January 18, 2017 / Leave a Comment
I’ll admit it – I’m not too familiar with Emirates Golf Club. A venue that’s a bit ‘before my time’ in Dubai, it’s one that will be well known by many an expat with a longer tenure in the sandpit than I. It’s fabulously located, right near the Marina, and I wonder if once upon a time it seemed far away, before the explosion of ‘New Dubai’. Few cities can boast a golf course this close to the heart of city life.
I’m finally making the journey to greens unexplored to try out the revamped Le Classique, the fine dining restaurant of the club. Things get off to a very un-Dubai-like start when we finally find the restaurant entrance, and there’s noone there. I head inside to enquire as to if they have valet – the answer is, ‘yes’. When I’m asked how exactly we valet (as noone is volunteering), I’m told we go down to the carpark. When I ask if we are supposed to drive down to the carpark to valet, again I’m told ‘yes’. It seems by ‘valet’ they mean ‘self-park’ – I suppose something’s gotten lost in translation. I understand that this is going to sound ridiculously #firstworldproblems, but at a fine dining restaurant in Dubai at a property like this, it’s something you absolutely expect.
Upon entering the restaurant, I realise that while there are plenty of cars in the carpark, their passengers are certainly not in Le Classique. I hear from my dining companions and UAE old-hands that the 19th Hole, the casual eatery/pub, does a roaring trade however and that’s likely where they’ve headed.
I’m guessing we are quite a bit younger than the usual clientele here, but I’m old enough to remember 1988 (the year EGC was built) – and feel myself being transported back to this very year by the restaurant decor. The entrance walkway may have had a nice revamp with its chandelier and champagne bottles, but that’s where it appears to have stopped. Dull carpet, a choice of horrendous green or white patterned tablecloths, dated chairs that are just that bit too low for the tables. A table set with a strange green LED mother-of-pearl mosaic lamp and a red rose seals the deal on conjuring up memories I’d prefer stayed safely in the decade of my birth. The outdoor section also has a cast of coloured light that just doesn’t set the mood for a classy evening.
With the arrival of some delicious onion bread, things are looking up (the round of bread that was hot out of the oven impressed even more so). It’s a ‘Discovery Menu’ – i.e., no menus. The concept is that the chef discusses with you flavours you like, and creates a bespoke menu. Our chat with the chef on this topic was so brief prior to our meal that I didn’t grasp that that was exactly what was going on – it was a very quick allergy run down, and asking if we were ok with a fish dish (for the seafood eaters, a foie dish for me) and a meat dish. For something truly bespoke I would have expected a little more discussion, but one wonders how truly bespoke a meal can be when choices are being made with no menu just minutes before courses begin to arrive – how could a kitchen adequately prepare their mise-en-place for such an unpredictable scenario? I think I would have just preferred to see a menu before hand if it’s a tasting menu, or select from a menu for a three course (which is what we were served, 330dhs per head).
A surprise amuse bouche is a nice touch, and it’s a thoughtfully composed pea creation that texturally is spot on, with fantastic flavour to boot. It’s very, very good. At this point I’m feeling hopeful that the food might be better than the setting,
My starter of seared foie gras is another winner, the rich exotic mushrooms unexpectedly working exceptionally well with the foie. It’s one of the best seared foie dishes I’ve had, save for a membrane on the foie that my knife protested at continually. My knife got another rigorous workout with our main course, a slice of a very large duck breast served with a lovely potato dauphinoise and rich jus on the side. The flavours were there – but sadly the duck breast was so tough, paired with a sinew that ran the length of the meat, that I was chewing a good thirty times a bite. I counted. Yes, I know it’s healthy to chew your food that many times, but my jaw was rather over it by half way. It’s a shame as had the meat been tender, this would have been another winner.
Dessert took another step down, being all style and no substance. It was a fittingly 80s rich chocolate mousse/tart of sorts and just didn’t do anything to inspire. The other diners were served a different dessert (due to my allergies) and were perhaps even more disappointed with their offering. At the end of the meal, we were still a little hungry after three courses, even having wolfed down three rounds of the tasty bread to fill the gap.
The excellent amuse bouche and starter show signs of real promise at Le Classique, but the wheels fell off as the meal progressed. I could almost tolerate the decor if the food played on as well as it had teed off, but sadly that wasn’t to be the case.
My usual verdict is below, but seeing as it’s a golf club property, let’s give them a more appropriate scorecard:
Amuse bouche: Eagle
Main Course: Bogey
Dessert: Out of bounds