Since Rivington Grill closed last year, Souk al Bahar has been missing that flagship restaurant with world-beating views of the Fountains and Burj Khalifa. The wife and I went along to see if The Atlantic – Dubai’s latest export from Melbourne, could compete with the other top eateries in town.
The first thing that struck us when entering was how beautiful the interiors were – it’s a shame that the main selling point is the balcony, because inside it really is stunning. With a bright, airy feel and luxurious finishes, I really hope that as the venue evolves, more guests decide to eat inside to create the atmosphere it deserves. Sadly, throughout the evening, no more than a handful of diners were present in the restaurant.
We started with the Moreton Bay Bug (an Australian classic), the Garlic Tiger Prawns and the Crab Bisque; the Bug was tasty with fresh, al dente spaghetti but had no hint of the chili that was advertised so fell a little flat, the Prawns were slightly overcooked and not cleaned properly (if I’m going to be paying exorbitant pricing because of the location, at least remove the poop-shoot, guys). The bisque was delicious though, with the rich, creamy texture needed and the ravioli was executed perfectly, melt in the mouth pasta that took on the flavours from the fish perfectly.
I’m a big gin fan, so was impressed with the variety on offer and the reasonable pricing (at least compared to my other favourite places, Ginter & The Scene); what I wasn’t made aware of though, was the 30 AED charged for the tonic to go with it! This made the premium gins (Sacred and Edgerton Pink) a staggering 103 AED for a single G&T. The wine list was strong and priced fairly though, with big emphasis on Australian wines. James the Manager (and trained sommelier) was able to recommend some fantastic pairing options throughout the night.
For main, I went all out and tried the Lobster Thermidor. The chefs claim to use only the best seafood, and that looked evident by the size of the lobster – sadly though, it was slightly overcooked, chewy, lacked any real depth of flavour and wasn’t quite as enjoyable as it could have been. The wife had the Dover Sole – again, slightly overcooked, didn’t have that beautiful flakiness but at least the flavours were good. The sides though, were the biggest let down; the Thrice Cooked Potatoes that sounded A-M-A-Z-I-N-G on paper, missed any kind of crispiness and the Kale didn’t appear to contain any chili (again).
We finished with the Mango Cassonade, a delicious way to end the meal; the tart mango and passionfruit gel was offset brilliantly with the coconut sorbet. Very refreshing and highly recommended.
The service through the night was top-notch from James, who had been brought in from leading restaurants in London, however, some of the other staff let the side down. During our meal, our half-finished bottle of prosecco was given to another table by mistake, and it took them around 15 minutes to sort out what had happened – having initially been insistent that we’d finished the bottle and it had in fact, not been given away.
We got the bill at the end of the night and holy-moly it wasn’t cheap. Over 2000 AED for 2 mains, 2 starters, 2 sides, 1 dessert, a bottle of the cheaper prosecco and a G&T. It’s definitely a place that needs to be reserved for special occasions only.
FOOD: 9/15 – seemingly good produce with some pleasant dishes, but let down by some poor cooking and prep.
SERVICE: 10/15 – James was a 15/15 but interactions with other members of the team were significantly less impressive – especially when getting accused of lying about a bottle of wine being given to someone else!
DRINKS SELECTION: 4/5 – decent wine menu and a good mix of gins/cocktails, however a few of the gin choices weren’t available
AMBIANCE: 3/5 – tough to score. In the restaurant it was empty but the balcony was buzzing. As the balcony only accounts for around 15% of the entire restaurant, I worry for them. Perhaps summer will bring the punters inside.
DESIGN: 4/5 – gorgeous interiors and the an intelligently understated balcony to keep the attention to the fountains.
VALUE: 2/5 – some of the wine prices seemed fair, but rest of the drinks and the menu obviously have a huge mark-up on them, as I can’t imagine the rent in one of the most prestigious sites in Dubai to be cheap!
CONCLUSION: The Executive Chef, suitably-named Donovan Cooke is one of the leading chefs in Australia, so we were hoping for something special, particularly with prices competing with the top, high-end restaurants in the region (main courses 220 AED on average, starters 80 AED), but sadly, it didn’t quite reach the heights of expectation. Nothing was bad per se, but when you go to somewhere hoping for 9s and 10s, 6s & 7s don’t quite cut it.