As winner of Time Out Dubai’s Restaurant of the Year 2017, there’s a certain level of expectation that goes with dining at PLAY Restaurant & Lounge. Set in the upper echelons of The H Dubai, it’s a smart, stylish place, with tiered seating, a pervading aroma of truffle and superb views out towards Bur Dubai.
Unfortunately, its new Monday night brunch, “Shades of PLAY”, doesn’t quite cast the award-winning restaurant in the best possible light. While you’ll perhaps get to try a wider variety of dishes than you might normally have ordered (at a potentially more affordable price point) you’ll only be sorry you didn’t go à la carte, when you see the same dish being served to a neighbouring table with far greater fanfare and flourish.
There also still seems to be some confusion among staff about the event. Firstly, over the package – we’re offered and order house beverages, only for our waiter to return and explain they’re only an option with the later brunch sitting. And then the order in which dishes should arrive to the table – the most surprising thing about the second-course Pita Surprise is that it arrives before anything else. Least surprising is that it is just as supercalifragilistically rich, creamy and crunchy as we remember, with a kick of truffle that’s not for the faint-hearted.
An assortment of sushi and sashimi arrive, beautifully sliced and presented, and fresh and light on the palate, quickly followed by an impressively ornate plate of raw wagyu carpaccio. But the flavour of these delicate slivers of buttery meat are all but overwhelmed by a liberal coating of truffle sesame dressing – too pungent for even our fungivore dining companion – and it leaves the table almost untouched.
A tempura (chopped shrimp, decent), gyoza (duck, oily) and PLAYful salad (very welcome) later, and by now we’ve ordered mains, and eagerly await the arrival of entrecôte with café du PLAY butter, and PLAY’s famed carbonara, typically swirled in a giant Parmesan wheel, tableside, before serving.
Only, when it arrives, there’s no Parmesan wheel. No showmanship. As we wistfully watch another diner getting the spaghetti-spinning treatment we’d been hoping for, our waiter cheerfully notes “that’s what you’re having”. But it’s not. What we’re having is a lot more like cream soup, topped with slightly dried-out pasta and a translucent poached egg.
It’s nowhere near the PLAY experience we’d been hoping for and, looking around the room, nowhere near the experience every other diner appeared to be having.
PLAY Restaurant & Lounge has never been the sort of place to go on a budget – and even with the arrival of this more wallet-friendly evening offering, that has never been more true.
Dhs300 (soft drinks 7.30pm-9.30pm), Dhs450 (house beverages 9.30pm-12.30am). Mon. The H Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 336 4444).
The bottom line
Save up and go à la carte instead.