By Dubai standards, Le Classique is an ancient institution. It opened its doors in 1988, and though the restaurant has recently been renovated and relaunched, it can’t shake its antique vibe. The air smells richly of butter, a sign that we are indeed dealing with ‘classique’ French cuisine – the type that was in vogue in the Paris of the ’50s. You can close your eyes and imagine how classy the wandering flambé stations seemed in the Dubai predating Gordon Ramsay.

When a venue has a smart dress code – as Le Classique does – you picture a wispy elegance saturating the place. However, the restaurant was filled with khakis and pastels in suit jackets, clearly the by-product of overlooking the sweeping Emirates Golf Club. This might also explain why my date and I were the youngest diners in the restaurant (if you ever wondered where Dubai’s blue-haired quotient keeps itself hidden, it’s at Le Classique).

Though the space has been revamped – with deep burgundies replacing the tepid creams of the previous incarnation, and fanciful frosted swirls now adorning the windows – the menu reads pretty much the same as it did prior to the restaurant’s seven-month hiatus. What really caught my eye, however, were the prices. In a town full of Dhs1,000-per-head meals, it’s refreshing to see a decent eatery charging a comparably meek Dhs220 for three courses. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the kitchen, but at least I knew we’d be getting good value for money.

The menu was as scary as it was enticing. Some dishes had so many ingredients and techniques that I wondered how they would come together. One such example was the mushroom risotto with pan-fried duck liver in a balsamic and red wine reduction with chunks of lightly baked apples. The dish had the potential to be overwrought. Instead, it was impeccably balanced, with the flavours coming together unexpectedly. I was relieved and amazed to find that the risotto was creamy, al dente, and, for once, not over-salted. Le Classique also proved an ideal place to satiate a craving for escargots. The shells were filled with the usual luxuriant garlic butter sauce, and came topped with mushrooms in an ethereal puff pastry.

A kind of shellfish trio was a bit more mixed. Essentially, it came with a delicate seafood chowder – pumped with a decadent, if artery-clogging, quantity of cream – a soft lobster dumpling and, oddly, a deep-fried crab wonton. These were all starters (my date decided to forgo dessert in favour of snails), and they made for wonderful, comforting fare. Mains were another story. Roast rabbit on a microscopic bed of spinach proved dry and overcooked, as did rounds of mushroom-stuffed guinea fowl
in a non-descript champagne-marjoram sauce.

For dessert, I gave into the wiles of the flambé table. Even though I felt I could imagine what cherries cooked in a Grand Marnier sauce would taste like next to two scoops of vanilla ice cream, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to watch the flames lick my meal right in front of me. The cherries were just what they should have been: soft, sugary and alcoholic. The let down came in the ice cream, which was frostbitten – a sign of age it shouldn’t have had.

If you order wisely, Le Classique makes a nice dinner venue. While it doesn’t have the sheen and polish of some of Dubai’s newer venues, a meal here comes is a third the price. There are better restaurants in town to impress a date, but few that are as well suited to impress parents. Especially if you’re expected to pick up the bill.

The bill (for two)
2x Glasses of Laroche white wine Dhs60
1x Large bottle Volvic water Dhs30
2x Three course dinners Dhs440
1x Flambé charge Dhs20
Total (including service) Dhs550