I didn’t imagine my first Ramadan in Dubai would be easy. I knew that daytime eating would be a challenge, that not smoking would set my blood pressure rising and that a month of wearing jeans and long dresses would mean I could kiss my tan legs goodbye. What hadn’t occurred to me was that finding a taxi at six in the afternoon would prove, well, pretty much impossible. As a result, I was a good 45 minutes late for my Iftar reservation at the Ritz-Carlton, and, when I got there, was told I only had 25 minutes to load up with savoury and dessert offerings from the buffet. Terrified I would only be able to make one trip, I piled my plate (OK, three plates) with manakish and fried kibbeh, grilled meats and, randomly, spinach ravioli.
Like many hotel Iftars, the Ritz was experimenting with international options. One predictable effect was that the customers were mainly expats. I wondered, as I gleaned the pasta nudging up to the hummus on my plate, how this was going to affect the food, and which cuisine would win out. First up to bat on Team Traditional was some fattoush. The fried pita salad was underdressed, and lacking in the necessary zing. Next up were the grilled meats, which more than made up for the fattoush’s lacklustre performance. As I tore each cube of lamb into shreds with my teeth, they oozed a smoky juice (at a point, I couldn’t tell whether it was me salivating, or the tender morsel of flesh in my mouth). Many of the fried mezze made less compelling team-mates: the cheese manakish was a tad too sweet, and the outer shell was a bit soggy; the falafels could have been moister. In fairness, fried items never hold up as well as they should at a buffet. Still, in the savouries department, the Lebanese standards were ahead of the game. The alfredo sauce had caused the spinach ravioli to clump together, and the dish, which was so heavy, just seemed out of place.
Halfway through tearing into our savouries, we realised that we were precariously close to closing time and we hadn’t visited the dessert station yet. When we got there, we found the selection was a decidedly more modern affair. Assorted panna cotta mingled with shot glasses of rhubarb puree, and next to a heaping tray of um ali was a live crepe station. The coffee panna cotta was utterly silken, and completely imbued with the flavour of a freshly brewed cup. Like a moth to fire, or a stockbroker to Starbucks, I couldn’t resist coming back for a second helping. The rhubarb shot was full of well-balanced, not overly sugary juice with clumps of pulp at the bottom of the glass, and each sip felt like a delightful way to fill my fruit quota for the day. The crepes were good, if basic – crisp and not overly doughy – and their addition pleased my dining partner, who had been hankering for an excuse to eat sliced bananas and strawberries.
We sat back after eating, puffing on mango shisha, one of the 30 flavours on offer, and tried to enjoy the pristine setting, complete with beach and prime view of the Arabian gulf. The only glitch in our reverie was a slightly rushed waiter, who, though he was exceedingly polite, seemed eager to get us out the door, which, given we were spending Dhs210 per person, was irksome.
The bill (for two)
2x Iftar buffet Dhs420
1x Large Acqua panna water Dhs32
1x Mango tango shisha Dhs55
1x Moroccan tea Dhs32
Total (service included) Dhs539
Ritz-Carlton, The (04 3186715). Iftar from sunset-8pm. Sohour from 9pm-11.30pm. All major credit cards accepted.