When Gordon Ramsay announced he was returning to Dubai last year, this time with Bread Street Kitchen, foodies began to buzz with anticipation. The BSK concept is a Ramsay brand with outposts in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, and the location in Dubai is respectable – but it isn’t exactly what got so many of us excited when Ramsay announced his return.
The venue, buried in the massive Atlantis The Palm hotel, is more like a sprawling canteen that resembles something you would find in a Disney theme park. The goal of Ramsay’s restaurant group was to bring a relaxed, casual concept to the emirate – not a fine-dining one – and they have succeeded – except that the price point is a tad high, in keeping with its five-star surrounds.
The restaurant can seat more than 400 people and is anything but intimate. Tourists and families abound, adding even more to the amusement-park vibe. The terrace offers cosier seating, but the heat forbids us from even stepping outside for a look.
When we went on a Monday night, the dining room was more than half full – a good sign. The amber glow throughout the space warms it up, but the lighting does feel too bright – even for a casual space. The open kitchen is a nice focal point, though, letting you watch the chefs at work.
The service started out well. Our waiter was friendly, confident and had impressive knowledge of the menu, enough to elicit a compliment from us. He didn’t hesitate to offer recommendations when we wavered between options.
We started with a quartet of sweet scallops that were nicely paired with a smooth sweetcorn purÃ©e. The menu said the scallops came with chicken skin, but there was no sign of the skin. The scallops themselves were overdone and rubbery – a glaring oversight in a Ramsay restaurant – would the celebrity chef have let these scallops off the pass in Hell’s Kitchen? I don’t think so.
We liked our appetiser-sized tagliolini better and devoured the chunks of fresh (though slightly chewy) lobster, mixed with spring onions and mildly spicy chillies that added a bit of heat and a layer of interest.
Sadly, the beef Wellington that Ramsay is so famous for is only available for sharing at a whopping Dh545 (though on Wellington Wednesdays, you can get individual portions of the beef with truffle mash for Dh300 per person from 8pm to 11pm. And that includes select house beverages). We opted instead for sea bream and braised beef. The sea bream, underseasoned and flavourless, disappointed. We also needed a steak knife — and muscles — to cut through it. While steaming keeps this dish healthy and can hold in flavour, this just wasn’t executed well. Surprisingly, it was served skin-on. When it’s crispy, fish skin is hard to resist. But when fish is steamed – and the skin can’t crisp up – that skin is better left in the rubbish bin.
We were much happier with the braised featherblade beef topped with creamed wild mushrooms. It was perfectly cooked, tender, rich and juicy … everything you expect to find in a Ramsay dish. Our only complaint was the star-anise carrot purÃ©e this beef was served with. While tasty, it was too sweet, didn’t pair well and detracted from this otherwise outstanding dish.
Service started fading as the meal wore on. It took the better part of 20 minutes to get someone to take our dessert order. We felt our table for two got lost in the crowd of tourists rambling around the restaurant.
Our spirits perked up when dessert finally arrived – and it was worth waiting for. The banana sticky-toffee pudding looked simple at best, but looks can be deceiving. The simply plated square was perfectly moist, drowning in heavenly muscovado caramel sauce. Paired with a generous dollop of rich clotted cream, it is a must-order. The unassuming cylindrical vanilla cheesecake also impressed with soft, creamy cheese set atop a thin, crusty layer reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie straight out of your grandmother’s oven.
I’m intrigued enough to come back and explore the rest of Bread Street Kitchen’s menu. I do find this casual eatery – brought here by one of the greatest chefs of our time – a refreshing break from over-the-top, refined establishments that suck the fun out of dining out as soon as you step through the door. But I want a little more from Ramsay’s team – I want to believe that every dish coming out of the kitchen meets Ramsay’s notoriously high standards. Right now, I’m not convinced that’s true.
• Our meal for two at Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay in Atlantis The Palm cost Dh613. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito
Source: art & life