Since popular deli Gourmet Station closed its doors in July, Dubai’s foodies have been forced to look elsewhere for their high-end culinary fix. This partly explains how we stumbled across Milk & Honey on The Palm – a little deli tucked underneath Shoreline Building 10, which has been quietly going about its business for nearly a year now. We say ‘quietly’ because many Palm residents are only just discovering Milk & Honey’s whereabouts.
So why, after nine months of business, has Milk & Honey waited until now to promote itself? The main reason is survival. After months of speculation, it has been officially announced that a 1,140sq m Waitrose supermarket will open on the Palm in April 2011. Milk & Honey operations manager Asad Cheema concedes that a small operation such as his could never compete directly with the British supermarket behemoth, which is why he has spent much of his time making inroads with various food suppliers in Australia, obtaining exclusive rights to a number of high-end products that have yet to make it to Dubai’s shores.
While Waitrose will cater for shoppers’ basic needs, Asad says Milk & Honey offers something completely different. ‘We want to stock only exclusive, quality products,’ he says. ‘I appreciate that not everyone will make the effort to come here and buy these things, but those that do will do so because they love food – they love quality ingredients.’
Asad believes Dubai’s gourmet marketplace has been saturated by too many British products and suppliers, which is why he is keen to offer his customers something different. Over the next few weeks, some of Milk & Honey’s more mainstream items will begin to be phased out in favour of products such as Preshafruit juices, Loving Earth muesli, Australian Harvest preserves, Passion Pasta sauces and Cape Grim mineral water, not to mention Dubai’s beloved Sugar Daddy’s cupcakes. What’s more, Asad believes that stocking high-end products will not necessarily mean higher prices. Of course, this could be the talk of a canny salesman, but Asad has forged direct links with regional authorities and manufacturers in Australia to ensure Milk & Honey will cut overheads by not having to operate through a supplier.
Yet even with new stock and a more aggressive marketing strategy, can a small operation such as Milk & Honey really co-exist with Waitrose? Asad concedes that it will be a challenge, but says this isn’t his main concern – right now he and his partners are closing in on a deal that will see a second, larger Milk & Honey outlet open on Jumeirah Beach Road. We were given an exclusive sneak peak at the plans for the new ‘provedore’ (a fancy word for a high-end deli), which will be designed by conceptual interior design firm Dreamtime Australian. If the agreement is signed (of which Asad is confident), then Dubai’s gourmands need never go hungry again.
Milk & Honey, Shoreline Building 10, The Palm Jumeirah (04 432 8686). Open 24 hours
What’s in stock?
A few of our favourite products from Milk & Honey
Cape Grim Water
Though it takes its name from an ill-fated destination for a witness protection programme, Cape Grim is officially the world’s purest drinking water – it’s the only water to be certified by the Health Departments of the USA, EU, Australia and Japan. Cape Grim owes its purity to the fact that it never touches the ground – it is rainwater collected in north-west Tasmania, which boasts the cleanest air in the world.
Aside from the funky packaging, fruit juice brand Preshafruit’s USP is that it’s processed using ‘cold-pressed technology’, meaning juices are squeezed at high pressure in temperatures just above freezing. They’re subsequently bottled and can remain fresh in the fridge for 165 days – a nice touch seeing how difficult it is to get fresh produce in Dubai.
Made from Australian durum wheat semolina, free-range eggs and olive oil, Passion Pasta is arguably the best-tasting dry pasta you’ll find in Dubai. The sauces – ranging from Malaysian rendang to tomato, basil and roasted garlic – may be marginally more expensive than regular brands, they’re tastier and, as Asad points out, you get more in the jar. Plus, there’s even a gluten-free range.