June 4, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Look out Dubai diners, theres a new expat arrival in town – they hail from Canadia*, eh, and they’re here to rock the sky-high dining scene. I headed along to see exactly what Weslodge was all aboot.
First of all, this location isn’t your run of the mill Dubai spot – it’s on the 68th floor of the world’s tallest hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis in Business Bay. It’s special, for sure, but not quiiiite one of a kind – as the JWMM is comprised of two mirrored towers, there’s an near identical spot a tower over, currently occupied by Prime 68 steakhouse. Now the battle is well and truly on for these two meat loving eateries to duke it out for ultimate dining supremacy (as they say on Iron Chef – who doesn’t love that show?).
Views aside, I think I fell in love with Weslodge the moment I walked through the oft-promoed yellow door. Dimly lit (with real candles) and featuring more than a smattering of dead animal skulls (of which I’m a fan), they had me at Foo Fighters. Yes, Foo Fighters. Rock music. In Dubai. Unheard of right? If you’re as sick as I am of the rubbish pop and 80s retreads that are the usual go-to for Dubai establishments, you might like the change of pace here. No Biebs, no freaking Selena Gomez, no Tay-Tay (Tay-Tay has one place and one place only – and that’s at Harry Ghatto’s karaoke bar where you may or may not witness me often attempting to belt out one of her hits). Post dinner, the music smoothly segues into 80s and 90s smooth classic hip hop – a move I also approve of wholeheartedly. This is music I feel at home with, that I want to come back and enjoy. Balanced out by a heck of a lot of olde-worlde art on the walls, I love the classy contradiction Weslodge has going on. It’s my JAM. Oh, there are lots of tattoos on display too, which was a welcome change. If you haven’t met me yet, I have quite a few of those!
There are a few different areas of Weslodge – bar (with it’s beautiful candelabras), lounge, and dining room times two – ask for the one with Burj Khalifa views. Beautifully upholstered velvet seats (oh how I love me some classy velvet) and gorgeous tables create a welcoming space, but I’d seriously look at raising the table heights in the lounge area (or at least part of it). It’s the most attractive area of the venue, but with so many of the lounge section tables looking like they are set up for dining but realistically set at kneecapping height, I wouldn’t be able to sit there comfortably. I even gave it a test run.
After a good exploration of the venue checking out the view from every nook and cranny, we toasted to a wonderful night with a cocktail to start – mine the Cucumber Gimlet. So good I had seconds. One thing I would say about the cocktails however relates to the cocktail list itself – unless you are an insanely experienced cocktail buff, it’s almost indecipherable in parts. Might pay to translate it for us cocktail plebs so we don’t need to ask for help on every entry (the Cucumber Gimlet was partly selected as I could understand all the ingredients! Worked out well though!). The wine list is pretty spiffy also, and as a chardonnay lover I was chuffed with the two I enjoyed (Fetzer and Catena.) The drinks are, however, on the pricier side – it seems in Dubai the higher up the floors you go, the price rises to match – a cocktail here rocks the pocket to the tune of around 70dhs and up. I suppose you’re paying for the view and yes it’s certainly spectacular, but if I was to be a regular I’d love a happy hour or two to compete with the Vault offerings in the opposing tower. The way to a girl’s heart (well this girl anyway) is is happy hour wine – surely this is a commonly known fact. While you’re looking around the vast venue, check out the custom made, beastly grills lurking just behind the window into the kitchen. This is a place that’s serious about it’s meat, though we didn’t get to try any this time around. Next time, it’s a must-do.
Our waiter for the night, Alex, struck the perfect balance of understanding our vibe (we like to have a bit of fun) and being amazingly knowledgable about the venue, cooking processes and dishes. Loved him. We were made to feel very at home the whole night – so much so we carried on until the wee hours – it’s a rare establishment in Dubai that holds my attention that long!
What we ordered (prices in dirhams):
CRISP QUAIL EGG | merguez + truffle red onion jam 35
FOIE GRAS PARFAIT | date + granny smith apple + walnut + brioche 50
SMOKY BEEF TARTARE | cured egg yolk + black truffle + horseradish cream 95
WESLODGE CHOP | avocado + feta + dill vinaigrette 50
MUSHROOM PIE | celeriac + spinach + tallegio + truffle ricotta 115
SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN | tabasco honey + brussels sprouts slaw 75
ONION RINGS | malt vinegar + chives 20
CREAMED CORN | red onion + black garlic + chili 30
BANOFFEE PIE 25
So – starters. The crisp quail egg is really a posh scotch egg – with the spicy jam almost reminiscent of Indian flavours, it wasn’t one hundred percent what we expected but was one hundred percent delicious all the same. The foie gras parfait also pleased, served on a scrummy, sweet brioche – the parfait is actually frozen and then finely shaved on to the dish, making for a melt in your mouth texture that really works against the other accompaniments, not least the crunch of the apple.
The tartare was probably the most unusual of the bunch. Delicious? Yes. Pretty? Hell no. It was an ugly duckling sat awkwardly on grandma’s floral plate. Thankfully it tasted much better than it looked. Topped with a strange looking bubble of a puffed crisp of sort, this is a tartare that packs serious punch. It’s for the horseradish lovers out there, of which luckily I am one. I lapped it up but it was a tad on the spicy side for my dining companion (which meant more for me – yay!). I didn’t really detect the truffle due to the heavy horseradish hit, but the light smoke on the meat and the chunky dice really worked to create great flavours and textures. The quality of the meat is top notch too. Just don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
On to the main event – today for us, it’s the mushroom pie, which actually serves four. I’d love to see them make it in single person servings or perhaps a size fit for two. Being as delicious as it is, it’s a shame to to think it would probably be off the list for couples dining due to it’s size. The ingredients read like a list of my faves…Celeriac? Taleggio? Truffle ricotta? Yes please.
The pastry was absolutely perfect – crispy and fluffy with just that right amount of chewy gooey consistency inside. The filling, spot on. The one thing I would change would be the sauce – which is where I think the truffle ricotta came in. I was really expecting a jus, but it was a heavy, chunky texture instead. It headed too far into the mushroom realm for me, I really think a light jus would be a much better vehicle for the delicate flavour of truffle and texturally complement the pie more. I gave the sauce a miss, but honestly it didn’t need it – the pie was good enough as is. Our Weslodge Chop salad wasn’t hugely up my alley but was ordered as it came highly recommended by our server. It was, well a very American chopped salad that conjured up memories my first LA trip as a fashion buyer discovering The Cheesecake Factory (my most hated restaurant in the world, do NOT talk to me about it). It was nice enough but pretty tame and didn’t showcase anything unique about the venue so not a dish I’d normally order. They do have some interesting salads on the menu though that sound fab – beets and brussel sprouts included!
Heading next into what felt to me like good ol’ southern fare rather than that native to the northern neighbours, we enjoyed fried chicken, onion rings and a creamed corn dish of sorts. I say ‘of sorts’ as it wasn’t really like any corn dish I had had previously. Light and fluffy with an almost polenta texture, this was a really unusual creation, topped with my faves, cilantro and chili. Pretty darn tasty y’all (though I wouldn’t complain if they upped the corn quotient a tad), and the onion rings were equally pleasing.
The fried chicken is apparently a massively popular dish, and I can definitely see why. The tabasco honey drizzled atop the juicy pieces adds a nice sticky sweet heat to the crunchy outer. It’s served skin on and in whole pieces which would please many guys out there, but from the female perspective, my favourite fried chicken (hello the amazingly addictive Mexico fried chicken from NZ) is served battered sans-skin and in smaller pieces. I feel removing the skin lets the flavour get closer in to the meat, and removes fat that’s just unnecessary when you can still have great crust without it. I’d also like to see more slaw for balance and some delicious creamy aioli to dunk the succulent morsels of chicken into. Ohhh yeah. Now we’re talking. I might just BYO aioli next time! In fact, if they stuck some of the drizzle from the onion rings into a pot and served it up with the chicken, I think they’d be on the money.
Now if you happen to have any room left for dessert, then you’re in luck. Dessert offerings were just as well crafted as their savoury counterparts. Whilst I really wanted to order the caramel mille feuille, it had been just recently replaced with s’mores, so s’mores we had. And banoffee pie. Yikes. The s’mores dish was actually very delish, the marshmallow beautifully scorched. Chocolate lovers will delight in this indulgent dessert and it’s pops of salted caramel goodness! The banoffee was different in that the usual caramel base was transported to a drizzle, and the usual banana topping became the main pie filling. Lighter than the homemade norm, I really enjoyed this.
Weslodge, I really love you. I honestly do. You’ve rocketed into my top 5 recommended Dubai hotspots, you’ve got the decor and view to leave your competition trailing in your wake, and a rockin’ soundtrack to match. Felt like my kind of place. I’d love to get stuck in and make a few tweaks to the menu here and there (and throw those hideous blue and white floral grandma plates that don’t do anything to enhance the appearance of your food out the 68th floor window) but if the food is this good for a new establishment, the only way it’s going to go is up. I can’t wait until your brunch is announced – I have a feeling it’s going to rock Dubai’s socks off. Weslodge, welcome to the jungle…err…desert.
*Yes, I know it’s spelt Canada, but it just feels more…Canadian that way. Personal pref.