Nick & Scott are true stalwarts of the Dubai cooking scene. Coming to prominence in 2010 from leading Verre by Gordon Ramsay – to opening Table 9 in 2011 – to working with Spinneys on a product line and having success with their casual dining concept, Taste Kitchen. They’re now back in the game after a short hiatus, with a beautiful new fine dining restaurant in the Madinat: folly.
There’s been lots of buzz about the restaurant in the local food community and we actually visited a few weeks prior for my birthday, but we could only get in for drinks. At a time where restaurants seem to be struggling with the increased competition and summer, it was great to see it being so busy. Whilst there that first time, one of the kind managers asked us if we wanted to go see their outside area – we were led outside, up some stairs and my word, what an absolutely stunning setting. There’s a small courtyard, a bar, comfy seating and views all across the Madinat. It’s really going to be the place to be when winter comes.
The wife and I headed down for a second time, to experience the brunch. Unfortunately, due to it being in the heart of Ramadan it was almost completely empty (despite still serving alcohol) which was a shame. There was only us and one other table of two in the restaurant, meaning there was no real atmosphere.
In terms of the aesthetics, it’s a very nicely designed restaurant. Faux-brickwork and a “living wall” house the furniture perfectly and the seats are comfortable. It’s quite a small restaurant inside, so you do tend to be quite close to the other tables, it’s not too intrusive as to be a major problem though.
The weekend lunch is a set menu and they have three different options for drinks as seen below:
The chicken liver parfait arrived, accompanied by the date chutney. I’m a sucker for a good parfait/pâté and this one did not disappoint. Creamy, rich with the tangy date chutney being the perfect combo served with some fresh, crusty, homemade bread – a winning start! What was appreciated, was their willingness to give extra bread as it doesn’t go far – after the third batch though, we realized we better stop or else we’d never get through the other 4 courses.
Next up, was the saffron pickled red mullet. The plating on this dish was tastefully modern, a colourful array of fresh ingredients, a delicious saffron-infused creme fraiche and the hero of the dish looking masterfully prepared – definitely the kind of dish you’d expect from one of the best kitchens in the country. It tasted just as good as it looked, the mullet beautifully fresh complimented superbly by all the subtle elements.
Radishes, sesame and soy arrive next and again, delectably plated. The radishes, skillfully prepared three ways with fresh daikon shoots and two interesting tahinis. It was another extremely cohesive dish and made us all the more excited for what magic they could do with the roast that was to follow.
Our tables were cleared and the wagyu roast was presented to us. It looked good, but lacked the “wow” visually of the previous dishes. It’s tough to follow when the starters were so impressive, it’s just a roast to me is big, bold, brash whereas this was a bit basic looking. The meat itself was cooked perfectly, juicy, medium rare and there was a nice quenelle of horseradish to compliment it. The Yorkshire puddings were well-executed as well, light and crispy – just how they should be. It was the other two sides that just missed the mark for me, one was a Chinese cabbage that was jarring in terms of the flavours and the roast potatoes were nothing special, I was expecting tantalizingly crisp ones coming from such a talented kitchen but they didn’t have the gnarliness they needed. The gravy though was spot-on, and both the wife and I had no issues with mopping up the remnants with our fingers.
To finish off, was Nick and Scott’s interpretation of strawberries and cream and I loved it. The wife funnily enough, wasn’t a big fan – finding it a little too rich, but perhaps my recent diet and lack of desserts in recent times made it all the more special! The sorbet was gorgeously tangy and smooth, the crispy pastry a delight and the chopped strawberry with that sickly, rich cream was heaven. Extremely calorific but extremely satisfying!
We settled the bill and left with full, happy stomachs. A very satisfying meal overall and we look forward to joining the team for dinner and experience the a la carte on a busier day.
FOOD: 13/15 – Some truly excellent dishes – only mildly let down by the main (7/10 instead of 9/10s like the rest of the meal)
SERVICE: 13/15 – Efficient, friendly, kept drinks topped up. The level you’d expect from a top restaurant. The only minor gripe being that at the end of the brunch, we were stared at a lot by the staff who obviously wanted to set up our table for dinner!
DRINKS SELECTION: 3/5 – Decent selection for a brunch, they have some amazing cocktails that are sadly not included though and I can’t remember the beer that was served with the brunch, but it wasn’t anything special.
AMBIANCE: 2.5/5 – Difficult to be fair here as it was empty, but the space is warm and we were in the middle of Ramadan.
DESIGN: 4/5 – Very modern, trendy design with some great features.
VALUE: 2.5/5 – I think some people would be a bit put off, with the basic drinks package coming in at a whopping 495AED pp for a set menu with no options and house beverages. Compared to other fine dining brunches I’ve been to the past (The Ivy been one of the best examples before sadly closing), you can get a lot more for your money elsewhere and have a choice of food.
CONCLUSION: An excellent example of a cohesive, tasting menu. An enjoyable afternoon was had by both of us. I think if they could perhaps offer a choice of mains and a better beer with the brunch (as well as a few more of their impressive cocktails), it could be a really winner for a special occasion. I’d be curious to go back and enjoy a brunch on their fabulous terrace.