Food writing is terrible when you have a constant battle with your weight. Since I began a year ago, I put on 10kg in a 6 month period. When stepping foot on the scales after Christmas, I knew I needed to do something about it, so I stopped weekday drinking and sought out healthy food on a lunchtime – thankfully, I’ve managed to lose most of it now. KCal are partially responsible for this, as I often order lunch from them – despite having issues with their “pre-cooked, microwave to order” philosophy. Some of their food is tasty though but it’s an ongoing mission to seek out viable, alternatives.
Eat Well is a restaurant that I’d not heard much about to say it’s only ten minutes away from my office in Business Bay. I’d noticed they’d started delivering healthy food via Deliveroo, so to save on my 7 AED delivery charge, I thought I’d venture out with a colleague to see how they compared to other healthy eating options out there.
It’s in a bit of a strange location as it’s housed in Dubai Herbal & Treatment Center in Zabeel 1. It’s not too difficult to get to by car, but with so many eateries in Business Bay and DIFC, I expect it’s a challenge to attract custom from outside of the Center, exacerbated by the fact it’s impossible to just walk to it from the nearby areas. There’s a few places like Tom & Serg and The Farm in Al Barari that have successfully attracted a myriad of people, even with an inconvenient location, so hopefully they can do the same.
The restaurant was almost deserted when we arrived, just one other diner was there at the time (and throughout our meal). The venue does have a nice, clean feel inside though and the design takes advantage of the stunning silhouettes of Downtown Dubai.
We were greeted with a smile by a member of the team and were presented with the menu:
As mentioned earlier, I’m on a quest to find healthy food alternatives to KCal, but I’m not necessarily down with “fads”. I do feel this whole “gluten-free” thing is way overdone globally, especially when there’s not much evidence out there to support that it’s in fact a healthier way of living (unless of course you’re suffering from an actual intolerance or coeliac disease), having said that, the menu looked attractive enough so I wouldn’t let this cloud my judgement – I was in a cafe, based in a homeopathy center after all!
After a few minutes of deliberation, we opted for the Beef Carpaccio and Raw Vegan Beetroot Ravioli for starters and the Sticky Salmon and Land and Sea for main courses, alongside a couple of herbal teas.
The first dishes arrived and I was pleasantly surprised! My expectations weren’t all that high from the cafe’s location and lack of buzz about it, but the food was splendidly presented – something you’d expect from a top restaurant – not one that seems like a subplot of an alternative health center.
The beef was wonderfully fresh, lightly seared on the edges and thought had gone into the textures, with a thin, gluten-free, crispy bread; crunchy radish and an expertly-cooked egg yolk that oozed deliciously over the plate when split open. Yes, the dish was missing some seasoning, but when you’re at a place dedicated to healthy eating, I don’t feel too bad about having to add the salt and pepper to my taste and the pots were provided on the table to enable you to do this.
I question the next dishes claim of being a “ravioli”, as it was just another carpaccio that was folded in half, but it was still a solid dish. A tangy, “faux creme” alongside the orange segments gave the dish some acidity with crunchy kale and a pine seed crumb adding texture alongside the raw beetroot.
The mains took a little longer than expected, but when the starters were strong, I wasn’t too bothered about having to wait the extra time – particularly if it meant that the dishes were to be as beautifully presented. I wasn’t disappointed:
One again, top, top marks for presentation. I’ve eaten at restaurants that charge two – even three times the amount for dishes like this and they haven’t managed to make them look as pretty.
My fellow diner prefers his steaks medium (boo) so the steak was a minor disappointment for me due to that, but it was cooked perfectly to order and was a high-quality, thick piece of tenderloin with a fresh chimichurri sauce. The shrimp were poached well and also tasted fresh. The biggest surprise was the “cassava frites”, I’ve never even heard of cassava before, but they were great (apparently it’s just another word for tapioca). Similar in taste to a turnip, they were a welcome addition to the plate.
The salmon dish truly wowed me. I love salmon and I’ve been to so many high-end restaurants, where I’ve paid around 120-150 AED for this as a main and they’ve not been able to get the skin like they did here, or plate it up so well – it was delectably crisp and was plated as if from a fine-dining restaurant; I wasn’t expecting such skilled chef-work in a health-food cafe on my lunch break. Once again, thought had gone into getting flavour balance and a tangy, avocado yuzu with the summer squash puree and pearl onions made the dish work.
We also ordered sweet potato fries on the side and they were fantastic, really crunchy and gnarly – I called over a member of the service team asking what the deal was, as there was no way that these deep-fried babies were in keeping with the healthy ethos of the place, “they’re air-fried, sir” – well, if these are the results you can produce in an air-fryer, then I am going to go pick one up!
I was feeling pretty full, but we decided to give their take on healthy dessert a go. I went for the summer berry tart, as I was intrigued to see how they could produce a gluten-free representation and my colleague had the brownie – packed with dates, quinoa and salted pineapple, I really didn’t like the sound of it!
In keeping with the rest of the meal, both dishes put a smile on my face. Yes, the tart wasn’t quite as crisp and thin as it would be with normal flour being used, but it was still extremely satisfying – fresh berries and a rich, chocolate ganache on top of the base worked ever-so-well. The brownie was surprisingly delicious as well, despite me not liking dates. The salt in the pineapple added a clever savoury element to the dish and the popped quinoa gave it a crunch.
It’s worth mentioning, that the friend who dined with me (who is a self-confessed, complete non-foodie) wasn’t as enthusiastic in his praise. He felt the dishes were all overly “fancy” and bland – which I can understand somewhat, but once a touch of salt and pepper was added, it brought some of the courses to life and it can be trickier to impart deep flavour to proteins, when you’re not using loads of salt and butter in the cooking or using rich, fatty sauces – I personally felt they did an excellent job and I didn’t misses added sugars or gluten at all.
We settled the bill and left – coming in at under 400 AED for two, three-course meals, a side of fries, two teas, a smoothie and a coffee I thought it was very reasonable indeed. I’m sure I’ll be visiting again!
FOOD: 13/15 – To say that all the food was gluten and sugar free, it was brilliant. All the dishes I tried were cooked extremely well and all had a lot of intelligent accompaniments. They have a talented chef who will go far in the industry if he keeps up the stirling work.
SERVICE: 11.5/15 – Friendly and efficient enough!
DRINKS SELECTION: 4/5 – They offer a strong selection of healthy juices, mocktails, smoothies, teas and coffee.
AMBIANCE: 2/5 – Sadly, the place was empty and there was no background music to cut through the silence.
DESIGN: 3/5 – Safe design for a healthy eating restaurant, but good use of floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the views.
VALUE: 4.5/5 – For the quality of ingredients and cooking, and being around 15-20 AED in price to the likes of KCal, the value is superb. I just hope that they can maintain the standards and can attract more customers to the restaurant.
CONCLUSION: A true hidden gem with remarkably high-quality, wholesome, well-priced food. Healthy fine dining! I genuinely hope they can improve the branding of the restaurant so it is seen in its own right, rather than a footnote to the successful Medical Center that houses it. They’ve got a good thing going, hopefully their non-central location will not be their downfall.