Jones the Grocer
Famed Australian gourmet grocer lands in Dubai 20 Reviews
The café hosts a masterclass focusing on how to cook some of the classic dishes from the menu, before guests eat the dishes they have learned to prepare. Dhs375 (masterclass and dinner) Timings: 6pm-7pm (Wednesday)
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Jones has landed, like a huge black cuboid spaceship, on a sandy patch in Al Manara off Sheikh Zayed Road.
It’s not a location that will woo a steady stream of foot traffic, but considering the frothy hype that has preceded the gourmet grocer’s arrival, it seems people are willing to drive from all corners of the city to pay a visit. When a colleague of mine made the trip last weekend, she found the store engulfed by a tsunami of humanity.
Heeding her advice, I opted to pop by after work, a visit that disqualified me from the lunch menu (which is discontinued after 6.30pm), but ensured I was able to get a table. Nonetheless, the restaurant was nearly full and I shuddered at the thought of the weekend breakfast rush.
The interior of the store boasts a chrome, black and grey colour scheme – slick and stylish, while at the same time functional and comfortable. The walls are lined with imported gourmet goods, designer kitchenware, cookbooks and interactive displays, while the much-hyped cheese room (said to be the UAE’s biggest, though perhaps I was expecting too much) is tucked away in the far corner, flanked by a charcuterie and an open kitchen. Chefs and staff busy themselves in the service island in the middle of the space, walled off by display cases bejewelled with bagels, baguettes, brilliantly coloured macaroons and picture-perfect pastries.
My date and I, however, were more interested in the à la carte menu, which was by no means vast, although we had already guessed that Jones’s motto was one of quality rather than quantity. We opened our account with an Aroha elderflower and an iced-green tea, the latter treating our taste buds to distinct bursts of ginger and lemongrass on every sip. If only we hadn’t been forced to mull over our drinks for so long. My date ordered the puff pastry-crusted perigord truffle soup, which the waiter dutifully informed her would take 15 minutes to prepare. We decided it was worth the wait. My initial order of pumpkin and feta had to be rethought because the kitchen was out of rocket salad, so I settled on a caprese insalata. I say ‘settled’, because more often than not, this simple combination of mozzarella and tomato slices seems to be an excuse for chefs to neglect the dish, rendering it a cold, lifeless and tasteless precursor to the meal.
I was hungry, and 15 minutes trudged past like dog years. When the starters finally arrived, I was consumed with envy as a plump, shiny pastry dome appeared in front of my date. Not that the very Italian green, red and white of my caprese looked unappetising, but the truffle soup looked to be one of the heartiest dishes I’d seen served in Dubai – a perfect antidote to these cold, air-conditioned summer days.
Somewhat reluctantly, I turned my attention back to my salad, but was pleased to find the tomatoes tangy and fresh, while the garofalo mozzarella was cool and smooth, its taste accentuated by the slather of green pesto on which it was served. The caprese was further complemented by a small pot of fragrant, sweet and unashamedly addictive reduced balsamic vinegar, which I trickled over the mozzarella with rather too much enthusiasm. My date, meanwhile, had broken through the pastry shell and was frolicking happily in the warming perigord soup. Both our starters were simple and shone with excellent ingredients, a theme that continued for the main course.
My date had opted for the grilled salmon salad, and was surprised to be asked how she wanted it to be cooked (medium or well done?). Not a question you’d usually expect when ordering a fish dish, but one that underlined the quality of the produce at Jones. The salmon arrived quick as a flash – it could only have been cooked for a matter of minutes. My date was a little perturbed by just how fresh it looked, but her doubts soon dispersed when the fork sank effortlessly into the peachy-pink flesh, which in turn dissolved in the mouth. My chargrilled chicken, served on a bed of North African couscous with harissa, was competent, straightforward and satisfying. If I was splitting hairs, it was perhaps the weakest dish of the day (I had hoped for a little more zest), but I still enjoyed it, messily scattering the warm couscous all over the wooden board on which it was served as I hungrily picked apart the tender chicken.
Our appetites sated, we ordered dessert purely out of greed, following the waiter’s recommendation of chocolate brownie served with a scoop of vanilla and saffron ice cream – a delightful combination that somehow made the soft, rich brownie seem a little less sinful.
If our dinner was anything to go by, breakfast and lunch at the weekend might almost be worth braving the masses for. Jones has finally landed on planet Dubai, and it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that the fresh, tasty produce utilised in its simple dishes are out of this world.
The bill (for two)
1x Iced green tea Dhs16
1x Aroha elderflower Dhs20
1x Truffle soup Dhs35
1x Caprese salad Dhs45
1x Grilled salmon Dhs64
1x Chargrilled chicken Dhs53
1x Brownie Dhs15
1x Scoop of ice cream Dhs6
Total (excluding service) Dhs254
Time Out Dubai,
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