Ahhhh, The Scene.
My “local” back in the day of living in the Marina. It’s a place where I used to spent a lot of time, due to it being one of the only places in walking distance to provide craft beer, that I could sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy some homely, comfort food. The staff members and managers change more often than I change my underwear, the menu changes less often than Liverpool win the league title, it’s ridiculously expensive and yet, I still kinda like it. I’ve been lucky enough to eat and some of the top restaurants in the world, but you still can’t beat a can of Heinz Spaghetti and Sausage on a couple of slices of toasted Mighty White. It’s that kind of like.
So, despite my palette and possible (
probable, definite) snobbery developing over the course of the last year, from doing too much food writing and reviewing for my site and the magazine, I didn’t turn my nose up when invited by some good friends to celebrate a birthday. We arrived on a sunny, Saturday afternoon and the place was characteristically busy. It’s the type of place where groups of friends will meet up – armed with Entertainer vouchers and while away a weekend, catching up. And I don’t mind that at all – other than Reform and Irish Village (the airport one) there’s not many other place that tick this box so well.
I don’t normally comment on the drinks too much in my reviews, but I feel their Guinness is worth a special mention. Dear lord it’s terrible; watery, weak, bleurgh. Luckily, they stock a nice batch of Brew Dogs and a few other goodies on tap and in bottles, so the rest of the afternoon I was well-quenched.
On to the food! I’ve never tried the “Black Treacle Glazed Beef Cheek with Vegetable Gratin & Organic Kale” before, and with the roast dinners not eligible for Entertainer discount (boo-hiss-boo), this seemed a sensible choice alongside some “Cauliflower Cheese”. Beef Cheek is a dish that leans itself for slow cooking and it’s one of the cheapest cuts of meat there is, so how they can justify charging 155 AED is beyond me (77.50 AED with The Entertainer is more like it!).
I was lucky (I say lucky….) enough to be invited to a new menu tasting at JG’s Steakhouse in the St. Regis the last week, and they had slow-cooked short rib (another cut that should produce a similar, melty-in-the-mouthy, you-can-cut-it-with-a-forky piece of meat) but it was appallingly dry. It transpired after the meal that we had been given a load of food that wouldn’t actually be served to customers (why invite us to a tasting then?!), so there was no point in adding the review on the website – lucky for them. Thankfully, the dish from The Scene made up for the slow-cooked disappointment in a big way. The cheek was cooked to perfection, you only needed to stare at it aggressively enough for it to fall apart. The vegetable gratin with the kale worked together oh-so-well and the cauliflower cheese was beautifully cheesy and generous. My minor criticism was that I feel the gravy was missing just a little something (maybe a sprig of rosemary/thyme?) but it was still very good.
The wife ordered the Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas (the Fish & Chips from here is actually my cover photo on The EmirEATi Facebook Page – have some of that, fact-fans!). Although I will moan until I’m blue in the fact at the minuscule size of the dish for 109 AED, the wife enjoyed it, the batter nice and crispy and the chips fat and moreish. The unusual dish around the table, was the Beef Roast that my buddy had. It came as a fat chunk of meat that genuinely looked like it had been regurgitated and hand rolled into a meat slab – it was almost corned beef-like in texture. It was really strange. From a roast you expect a few slices of pink roast beef but none of us had a clue what this was. To be fair though, despite its unappealing visuals, it was really juicy and was finished off quite happily by my friend. I’d be interested to find out what it actually was though – anyone at The Scene know?
Overall, when you take into account The Entertainer discount, the meal came in at a reasonably good price (was around 400 AED for the two meals and three drinks each). Perhaps, knowing that a large proportion of guests use the vouchers, they’ve inflated the prices to cover this but despite the wife and I’s food being of good quality – we wouldn’t go there to pay full for either of the dishes. An enjoyable afternoon was had by all though and I’m sure I’ll be back in the not-too-distant-future.
FOOD: 12.5/15 – Both the wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our two dishes. Both were cooked excellently and the beef cheek was one of the best I’ve had.
SERVICE: 10/15 – Reasonably good, took one of our table’s orders wrong meaning that someone was left without food and had to come back a couple of times to reconfirm drinks selections, but overall they were friendly, the food came out at a decent pace and they kept the drinks well topped.
DRINKS SELECTION: 3.5/5 – They have a decent range of craft beers (although not as good as before, sadly) and gins. The table enjoyed the house wine offering but the Guinness needs sorting out.
AMBIANCE: 4.5/5 – Busy and bustling on a Saturday afternoon, filled with families enjoying their roasts in a warm setting with great views.
DESIGN: 4/5 – Feels like you’re in a nice pub in the UK and I like how they’ve separated the dining space from the bar area. I was a huge fan of the Beano when I was a young ‘un so it’s a nice blast-from-the-past to see them utilized in the design.
VALUE: 2.5/5 – It’s a tricky one to score, because without The Entertainer it would be scored very low. However, taking into account that they are in there and the food was good it gets an extra mark.
TOTAL: 37/50 – It’s definitely a place tailored to western expats (especially Brits) who want to feel like their home. The food is very British and people with more eclectic tastes, will probably find their offering a little too “British”. Having said that, I’m British and I can appreciate what it does – and it does it pretty well. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a solid place that I’m sure will continue to flourish, despite some of its flaws. Make sure you’re armed with the Entertainer so you don’t need to take out a second mortgage on the food!
I know this place divides opinion amongst my friends, so let me know what you think over on the Facebook page! Thanks for reading!