining partner and I appropriately paid the restaurant a visit on Bastille Day, and as a result were presented with a special prix fixe menu and the opportunity to pick out an assortment of cheese, cold cuts and fresh oysters from a handful of stations throughout the restaurant. It’s a pity these outposts aren’t a regular feature at Bistro Madeleine, because the oysters – brought in that morning – were perfectly saline, and the selection of cheeses and hams, though limited, was judiciously chosen.
Apparently not satiated with the heaving plate of fromage only recently set before her, my dining companion opted for a starter of warmed goat’s cheese on a bed of lightly dressed mixed greens, sprinkled with bits of smoky bacon. While the dish was straightforward, it hit all the right notes, offering an earthy round of smooth cheese, alongside crisp slices of toasted baguette. My own salad – made up of mixed greens, jumbo prawns, avocado, grapefruit slices and a creamy cocktail sauce – didn’t prove quite as satisfying. The avocado was a tad under-ripe and the dressing too creamy for my liking, although the grapefruit was perfectly succulent.
My main of duck confit was a triumph: the duck was juicy and the fat melted on the tongue. My only complaints are that the exterior could have been crisper and that, after our leafy starters, the accompanying mixed greens were overkill on the salad front. However, the side of pan-fried potatoes was perfectly crisp and paired well with the duck. My friend enjoyed a slab of juicy sea bass, served lightly seasoned (save for a plopping of salty olive tapinade) and perfectly cooked. A side of sautéed fennel helped to bring out the flavour of the simply prepared fish.
Perhaps anticipating that ploughing through a hefty dessert would prove challenging, the chef offered a tiny trio of three classic French sweets: Crème brûlée, chocolate mousse and apple gateaux. Unfortunately, the simplicity that worked so well for the mains did not work so well for the desserts. The mousse was served in a shot glass under a mountain of chocolate shavings that overwhelmed the dish, making it drier than it needed to be. While it was good, chocolatey fare, there was nothing about it that demanded I pay it any attention at all, so, after a couple of bites, I didn’t. The crème brûlée was more successful: the underlying crème silky and sweet, and the crisp top layer was thin and delicate. The final piece of the puzzle, the apple gateaux, was the least interesting of the bunch: the cake itself was dry and the apples on top bland and uninteresting.
Which brings us back to the inevitable comparison between the InterContinental’s two French eateries. They represent vastly different genres of food, even if they do serve the same nationality of cuisine. However, if Bistro Madeleine is going to succeed, it needs to be spot-on in every department. We could be holding the café up to impossibly high standards, but such is the plight of a restaurant that chooses to open in the shadow of one of France’s best chefs.
The bill (for two)
2x Set menus Dhs390
Total (including service) Dhs390
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