Dubai can be a frustrating town for the recreational cook. A search for the right ingredients can resemble one of the trickier pages in a Where’s Wally? book, and if you do find what you’re looking for, you’ll also discover that the term ‘fresh’ is used fairly creatively in some supermarkets. But word on the street is that all these gripes could become obsolete now that the city boasts its very first Waitrose on the lower level of the Dubai Mall. I paid the UK supermarket chain a visit to see if it was truly the culinary hot spot foodies claim it to be.
On first glance, there was something very Dawn Of The Dead about the store; shoppers stumbled around with glazed eyes and mouths agape. It turns out the sheen on their peepers was wonder, not the trade-mark of the undead.
‘This is like, a real supermarket!’ one woman said as she tried to navigate through an overwhelming 55,000 square feet of consumer goods. Any aspiring chef with dirhams to spend will find the store a one-stop shopping dream. The appliances aisle stocks any cooking utensil you could desire (including many from the Jamie Oliver Professional series), while the nearby cookbook aisle offers over a dozen titles written by your choice of celebrity chef. Top off the trip with some rare wild mushrooms (a kilo of trompettes will set you back Dhs219), and you’ve got the makings of a pricy home-cooked gourmet meal. If, perhaps, you’re not an aspiring chef, but a lazy gourmand, you can stock up on ready-made goods from the deli (the cheese counter alone spans nearly 10 feet, the freshly baked breads come in several regional styles, and the ready-meals section boasts five different varieties of cooked salmon alone).
Waitrose also carries a label you’d be hard-pressed to find in too many local supermarkets – that of the Marine Stewardship Council certifying fish to be sustainably sourced (we don’t want to deplete the oceans for our dinner). Though the store’s selection of organic produce is limited compared to its UK counterpart, it still exceeds what’s available at other nearby shopping centres. Furthermore, most products can be easily tracked back to suppliers that proudly uphold the highest moral standards; veal, for instance, comes from Peter’s Farm in Holland, where they roam free and feed on grass.
A couple of things set a shopping venture at Waitrose apart from the rest; among them the fact that you certainly won’t be left wanting for ingredients, and should you not be able to find what you need, the staff are pretty adept at fielding your questions. There is, unfortunately, one missing ingredient: an easy exit: Taxis to and from Dubai Mall are likely to turn a one-hour shopping trip into an all-day expedition; which is a shame, really since the store is skilled at getting customers in and out in a timely fashion. If you can somehow finagle a midday shopping slot out of your schedule, however, Waitrose could easily be the cure to some of Dubai’s shopping ills.