When you think ‘business lunch’, you think hustle and bustle, grey suits and backroom deals, fat cigars and messy maws agape with masticated prime rib and moneyed promises. Or maybe that’s just what comes to my mind, but then again, I am from Manhattan proper. A stroll in the Manhattan Grill doesn’t quite match an amble through the city that never sleeps, and the restaurant’s rendition of a business lunch is a much more muted beast.

For starters, on our visit, the place was practically empty, save for a couple of tables. I will say this though, the waiter was on top of our order, and was committed to making our business lunch an in-and-out deal, something that made me feel this desert haunt wasn’t so far from home, after all. Happily, in a very un-New York (and even more un-Dubai) style, the menu boasted three-courses for an exceedingly reasonable Dhs100 (inclusive of coffee and San Pellegrino).

The menu looked promising, well, to me more than my date. She was unsure how to navigate her options for starters: the lobster bisque was out – as she hated fish – and the mixed greens she considered too plain, so she gulped and asked for the crab salad, figuring the mayonnaise might drown out the flavour of crustaceans. Fortunately for her (and less so for anyone who actually enjoys the flavour of crab) it did.

My lobster bisque, by comparison, was wildly successful. The chunks of lobster in the nutty broth (aided by a healthy sprinkling of toasted cumin) were thick and juicy, and tasted as if they’d just been fished from the sea. The soup made me hope we’d be high rolling all the way through the meal.

Then the mains came and I was reminded that this was a Dhs100 meal – a fact the lobster had helped me to forget. My order of seabream (which had way too charcoal a taste) was accompanied by diced, over-greased veg. The issue wasn’t that the chef didn’t get expensive enough ingredients (the lobster bisque proved this wasn’t the case), it was that he didn’t utilise them to the best of his ability. Mincing and pan-frying vegetables, to me, reeks of the path of least resistance. Any number of preparations would have made it a more interesting dish. My companion’s lamb, however, came out cooked perfectly to order, and was accompanied by a sweetcorn cake, which was nice on its own, but didn’t entirely complement the meat.

After polishing off two acceptable, though standard, desserts – a creamy chocolate pudding and a slightly gelatinous raspberry crème brûlée – we were pleased that such a full meal had made such a small dent in our wallet. Manhattan Grill’s business lunch undoubtedly offers great value for money. All it needs is to put a little more verve and imagination into the presentation of some of its dishes.

The bill (for two)
2x Set menu
Total (including service) Dhs200