Straddling the line between steakhouse and Latin American restaurant, Gaucho is one of the most consistently good venues in Dubai. The stylish dining room has plenty of cowhide in it, should you somehow forget what the main draw is. And we always find the steaks here are of the highest quality. They’re presented to you by a waiter who talks about the different cuts and breeds and how each one tastes. We love the Tira De Ancho, a spiral cut rib-eye dressed in chimichurri sauce. Aside from steak, whole sea bass is a good sharer, grilled red prawns are sweet, charred and absolutely lovely, and the small plates feature a good selection of ceviches, tiraditos and other Latin staples, such as empanadas and causas.
There’s strong competition when it comes to finding a place to eat in DIFC, and The Gramercy has carved out a niche as a laid-back gastropub. It’s busiest during weekday evenings when hungry and thirsty workers pour out of the surrounding offices, but is good for a quiet catch-up or as a place to watch the football during weekends. The menu isn’t overwhelming, with only one page featuring starters, sandwiches, salads, steaks and a few other main courses. It’s an international selection, taking in everything from tagliatelle to fish and chips. By focusing on a core of well-known meals, The Gramercy is able to consistently serve up satisfying dishes, particularly suited to hungry diners. It’s also a great destination for hops fans, with a selection of craft beverages that are hard to find elsewhere in Dubai. The open-plan layout makes for a bustling atmosphere on busy nights, and the decor fits in well with the sophisticated DIFC surroundings.
The days of Marina-dwellers having to trek halfway across the city to get their Friday brunch fix is now a thing of the past, thanks to the influx of new hotels in the area. Media One has already garnered quite a following with its boisterous brunches, so we were interested to see what niche the Mövenpick would carve for itself – rowdy revelry or a more demure dining experience?
First impressions were certainly promising. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensured that the sizeable indoor seating area was bright and breezy, while the al-fresco poolside dining section basked in the shade provided by the sandy towers of JBR.
On taking a table outside, we were promptly issued a glass of crisp, sparkling grape, which readied us for the daunting task of negotiating the buffet. Our attention was captured by the extensive sushi display towards the centre of the room: a colourful mosaic of salmon, toro and edomae nigiri and California rolls. The taste was equal to the aesthetics; cool, silken slices of raw fish were complemented wonderfully by the vigour of fresh wasabi.
Unfortunately, this quality didn’t extend as far as the Chinese offerings – the dim sum tasted as though they’d been sat in the heat trays for too long and were drained of moisture, while the texture of the cha siu baau (pork buns) was cloying. We reverted to the seafood dishes, cracking open lobster claws containing soft, sweet meat, before filling our plates with oysters, which were set alight with coriander, shallots, lime and a dash of Tabasco.
Our seafood cravings sated, we headed to the live cooking station, where fresh pastas – capellini, chitarra, fedelini, spaghetti, vermicelli – were served with variations on traditional sauces, from alfredo to arrabbiata and ragù to romesco. We opted for the ravioli stuffed with a molten ricotta. A mere prod of the fork had the cheese oozing from the delicately cut pasta like lazy lava, which proceeded to melt into the coarse bolognese topping. The quality and quantity of this dish was enough to temper our gluttony, rendering our fourth and final assault on the buffet a somewhat meek affair. We failed to finish the food plucked from the carvery, the tough beef and parched Yorkshire puddings doing little to reinvigorate our appetites. Not one of the highlights, certainly, but not enough to detract from the quality of the abundant offerings elsewhere.
Mövenpick’s casual dress code suggests a desire to appeal to anyone and everyone; the atmosphere is laid back and families appear to be particularly well catered for, despite there not being a designated play area for kids. However, tiny terrors will be kept occupied by jar after jar of lollipops and jelly beans, and an array of luridly coloured chocolates and ice cream.