After coming off the back of writing a review on one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in a while (TOMO), it is with regret that I now have to write a critique on one of the most dreadful eateries I’ve ever had the displeasure of eating in.
Let’s wind things back a few weeks and I’ll tell you an interesting (subject to debate) anecdote relating to La Môme. One of my best buddies who joins me on some of my reviews sent me this via Facebook messenger:
It’s very rare I’ll have somebody reach out to me to NOT visit a restaurant, so I was very intrigued to do a bit more research. That evening, I’m at an event and get talking to a very pleasant gentleman. We discuss what we do and he mentions how he is running the marketing for a few restaurants in Dubai and I should come pay them a visit to review,
“Oh great! Which restaurants?”
“Well, we’ve just started managing a restaurant called La Môme……”
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
I pulled out my phone and brought up the message from my friend. He looked back at me astonished and told me I HAD to come visit as it was simply not true, so I agreed.
6 weeks later, the wife and I with @atozaatar and hubs went and paid it a visit on a Friday night for a dinner. We arrived at the restaurant at about 8pm where we were led to a table with great views overlooking Sheikh Zayed Road right the way out to La Mer.
The decor of the place is pretty poor – it’s obviously not been done on a high budget – think blatantly-fake brick walls with embarrassingly bad corner joints and an ugly, unfinished ceiling. The seating is comfortable enough though and the tables afford enough space to enjoy courses without feeling overly cramped.
The restaurant is supposed to be “fine-dining” with a smart dress-code, so it was a surprise to see the staff wearing t-shirts and trainers and one of the only other diners in the restaurant wearing shorts. I asked about the dress-code and apparently, the staff are “still waiting for our uniforms to arrive and these are just temporary” (quite surprising seen as though they’ve had time to bloody print La Môme on the back of the tees).
We received the drinks menus shortly after being seated – I was presented with the wine menu which I passed to my fellow diners. I looked through the standard drinks menu that was also brought over and selected a beer. Astonishingly, my fellow diners ordered a bottle of Oyster Bay which is not a particularly bad wine, but at a fine dining restaurant? What are you doing guys! It was then when they told me that they didn’t have many wines on the menu (no French ones!) so they picked the best out of a bad bunch. I didn’t believe this, so I requested the wine menu again – this time, we were brought the real wine menu which contained all their different bottles – frustrating as by the time this had been discovered, they’d already started on their bottle. Obviously, the wrong menu had been brought out initially.
We had a quick look through the food menu which unfurled another big issue the restaurant has. It’s evident that La Môme has some serious budget constraints, as the drinks menus are printed on notebooks bought from Paperchase and the main menu is just a mess of typos, printed cheaply and incoherent. It’s not clear where the mains start and the starters end some of the prices are eye-watering.
We selected the cold meat platter to start as we had to see what 165 AED worth of scallops looks like. We were also brought some fresh bread. The bread was tasty enough, annoyingly, they brought it over with a pot of “peel your own lid off” butter that I think had been frozen to absolute zero before arrival.Throughout the evening, we’d get down to about 3/4 slices of bread left, where the bowl would be removed and replaced with a fresh one. After the third time of this happening, I asked where the leftover bread was going, “We throw it away!” our server replied. I already hate food wastage over here, so it really grinds my gears to hear that they’re just flagrantly throwing perfectly good food away.
The cold meat platter arrived and was tasty enough – it didn’t come with any sauces, so we asked for some mustard which improved things significantly. I’m pretty sure it was all just bought from a deli counter, but it was enjoyed by us all. Think hams, salamis and pepperoni.
The 165 AED scallops though. Wow. 4 scallops on the plate, with not really much else going on, other than a bland sauce and garnish. Well cooked, but very gritty. Pretty scandalous that a kitchen can’t clean scallops properly at 165 AED a pop.
The food so far had come out at a pretty rapid pace and we were soon filling up on the bread and the two meat platters (we were advised to get two, but one would have been enough for the table *sigh*), so we asked for a short break of 15-20 minutes before starting to cook the main courses.
I opted for the duck, Courtney chose the chicken, Nic (my wife) chose the fish and Eric (Courtney’s hubs) went for the steak. Hilariously, when we asked what dish was their “signature”, we were told “meatloaf” – you know, that French classic?
In our obscene (close to an hour) wait for our mains (yes, yes, I know, I know, we did ask them to give us a break – not a holiday though), it allowed us to make a few more observations in the restaurant.
Firstly, one couple walked into the restaurant, waited at the entrance for a while, received no greeting whatsoever, waited some more, then just walked out. For a restaurant with staff numbers doubling customers, it’s inexcusable.
Secondly, it’s apparent that the staff just haven’t received any proper training whatsoever – our server was pleasant enough but unable to answer the most basic of questions. A prime example, I asked her “what wine do you suggest I have with the duck?” – I was hoping for them to recommend a nice glass of Pinot Noir or something, but instead, it prompted a twenty-minute meeting in the kitchen, where we could see staff rifling through the menu in sheer panic at what to suggest. She eventually came back and said, “we only have the two house wines by the glass”. I tried them both and they were utterly ghastly. I looked at the menu and did notice a few more bottles that they served by the glass, but all were “unavailable”.
After frustration at the lack of good wine options and service, we decided to get a glass of Veuve Cliquot to cheer us up. In a fine dining restaurant, you want to see what you’re drinking so it was frustrating for them to just bring the drinks over and not pour them at the table – one of the glasses was pretty flat but the other was nice and bubbly, because of the bad service so far, we all had our doubts at whether the glasses had been poured fresh from the bottle – something that could have easily been alleviated by doing what they should have.
Around 5 minutes before we were served, Nic’s salt-baked fish was presented to the table. It looked fantastic in the baked crust and we were looking forward to receiving the final dish. Finally, a bit of “fine-dining” showmanship!
The dishes arrived and initially didn’t look too bad. We were a little surprised to see how small Nic’s fish was by the time it has been prepared, but it looked to have been filleted well. My duck looked a little fatty but Eric’s steak looked decent enough – cooked as requested. Courtney’s chicken was the only plate that looked like an actual “dish”, with other ingredients on the plate other than the chicken.
I think upon seeing the food in front of us, we realised that they don’t serve enough actual dishes. It’s so basic in the sense of “you order a protein and that’s all you get”. Where is the love of pairing ingredients? Where is the pride in serving delicious French sauces? I don’t want to just order a protein and some sides from a menu like I’m at Frankie & Benny’s or a steakhouse.
Going around the table, the fish was very disappointing. It contained absolutely no flavour of the salt it was cooked in and had an unappetizing fishy taste to it, indicating it wasn’t very fresh. My duck was an absolute disaster. The fat wasn’t rendered at all, it was a bit grey in the middle, completely underseasoned and worst of all, tasted old. Eric’s steak as mentioned before was well-cooked but massively under-seasoned. The only dish that I’d rate above average was the chicken as it had a decent flavour and was moist in the middle, Courtney still found it bland and disappointing though.
We had a few sides with the mains and these didn’t fare any better. The dauphinoise potatoes sounded an absolute winner, but were again, under-seasoned and very, very bland. The green beans were horribly overcooked and mushy (seriously, what kitchen can’t even cook green beans?!), the fries had been stuffed in a pot and were therefore naturally steamed and soggy and the peppercorn sauce that came for the steak was just ok, it just tasted like it could have come from a bottle in all honesty.
After we’d gotten through as much of our poor mains as we could, the server came over and asked how it was. We told her straight that we were pretty disappointed and she tried her best to fight back to us and insisted on bringing the chef over, but we declined. We said we’d speak to the restaurant manager, but apparently, he wasn’t working that night. What fine-dining restaurant, serving seriously expensive food, has a manager who can’t be bothered showing up to a service on a Friday night, when it should be their busiest night? I honestly think whoever is in charge has given up.
A rep from the hotel who covers the whole F&B came up and spoke to us, normally, Courtney and I will have a few bits of constructive advice to help the restaurant improve (and we can proudly say that a majority of the time, small changes get made based on our advice!), but on this occasion I said that the restaurant felt like a lost cause and my main feedback was to shut down the restaurant completely and start from scratch with a new concept. Seriously, it was that bad.
It turns out that the company who brought it out here and attracted Leonardo Di Caprio in its heyday, gave up the lease recently and now the hotel is running it – it’s severely suffering from a lack of leadership and it needs to be addressed promptly or it’ll be gone in weeks – not even months.
We declined the option for dessert and left in a hurry, before the feedback got back to the kitchen; all four of us vowing to never return.
FOOD: 3/15 – Everything under-seasoned, produce didn’t taste fresh, unrendered duck, I could go on. When the best dish is something that’s been thrown on a plate from a packet, you know we have a problem.
SERVICE: 4.5/15 – They tried, but were completely out of their depth to be serving in a fine-dining restaurant, poor menu knowledge, gave out wrong menus initially, nobody knew about the wines and the mains took far too long to arrive. Stop throwing perfectly good bread in the bin as well.
DRINKS SELECTION: 1.5/5 – When we got the correct menus, it looked an above-average selection – shame none of it was available! The house wine was abysmal.
AMBIANCE: 2/5 – The restaurant had one set of diners dining at the same time of us and one couple sat down just as we were leaving. There was a singer going around the bar, but she didn’t really captivate us. The views are nice though?
DESIGN: 2/5 – So, so cheaply fitted out. The fake wall looked horrendous and the ceiling just looks like it was forgotten about. The layout was ok though.
VALUE: 1/5 – It was pretty dreadful across the board so there’s no way it offers any decent value for money.
TOTAL: 14/50 – An absolute disaster. I’ve never seen a restaurant fail so badly in so many different areas. There is no way in its current form it is going to survive with places like LPM and La Serre around, so they need to do something drastic and do it fast.