December 9, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Located on the fab-for-walking, problematic-for-driving ‘The Walk’ at JBR (actually, I guess that should be obvious from the name…it’s not called ‘The Drive’!), Frankie’s is a long-standing Dubai institution (so I’m told).
A partnership between a famous jockey (Frankie) and a famous chef (Marco Pierre White), it appears to be a homage to their old school boozy days, with the hallways lined with photos of the two enjoying good times. It’s definitely old school – think 80s/90s lounge bar. Red and cream velvet, dark wood, pink lights…and loud renditions of ‘My Way’ and ‘Georgia On My Mind’. It’s very ‘cruise ship’, and I think we were the youngest in the venue (and we are in our early thirties!).
But setting aside, let’s get on to the food. I sampled the seasonal white truffle menu – individual courses range an eye-watering 99-240 a piece, but you can choose any four from the six options for 495.
What I ordered…
Burrata, soft polenta and veal jus reduction – 145
Homemade tagliolini Piedmont style – 185
Veal striploin with grilled bone marrow – 245
‘Truffle’ – 99
Breads are provided for the table, the focaccia and crackers being the best part. These are accompanied by three ‘butters’ which were more like pastes – sundried tomato, olive and chickpea. I loved the sundried tomato, but the chick pea was really just a dense hummus. I get that yes, we’re in the Middle East, but this one would do with being subbed off the butter a-team. Larger portions of these ‘butters’ would be appreciated too as there really wasn’t enough for two and definitely not enough for the amount of bread in the basket.
Things get off to a great start with course numero uno, the burrata. Burrata is hard to mess up, I’ll admit (though there are far too many UAE establishments that somehow find a way) but this is seriously good. Firstly, the quality of the burrata is insane. It’s amazingly creamy and imported from Italy, not Sharjah (we’re told this is where a lot of locally served burrata comes from – who knew?). Surrounded by creamy polenta and drizzled with veal jus, it’s a knockout – it just needs something to eat with it as a textural contrast. You can’t just have a totally creamy dish or it’s pretty much soup! I ordered some extra crackers from the bread basket (these are fab and made in house) and voila, problem solved. Just be aware that this is a seriously rich dish and would be better shared between two rather than as a course for an individual. A good dose of white truffle was the perfect finishing touch.
The pasta course was described to us as ‘basic’, as they want the truffle to be the star (the risotto has pretty much the same taste profile so we are advised to just choose one or the other). Fair enough I guess, though I can do ‘basic’ at home, and basic it was. The sauce is simple – parmesan and butter – but accompanied by the homemade pasta, it’s nice enough. I’m all for letting the truffle shine, as it should on a special truffle menu, but there just was not enough of it on the dish to be the hero. The flakes were small and sparse sadly, and when I had only recently experienced the heavenly smells that wafted from Chef Alleno shaving white truffles at the table directly onto our dish at STAY, the contrast was marked.
Portions had been large thus far (they could really do with reducing them) and available stomach space was rapidly reducing. The veal striploin was nice, but again needed more truffle, and much more of the pumpkin puree that was just barely dotted on the bone marrow – that element was great! I get that hey, Italian menus love featuring veal, but I couldn’t help wishing it was beef on my plate instead. At 245dhs, I think I’d be shedding a tear when it comes to the value delivered on the plate for this dish. Ouch!
Dessert is a ‘truffle’ with truffle, and I love that they’ve been playful with this course. The ‘truffle’ was a hazelnut mousse-icecream hybrid (it was described as foam but it was very very dense) under a white chocolate shell atop a chocolate crumb, with candied mint leaves and fresh basil leaves. It was again huge in size, and a half portion would have been more than enough. At 99dhs for a dessert, it needs to be absolutely world class – I get what they were going for, as I’ve just recently come back from Alba and had praline & white truffle chocolates (delish!!) but the flavour combination just wasn’t balanced correctly here – it left too much fatty cocoa butter residue on the palate. The basil, however, was a great contrast and I would have liked more of it on the plate. I think if they keep working on this one and finessing it they could have something great – it’s just not quite there yet.
On the whole, the food at Frankie’s wasn’t bad – in fact one course (the burrata) was very memorable indeed. On the whole, it was…nice. But I can cook nice at home – when I’m making the effort to dine out, I want delicious. For a truffle menu (and at these prices) they really need to step up the truffle quotient for the dishes to be satisfying enough. Atmosphere was the biggest disconnect for me though, but I will add a disclaimer that that’s just my personal taste. In all fairness to Frankies, perhaps if I were in my senior years I would enjoy a lounge singer. I imagine tourists staying at the Marina are probably well entertained and feel comfortable at Frankie’s. This is 2016 in Dubai however, and when you have endless dining options trying to outdo each other, it’s just not enough to secure my dime and caloric allowance. From what I’ve heard about Marco Pierre White’s other Dubai establishment, I feel like I need to say – Marco, get over here and help your establishments step it up – at the end of the day, your name is on the front of the building, and there are expectations that come along with that.
In closing, if you have older relatives visiting Dubai who don’t want the Zuma, Coya, Weslodge type environment, I would recommend you take them to Frankie’s as I think they’d both feel comfortable and have a blast.
Overall Rating: 6/10