The recently opened Renaissance Hotel Downtown splurged all their influencer budget on one influencer – Gwen Stefani. She gave a stellar, high energy, exclusive performance to those lucky enough to get an invite to the grand opening. It was an experience for the ages – not to be forgotten and never to be repeated.
As a special treat, I took The Serb along – not to the concert, but to David Myers’s new restaurant Bleu Blanc. Three days after Gwen performed. Just as impressive, right?
The street entrance is a pair of gorgeous azure blue doors that in the months to come will dominate Instagram accompanied by appropriate hashtags like #bleudoorsforever or #bleudoorsarelife.
Inside the small foyer are the elevator and a few pieces of furniture that set the scene for what is happening above.
Stepping out of the elevator, we walked into a friendly, but very enthusiastic hostess who perhaps had one too many espressos during the staff briefing. She bounced her way across the restaurant, past the bar on the left and got us seated, before sprinting off to tackle the next person who came out of the elevator.
Bleu Blanc’s menu is inspired by the magnificent cuisine of Provençe, a region in the south of France that benefits from warm, dry Mediterranean summers, mild winters and an abundance of sunshine. Similar to Dubai then.
Chef David Myers is known for being a bit of a global wanderer – his insatiable curiosity takes him across the world, assimilating cultures and cuisines like some gastronomic Terminator. Typically, his menus are a smorgasbord of different flavours and dishes that he has collected on his travels. However, with Bleu Blanc, he has understood the simplicity of the food, keeping the flavours elegant and simple and focusing on quality ingredients and cooking techniques.
This wonderful cuisine is all housed in a farmhouse inspired restaurant – At Bleu Blanc, residential cabinetry become service stations, and kitchen islands become wine displays. The homely fireplace is transformed into a wood-fired grill, and the open kitchen is so open, you could walk in and taste the Bouillabaisse bubbling away on the stovetop. The lights flicker and twinkle across the room, and guests sit at rustic-ish wooden tables, with checkered fabric cushions and slightly mismatched chinaware. It is a like a French farmhouse but in a really pretty, ‘Good Homes’ magazine type of way – the type of farmhouse where Mary Berry would bake a Tarte Tatin. It is elegant and refined, classic yet modern.
The food menu is amazingly concise and lives on just two beautifully printed pages, neatly presented in a deep blue menu folder #bleumenufoldersarelife. I love menus that are rich, tactile and textured – such a big impact for such a subtle touchpoint.
The service was lovely, with enthusiastic, genuinely friendly and well-trained staff. Obviously, they didn’t go for complete authenticity on the staffing, although a lot of them were from Provençe, just a province of South Africa, that’s all. They were all chatty and seemed proud to represent Myers’s latest restaurant. It was refreshing to see such pride.
I ordered their cocktail of the night – the Penicillin. As it was placed in front of me, the waiter joked that it would take away all my pain, while seemingly nodding at The Serb. He’s lucky she was busy checking the menu for burgers; otherwise, no amount of Penicillin would have saved us!
Strangely, BB doesn’t open the table with bread – being a French farmhouse; you would think they proudly serve up some homemade crusty loaf with a hand churned salted butter. However, they have decided to pimp up the bread and stick them on the menu under their own section. With their own pricing. We ordered the heirloom tomato tart, with goat’s cheese and Taggiasca olives.
We also went with the salt baked beets with pine nuts and kale, and the polenta croquettes with smoked veal bacon for starters.
I convinced the Serb that farmhouses in Southern France don’t typically serve up wagyu burgers with melted cheddar, onions, and fries. She grunted and chose the roasted baby chicken with yogurt and zaatar instead. I took a long sip of Penicillin. We also ordered the charred King prawns with chili and herb oil.
I asked our server if we had ordered enough and she raised her eyebrows, exhaled slowly, and informed us we had ordered a lot, but we should enjoy it. Perhaps she had French ancestry.
The room had some air-conditioning balance problems – it was far too cold. Throughout the evening, the chefs camped round the wood-fired grill at every opportunity they could, rubbing their arms, stamping their feet, telling each other campfire stories. I think I even saw one chef loading a marshmallow onto a stick before he was called back to the passé to plate up for table 12.
As guests wandered in, the restaurant managers offered to show them around, like it was an open house, with guests shaking every chef’s hand as they walked past the kitchen. There is going to be a lot of hand washing in that kitchen, I think. Or signs will be put up, saying “please don’t shake the chefs.”
Our starters arrived in quick succession and were placed in the center of the table. First, I tried the tomato and goats cheese tart. The tomatoes were semi-dried in the oven, allowing their flavour and sweetness to intensify. The goat’s cheese was mild, meaning the sweet and fruity aromas of the Taggiasca olives shined through. The tart base was light and moist with a slight chew to it. A great first bite.
Although arguably Italian in origin, the polenta croquettes were beautifully fried to a deep golden crisp, while allowing the filling to remain soft and piping hot. The saltiness of the veal cut through the smoothness of the polenta, making this an excellent interpretation of a rustic food.
I always regret ordering beet salads, as they are typically all the same in every restaurant. BB’s salt baked beets were not any different, unfortunately. Salt baked doesn’t mean salty – the beet segments were soft, but firm, sitting on a bed of sweet burrata style cream. It was a pleasant dish, but, for me, beet salads are kind of like avocado toast at this point.
Three large grilled king prawns arrived, and I refused to allow the waitress to serve me directly, preferring to show off to The Serb that I could use a spoon and fork one-handed, as a pair of tongs, like a foodie MacGyver. She watched silently, as I dropped the first shrimp onto my plate, spraying my shirt with flecks of chili oil. I took another sip of Penicillin.
The baby chicken was served spatchcock, with a gently charred skin, topped with a shaved fennel and cauliflower zaatar yogurt. Both were excellent – there were clearly some skills behind the grill cook – working with an open flame can be difficult, but both the king prawns and chicken were cooked perfectly, and the simple flavours enhanced the meat.
Bleu Blanc might have opened late in 2017, but I think they’re going to have a very strong 2018, once they can afford to pay for a few more influencers again.
The service is friendly, grounded and natural, the space is elegant and homely, and the food is delicious and straightforward. Overall, a very special experience – I don’t know what else you could ask for.
While you see if you can get a reservation there, I’m off to paint my doors blue.
Bleu Blanc by David Myers
The Renaissance DownTown Dubai
Dinner for two – 556 AED