For the last few months, I’ve heard a lot of positive rumblings in the foodie-community about this obscurely-positioned, arty-cafe that has opened up near the Science Park in Barsha South. After a failed attempt to visit Mall of the Emirates (we couldn’t even park!), we thought we’d cut our losses and try to restore some happiness in the afternoon.
Although initially, it appears to be in a ludicrous location, it’s actually genius. Strategically positioned in between about 5 schools, I’m certain it’s packed every morning and afternoon during the week from mommas and poppas dropping and picking up their bundles of joy.
It was 3pm on a Friday so we were expecting to get straight in, but even at that time, there was a ten-minute wait to get into the main area of the restaurant. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the seating is outside (it means it’s dog friendly, though – woop) where it was far too hot to perch and when the afternoon sun is beating down, even sitting by the windows is a bit of a mission. I hope the lack of seating doesn’t affect things too adversely heading deeper into summer.
We finally got downstairs and were handed some charmingly-scruffy menus from one of the jolly hosting team. Sections of the menu are crossed out, things are added – handwritten back on, it’s all very cute and kitsch.
The menu’s succinctness appealed to the wife and I straight away. Dubai loves menus with 20 pages of everything under the sun, in a desperate attempt to appeal to E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y, but Cabin sticks to a few ingredients, cleverly used across various dishes in different ways. This means you can have a little more faith that 1) the ingredients are fresh and 2) there’s someone at the helm who actually understands how to run a profitable kitchen in a country with notoriously high-overheads. The food sounded delicious too, and after deliberation, I gave the wagyu burger a try and the wife the chilli prawn tacos.
We ordered a couple of coffees that came quickly and the wife treated us to two shots of this ridiculously gingery lemony substance. It was absolutely vile but perked us up from the failed shopping expedition. If you go to Cabin with a cold, I’d advise giving one a go!
The interiors are very shabby-chic, with deliberately exposed walls complemented by pieces of artwork for sale, comfortable booths and an open kitchen where you can sit on some fun toadstool-looking barstools and watch the chefs at work. It definitely feels that you’re in a cool Melbourne suburb rather than the middle of an underdeveloped desert area next to a science park! Throughout the afternoon, chefs and servers would leave the kitchen area and work on a huge canvas that was taking up almost a full wall in front of us.
The food arrived around 15/20 minutes later:
I was initially a little disappointed at the size of the burger and the “thrown together” side salad. At 60 AED a pop, it’s certainly not cheap and having recently been back home to Yorkshire and seen what a tenner’s worth of burger gets you, it was a bit underwhelming. The taste though was amazing. The burger was moist, juicy, beautifully seasoned, the cheese sharp and punchy and the bun fresh and bouncy. The “spuds” were also (I believe) cooked in duck fat and were deliciously crispy and naughty. Even the flat looking salad had a lovely dressing that rounded off the whole dish nicely. Admittedly, I was still a little hungry after though.
The wife couldn’t fault her dish. Plump, juicy, well-cooked prawns, a hit of chilli, a tangy salsa, a bit of greenery, what’s not to love?
Whilst eating dinner, we saw a few people walking around with ice-creams and neither of us could resist, so we both finished off with a vanilla gelato cone, topped off with a flake. Again, a little pricey at 25 AED but it was a bit more grown up and decadent that your typical ’99 cone from the ice-cream van.
All in all, despite the 262 AED dent in the wallet, we loved every mouthful of the food and will definitely be back to try breakfast and bring the pooch when the weather gets better.
FOOD: 14/15 – We loved every bite. Everything is made with love with appropriate seasoning and the well-sourced proteins all taste fresh and delicious.
SERVICE: 12/15 – We kinda felt a little “left to float around” when there were no tables, but food came in a timely manner and all the staff were friendly and polite.
DRINKS SELECTION: 4.5/5 – Although the menu is quite short, they have a good coffee, tea and juice selection and you can even get an alcohol-free, Asahi “larger” (sic) if you want!
AMBIENCE: 4.5/5 – The cafe was full downstairs and there was a good buzz with enjoyable, easy-listening music played throughout our visit.
DESIGN: 3.5/5 – It’s not going to win any awards, but has a great vibe and a refreshing lack of pretention.
VALUE: 3.5/5 – I feel a couple of the items were a little steep (60 AED for the small burger, 25 AED for an ice-cream cone), but in all honesty, if they’re serving food this tasty, I’ll suck it up.
TOTAL: 42/50 – A great addition to Dubai’s strong cafe-scene! Well worth a venture out.