January 4, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Ahh, DIFC. Home to SO many dining establishments, (including many of Dubai’s best restaurants) yet somehow still manages to have a new restaurant open what feels like every month. I suppose everyone is chasing the gold-lined suit pockets of those financial types and I can’t say I really blame them in what’s becoming an increasingly tough dining scene in Dubai. Bazxar is one of a long list of newer arrivals, and one my spellcheck has decided it really detests (if I’ve missed one of the half a million autocorrects to ‘Bazaar’ in this review accept my apologies – it’s driving me mad).
I checked out the brunch – although this place apparently has a lot of buzz about giant cookies and freakshakes, that’s just not my cup of tea.
Sorry Not sorry freakshakes, but I actively look down on you. Piles of junk food with a week’s worth of calories crammed into in a shake – what is this, America? (Sorry, Courtney 😉 ). I feel like I might develop Diabetes just looking at the awful things. When will this trend end? (Although, perhaps those who regularly consume such freakshakes will find themselves expiring first.)
It’s not the easiest spot to find (it’s in the Gate Building area not Gate Village), but if you know Royal China (a venue I would recommend for some of the best Chinese cuisine in the city) it’s next to that (and conveniently, a Choithrams, should you feel the urge to do some booze-fuelled grocery shopping post-brunch). As you’ve probably read in other reviews, it’s split into three areas – a smart dining area and a casual dining area joined by a bar/lounge space. It’s the bar/lounge space that is designed in the vintage style that seems to have inspired the ‘Prohibition Brunch’ theme, save for that, it’s a little hard to see how this ties in – one area has benches and a giant graffiti wall, and the other is a pretty standard modern Dubai restaurant fit-out (still very nice however). The menu and cocktails don’t feel 20’s at all, I honestly think they’d be better off with another name that more accurately described the offering.
We’re seated in the finer of the dining areas, thankfully – I don’t think I’d want to spend three or so hours on bench seats! I’ll save those for 21 year olds with fewer back issues (let’s just say my chiropractors will be able to retire early). It’s dark, so if you suffer from narcolepsy or are a sleepy drunk I’d say this cosy, dimly-lit atmosphere might not be for you if you want to make it through brunch. The music is actually fab though (and should go some way to keeping you awake) – much more my cup of tea than any brunch in Dubai I’ve been to so far. It’s not straight ‘Virgin Radio playlist’ and it’s not straight 80s chaff – more a blend of current remixes with lounge and house beats. Props to the DJ – I’d almost go back just for the music. I liked it rather a lot, apart from when it made a sudden change to double the volume and just about deafened our entire table. Guys, blaringly loud music doesn’t put people into ‘party-mode’, it just makes them have to yell at their co-diners to talk. When, oh when, will Dubai understand this? Remind me to pack earplugs for my next brunch…to their credit though, Bazxar did remedy this when we pointed it out (via sign language and signal flares).
There are three packages – non alcoholic at 295, cocktails, house wine and spirits at 395, and all that plus rose and beer at 495. Hmm. No beer in the house package? Sounds like a cunning plan to get thirsty blokes to upgrade to what is usually the female-targeted sparkling package. An extra 100dhs for beer and rose is just not justifiable in my books. There’s also a list of cocktails you can purchase at an extra charge – oh hell no, this is a brunch, and brunch is about all inclusive. Otherwise it’s just lunch. Or dinner. Or linner. I’m not sure why any brunch participant would be looking to spend an extra 95dhs on an additional cocktail? Wonder how many takers they get on these…speaking of cocktails, I kicked proceedings off with a Lucky Rose (I think that’s what it was called), a signature cocktail of Bazxar apparently. Sadly a miss probably wasn’t the way to start the brunch, but a miss it was. It was like I’d stuck a straw into a jam jar. Things got much, much better however with the Basil Gin & Tonic – this was fab, and became the staple drink of the brunch for me as the white wine was, well, terrible. Sorry guys. We were told it was a Chardonnay (this got me excited – yay!) but at first sniff I knew it certainly was not (previous excitement rapidly evaporated) – it instead turned out to be Colombelle ‘L’Original’ Blanc, and yes I know, most brunches serve up dirt cheap wine but this one just was…unpalatable. Again, it doesn’t hurt to offer more wine options for a brunch – the most you’ll lose out on is 4/5 of a bottle (or nothing if you serve it on the menu anyway) – but you might just end up with more repeat business.
For food, you can sample unlimited dishes from the Starters and Entrees menus – I tasted the…
house-made pickle relish
soy-garlic glaze / scallions
sweet soy glaze / fresh kaffir lime / peanut / red chilli
Some real stunners reside in this section of the menu – right off the bat, the crispy mac’n’cheese balls were stellar! Thankfully my caloric conscience held me back from ordering another portion of these delicious morsels, but it later relented and ordered a second serve of the Chicken Bao. This dish was Bao-chicka-wow-wowww. Yes, I went there. It’s probably the best dish on the menu so go nuts without regret. The Aubergine Bao was another winner so veggies, never fear. The house salad didn’t really fit in and felt like a place-filler however, going untouched by all guests at our table.
From the entrees section I tried…
fresh tomato / basil / olive oil
ROASTED CHICKEN PIZZA
mushrooms / pesto / bechamel
*Firstly guys, it’s BURRATA. Not BURATTA. Sigh.
I might be Dubai’s biggest burrata lover (I think I’ve consumed it 5 times in the past week) and it’s such a wonderful ingredient – but honestly, it’s wasted on a pizza. Stick to mozzarella when it comes to pizza and serve burrata au naturel as it should be. I’d definitely love to see a change to include a great burrata on the menu – I tasted the burrata from the NYE line up which featured edamame (listed as ‘soy beans’ on the menu – doesn’t ‘edamame’ sound more appealing?), cranberries, sundried tomato, truffle oil and basil – and it was fab! The pizzas were very thick based, more like focaccia, and I prefer mine thin – so they were a bit of a miss for me. Instead I decided to save my stomach space for more bao! Mmmmm..bao.
The brunch now flips from sharing concept to individual servings, and you can choose one main course each. I think I would have preferred the sharing concept continue for mains as it felt odd to now switch to an individual main…and hard to choose which to pick! I tasted these options…
BUTTERMILK FRIED-CHICKEN BURGER
shredded iceberg lettuce / ranch / potato bun
100% wagyu beef / lettuce / potato bun
chicken or beef / ketchup & mustard
fried eggs / black beans / guacamole chipotle salsa / tortilla / cheese
mushroom cream / bitter greens & pinenuts
I was really surprised that Bazxar’s burgers were so…simple. Just meat, lettuce, bun (and cheese in the case of the cheese burger). Yes, I get that sometimes simplicity is the best way to go, but these felt much too basic for an establishment like this. The buttermilk fried chicken is certainly really great chicken, but paired with the shredded lettuce and sweet tasting potato bun, I felt like I’d time-travelled forward to the late night, post-after-brunch drinking-session Macca’s drive-thru McChicken. It really, really tasted like a McChicken. I mean, hey, I like a McChicken as much as the next inebriated person, but it’s not really what I’m looking for at a 395dhs brunch. If you want to go this simple, make them into sliders and pop them in the starters menu. They just don’t excite as a main course, which is also how I felt about the Naked Dog. It was just a hot dog. Nothing special. You can do better than this guys, I know you can! If you’re going to do street food (in DIFC no less) you’d better make it some of the best freaking street food I’ve ever had. And I’ve had far better hot dogs on the streets of Copenhagen.
The Josper steak was perhaps the highlight of the main course options – but it was not as described on the menu (which had me expecting anticucho). It was instead a very traditional steak/jus/herb butter/puree combo, and the steak was fabulous. It just felt a tad out of place and very ‘mature’ next to the other more lighthearted options. It felt more The Ivy than Bazxar. The Huevos Rancheros was beautiful on the plate and as expected on the palate, and the linguini pretty much as it reads – mushroomy.
Desserts are quick and easy – it’s a platter with three selections…
GET YOUR “FREAKSHAKE” ON
preztels / crunchy kitkat / nutella ice cream
goats milk cheesecake / strawberry jelly
ICE CREAM SANDWICH
chocolate cookie / mint / popping candy
A small selection of tasters is totally fine by me, I think we’re all usually pretty full by this stage of the brunch anyway – but serious sugar fiends might want more selection. Despite my earlier rant, the freakshake served here in a teeny tiny form was actually great – this feels like a more appropriate size for this level of sugary decadence. I also enjoyed the ice cream sandwich – but the cheesecake wasn’t for me – probably down to the ‘goat’ factor (sorry kids, just not a fan of anything goaty).
In conclusion, I think the Bazxar brunch (let’s not call it ‘Prohibition’) has a lot of potential – but faces some stiff competition in the brunch market and from it’s nearby neighbour Dusty’s. Bazxar, you win on the music front, don’t go changin’. Food wise, there are some really excellent dishes here – especially the baos and mac’n’cheese bites. I’d like to see some of the dishes re-thought (the burrata/pizzas and main burgers and dogs) to make this a really comprehensive offering, and have the sharing concept continue from start to finish for a smoother experience. Drinks really let the side down and need a tune up – and c’mon guys, this is only a three hour package – beer needs to be added into the 395dhs option. Would I return? I’d love to go back for that great soundtrack, but maybe I’ll wait until there’s a brunch 2.0 update.
What’s your fave DIFC spot?