July 23, 2016 / 1 Comment
A recent arrival on Dubai’s outdoor terrace scene, you might have heard of Treehouse due to it’s spectacular views of the Burj Khalifa and the soon to be completed Dubai Opera. It’s a very pretty view indeed, and an equally pretty venue.
While Treehouse’s terrace is undoubtably a gorgeous spot to spend a night Burj-gazing during cooler winter evenings, it might not instantly spring to mind as an option during the blazing summer months. Fear not, as Treehouse has followed the likes of Vii in installing weather protection, in the form of arctic-strength air conditioning and a greenhouse style tent encasing the entire venue. It does a great job of keeping the heat out – so there’s no need to wait until winter to return to enjoy Treehouse’s hospitality. The views of the Burj aren’t really there while the tent is up however, so for those who are really craving that specific vista, rddrhaps pop next door to Tesoro, with whom Treehouse shares a kitchen and a lot of their delicious dishes.
Views or no views, it’s a beautiful venue that boasts a huge amount of personality with some superb decor choices, and the sparkling canopy of fairy lights under the greenhouse top goes quite some way to making up for the absence of an outside view during summer. I can’t fault the ambience, and in fact I think it’s one of my favourite Dubai spots.
Treehouse is well known as a great spot for a drink – but the reason I’m here is to check out their ‘La Guinguette’ brunch, relocated from it’s winter afternoon spot (2-5pm) to the evening (6-9pm) during summer. Revolving around a picnic basket of goodies and clearly sponsored heavily by Veuve Clicquot, this concept is something a little different to the Dubai norm which is always great to see.
Three packages are on offer – ‘Sin Free’ (soft beverages) at 345dhs, ‘Tree Package’ (house beverages) at 445dhs and of course one with the yellow dame included, ‘Clicquot Garden Package’ at 545dhs. So it sits at the pointy end of the brunch price spectrum, but I think the champagne package offers great value – at least you’re actually getting the good stuff, not just run of the mill sparkling plonk like most Dubai brunches happily dish out (at an exorbitant cost, but of course).
Sadly the yellow label was absent from our visit, but we eagerly tried out the house beverages package which included three wine options – a pinot grigio, malbec and pinot noir rose. Surprisingly, all of the wine options were extremely drinkable, and I’d even say pretty good.
Cocktails on the other hand, well, this is an area that needs some attention. I find this really surprising – given that Treehouse is a bar first and foremost, I would have thought that the cocktails would be supremely on point. There are six on offer – the Treehouse Punch, ‘TRA’, Tequitto, Bloody Mary, Mojito and Espresso Martini. The Mojito and Espresso Martini were actually fab – no complaints there at all. The TRA however was just a big no. On the menu it says it consists of gin, lime juice, lemon juice, basil and rose syrup – that sounds pretty ok to me, but what we were delivered was more like spiked vegetable juice. Not really what I’m looking for on a Friday night, and to be honest nor is a Bloody Mary – I think that’s more suited to the morning after.
The punch is clearly intended to be the showstopper drink for this brunch – it’s HUGE! Served in a giant glass/vase vessel, this is a sharing cocktail. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the sharing drinks thing, can we just be dignified and all keep our germs to ourselves? I say leave that to Candypants et al., this is too sophisticated an affair to be sharing drinks.
It looked pretty as a picture – as you can see, but taste wise it was just not pleasant. It tasted like an apricot pie. Not really what I think of when I think of punch, the recipe needs a rethink here – of course, I’d be happy to volunteer to help out with the testing process. If they are wanting to do something big and interesting when it comes to cocktails, why not put it in a cute vintage jar with a tap dispenser on the table, and everyone can help themselves to their own portion?
The first thing you’ll be served when you are seated is the picnic basket – the concept around which this brunch is based. It’s cute, sure. But none of the best food on offer in this brunch is housed within this basket, so I’d advise you move on quickly. In fact the contents of the basket really weren’t of the same standard of the food that comes out of the kitchen at all, so I think it’s a shame they are hanging their hat on this instead of really focussing on their small plates which are outstandingly good.
So I’ll just move straight on to the small plates. If you’ve dined at neighbour Tesoro previously, you’ll know the food that comes out of that kitchen is good. Really good. What’s even better, is that’s where the food for your brunch feast is coming from. Trust me, that’s terrific news for your tastebuds.
There’s a huge range of small plates on offer here – you’re going to need to get tactical about planning what you want to try when it comes to this brunch, as it’s only a three-hour affair. I’ll be honest, I find three hours a bit short, especially at these prices. Three and a half would feel like a more appropriate length, and hence why I say don’t waste time with the basket. There’s too much deliciousness on offer to miss out on if you dilly dally!
We kicked off our brunchscapade in fine style with the Truffle, Rocket & Pecorino Flatbread and the Burrata. Both absolutely fabulous and go superbly well together – I’d definitely recommend ordering these at the same time. Really great starters and some of the highlights of our brunch experience. These dishes would bring me back for round two.
For protein fiends, there are a range of BBQ skewers on offer – beef, chicken and avocado. Healthy, for sure, but not my favourite on the menu (hey, there are some pretty amazing dishes on the menu so these are still pretty damn good).
Carrying on the meat theme, we also tried the Steak Tartare, which was good and considering the usual cost of ordering this on a Dubai menu, a great inclusion. The Short Rib Mini Burgers however were just way too dry and were a miss for me, which is a shame as I LOVE short rib and I love sliders too. The Hoisin Duck Corn Pancakes were a little unusual too – the duck was well doused in hoisin which hey, is always going to be a winner, but the corn pancakes were too stodgy to accompany and cold. This dish would have worked so much better as a hot dish and would have benefitted from a more refined pancake with some more herbs and spring onion for freshness.
My favourite dish of the night would have to be the Truffle Vegetable Tempura. Well, it’s actually on the menu as Lobster Tempura, but they’ll whip up the vege version for you too if you ask nicely, and serve it up with a pile of truffle mayo. It’s insanely good, and it’s made the cut for my Best Dishes in Dubai list. It’s also a feature at Tesoro, so you now have two venues in which you can feast on this bowl of perfection! It’s honestly so good – this is another of the dishes that has me already wanting to return for another spin. Order this one early in your experience while you’ve still got an appetite – it’s the best dish on the menu in my opinion. Vege or Lobster, you can’t go wrong here.
Desserts are pretty good too, and there are plenty of options on offer. My preferences lie on the savoury side of things, but the sweet items should please those with a sweet tooth – and you can order as many as you like, so you can go nuts if that’s your thing.
Despite more options on the menu that sounded tempting (oh, and on that note, the menu you see online is not accurate, it’s changed a bit just FYI, and one more gripe – please format it so everything is one page), there was not a square inch of realestate left in the stomach for any more tasting – but that’s a great reason to return. There’s much more on the menu here than you can comfortably get through in one sitting! Groups will have an advantage as these dishes are designed to share rather than consume as a single portion so you’ll probably be able to taste more that way. I really love that this brunch offers such an extensive a la carte menu – the food comes fresh and plated appealingly, and that’s a huge advantage over a buffet any day.
Given that a bottle of wine at Treehouse is going to sting you to the tune of 340dhs or so and a cocktail around 80dhs and upwards, this brunch is pretty good value for what you get when compared to if you were dining and imbibing outside the brunch package, so that’s what I’ve based the value score on. That being said, the price is up there, but it becomes more worthwhile if you’re going to go whole hog and fill your veins with Veuve Clicquot. I would up my score if the length was extended to 3.5 hours, as more than anything, 3 hours just makes you feel like you have to speed through everything and takes away a little from the enjoyment of the experience for me.
Hands down, the best thing about the Treehouse brunch is the fantastically wide range of delicious dishes to try that are of a rather high standard. It’s sure to please everyone in your group – in fact is really ideal for groups, so gather a crowd because it’s your birthday, or just because it’s Friday. Because that’s what we do in Dubai, and this brunch is just oh so decadently Dubai. Highly recommended, no matter the season.