Il Borro is one of those new restaurants creating a real buzz in the air at present. Nominated for several regional awards in its first year and received warmly by some of my prominent foodie contemporaries, I was very excited to go check it out for the first time.
The food is Tuscan-themed as opposed to your standard Italian fare. Tuscan food I’d say is more homely and simple that standard Italian cuisine; it doesn’t rely on complicated cooking methods and showcases simple, fresh ingredients such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, fungi and breads. This is demonstrated across the menu, although you can still get the standard pizzas and pastas you’d find at most Italian restaurants.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted kindly and they accommodated our request for a table of 4 without a reservation…….eventually. At the time we arrived (around 7:30pm), the restaurant was pretty quiet so it was a bit confusing as to why we had to wait a short while to see if there were any tables free – but in all fairness, an hour into our dinner, the dining room was packed.
The interiors are classy and elegant – a couple of beautiful olive trees stand out among the predominant white theme. Seating is pleasant on the bum and as a whole, it’s a beautiful setting to enjoy some Mediterranean cuisine.
We opted to give the starters a miss and went straight to the main course, having eaten some snacks earlier in the evening. I chose the delicious-sounding potato gnocchi, snow crab, chili, garlic and basil (yeah, in hindsight I should have picked something more quintessentially Tuscan – my bad). The wife and dad (who came with my mum to Dubai to surprise me for my birthday – YAY!) selected the tagliatelle, with shredded, slow cooked beef sauce (the restaurant providing a gluten-free option for my father who is a coeliac) and finally, my mum selected the roasted lamb shank.
The dishes arrived and mine looked very tasty. A plump piece of crab, sat on top of some fluffy gnocchi in a rich-looking sauce. I jabbed my knife through the crab, scooped it up alongside a piece of gnocchi with my fork, submerged it in the sauce and took my first bite.
It was absolutely ghastly.
The crab was horrendously overcooked; a chewy, fishy disgrace of seafood. It tasted literally rotten –
like it had been frozen and refrozen and left to sit in the Tuscan sun for a few hours. It was about as detached from the beautiful fresh ingredients of Tuscany as you could get. The only thing that I believe may have been Tuscan about the dish was the sauce; sadly, I think it was because they’d taken some stagnant water out of the River Arno – thrown some cheap vegetables in it and made a tepid, peppery, confused, mish-mash of jarring-flavoured broth. The gnocchi was good though?
The course was so bad, that I didn’t eat another bite and was now sat with my beer, feeling pretty nauseated. I was with my parents and due to the fact that they hate me complaining in restaurants, I kept shtum – hoping that the waitstaff would notice that I’d barely touched my dish and give themselves the opportunity to correct it, but alas nothing. It was removed from my table with a smile once everyone else had finished.
Thankfully, due to generous portion sizes I was treated to the leftovers of my mum’s lamb shank and it was excellent – the slow-cooked lamb melted in the mouth and the jus was glistening, thick and very moreish. I also sampled my wife’s tagliatelle and again, the slow-cooking ensured the beef was succulent, juicy and the pasta gorgeously al dente. They can obviously cook and cook well, so it was astonishing to receive such a terrible dish previously.
As mentioned before, my dad had the gluten-free pasta and proclaimed that it was the best gluten-free pasta he’d ever tasted, it was great to see the restaurant accommodating for this increasing trend (for medical and person reasons) so big tick there.
As it was my birthday weekend, they brought over a scrumptious chocolate cake with a sugary crisp, complete with an amusing candle that kept sparking back into life once extinguished, how fun! It was very tasty and all 3 of the gluten eaters enjoyed it (sorry dad!).
It’s a tough one to review really. By the time we’d left the restaurant it was packed; the atmosphere was buzzing, groups of people were enjoying their evening meals, everyone on my table but me enjoyed their food and I enjoyed everyone else’s food but mine!
FOOD: 7/15 – One absolutely dreadful dish was saved by the rest of the tables’ dishes hitting the mark – I feel like I’m being very generous though.
SERVICE: 11/15 – A bit precious when we said we’d not made a reservation and would have expected them to notice that I barely touched my dish, but overall the service was friendly, polite and efficient. They catered for my father’s dietary requirements and the birthday cake was a nice gesture.
DRINKS SELECTION: 4/5 – A few interesting beers (one crap beer, the 32 Curmi priced at 248 AED – ha – check out it’s reviews online) and a decent wine list!
AMBIANCE: 5/5 – By the time we got into the service it was full with a great buzz in the air, emanating from a happy, boisterous, multicultural crowd.
DESIGN: 4/5 – Subtle elegance with beautiful touches of the olive trees
VALUE: 2/5 – Very expensive for a restaurant that sells cuisine that’s usually made from cheaper ingredients – and the produce we tasted wasn’t of an amazing quality (the crab was awful, and it’s not tough to put any old meat in a slow cooker to make it tender)
CONCLUSION: A pretty solid all round restaurant let down for me heavily by my one disaster of a dish – usually after such a sickening experience, I’d never return, but I saw enough to think that it might have been a glitch and Il Borro could genuinely be the real deal – the public and my peers think so!