January 18, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Ahh, Christmas in Dubai. That lovely time of year where family and friends from around the world come to visit our fair shores. I don’t know about you, but when visitors are in town we find ourselves doing activities on the more touristy-side to showcase the wonderful city we live in. On this visit I decided it would be a good excuse to check out Dubai’s famous dinner cruise, Bateaux Dubai.
Yes, there are plenty of night time cruise options that you’ll see on the likes of Groupon on an almost daily basis, but Bateaux is in a much different league (and price point). Expect to pay the equivalent of a high end brunch for a three course dinner cruise experience on this glass-encased boat, including canapes and unlimited house beverages, but that price point is reflected in the quality. I often see price mentioned in reviews of Bateaux Dubai, but I honestly don’t think it’s insane in Dubai, particularly if you choose the house beverages package. You’ll have to excuse that I had to use a photo provided by Bateaux (above) to show the outside of the boat (photo credit: JA Resorts and Hotels) – it was a little hard to capture it whilst on board in the dark!
We start our voyage with three canapes – duck, foie gras and goats cheese – I’m not a fan of the latter, but the first two were lovely. Breads also are provided for the table – get in and score the rosemary wedge before anyone else does! (Note: more rosemary bread please!)
Next up is an amuse bouche consisting of a delectably creamy cauliflower soup – really, really delicious. I would have loved seconds. (Why is that always the case with amuse bouche, especially liquid versions?)
There are a surprisingly large number of house wines that are included in the package, which is unusual by Dubai standards – I’m well pleased to see this as usually Dubai all-inclusive packages throw out a bog standard pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon (incidentally, two of my least favourite varietals) and that’s it. Good on Bateaux for elevating themselves above the rest here and offering a wider selection, and while I didn’t love the wine glasses, I can forgive them due to the storage limitations they must face being a floating venue. Premium beverages are available at an extra charge, and there’s plenty of fancy bubbles on hand should you want to really splash out for a special celebration.
The ambience is again, surprisingly good – it’s nautical with navy blue and white accents, and features plenty of wood and mood lighting. It’s cosy and welcoming while still feeling ‘special occasion worthy’. Despite the lovely dining room, you’ll find yourself spending your time between courses on the outside decks enjoying the view, which is even suggested by the staff – and they will come and find you when your next course is approaching delivery – a great touch.
Cuisine-wise, the theme is French/European, with around six options per course to choose from. I’m really glad they didn’t go down the cliched ‘international’ route and resisted the temptation to throw in mixed grills and curries – let’s face it, those are more than readily available in Dubai. There are a wide range of luxury ingredients featured on the menu to choose from – truffle, foie gras, lobster and salmon make an appearance – it’s a well curated menu that should please all in your party.
From the selection, I chose…
Seasonal forest mushroom, shaved Pecorino, spinach emulsion with lemongrass essence
SOUS VIDE OF DUCK BREAST
With sweet potato confit, duck rilettes croquette, braised red cabbage, pumpkin puree, pear conference, caramelized onion and mandarin jus
CHAMPAGNE AND COCONUT PARFAIT
Praline biscuit, champagne jelly, champagne turkish delight and champagne sorbet
First up is what would end up being my favourite course of the night – the truffle risotto. I mean, how can one resist a truffle risotto on a menu? (Well actually, one of my guests managed to, and I’ve included a photo of their delicious looking salmon dish in the gallery at the end of the review.) The risotto was beautiful, the mushrooms magical, and I loved the spinach emulsion. I didn’t detect the lemongrass essence (another reviewer from the night prior agreed) but that was not a problem – the combination sounded risky to me on paper anyway. A fabulous dish that pleased myself and my guests. I could have eaten a giant bowl of it it was so good!
Duck, another of my all-time favourite ingredients, is up next. It’s pretty on the plate and on the palate, even if sections of the duck were tough – which is unusual for a sous-vide piece of meat, though I’m guessing it was pan fried after to crisp the skin. All three at our table ordered this dish and dryness/toughness varied from parts of the duck breast, to all of the duck breast, between plates. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here though as we were tardy back to our table for mains due to the fact that we were too busy enjoying the outdoor decks, which could have resulted in the meat being dried out sitting under a salamander. The vegetable components in this dish were delicious, though I would advise they scrap the broccoli – it just doesn’t feel appropriate for a fine dining plate (again, a comment echoed by a recent diner so I feel justified in mentioning it here).
Dessert was beautifully presented, however mine was sadly on the bland side . It’s tough to make a champagne based dessert shine given the delicate flavours, but the coconut aspect in the parfait really wasn’t detectable and I would have loved more of that flavour to be evident. The champagne Turkish delight was the highlight of the dish and more of it would have been appreciated – in fact rose would have been a great flavour to integrate here and would balance well with coconut and champagne. The ‘Cammouline Peach Creamy’ dessert option had more flavour so I’d recommend that choice (I tasted a little of one of my guest’s plates who had ordered that option).
It’s great to see Bateaux putting so much effort into the food, as let’s be honest – usually the fare served up on such cruises is pedestrian at best. Bateaux is definitely getting close to reaching the elevated level of fine dining their menu promises, and deserves a lot of credit for that.
I should probably mention the views, given that this is a scenic dinner cruise after all. It sails up and down the Deira/Dubai Creek harbour, which I hate to admit, surprised me! I had visions in my head, somehow, that we would get to see other waterways in Dubai on the cruise – embarrassingly naive of me in retrospect. The cruise factor is lovely, but theres not really much to see in the way of lights or scenery from the vantage point of the creek, sadly Dubai has much better vistas. The best views are of the other tourist dhow cruises sailing up and down the creek, bedecked in colourful lights.
I think it’s something you should do during your tenure in Dubai, and the food and beverages will probably be much better than you expect – just don’t expect the amazing views you’re used to seeing on European city night cruises, where the river tends to be in the middle of the cityscape. Value wise, go for the unlimited beverages package, expect to pay the same as a high-end brunch (around 520), take a great crew (or perhaps those relatives that are visiting) and enjoy!