Restaurants have changed haven’t they? I remember when the man in command of the kitchen used to wear the tallest hat protecting plates from loose hairs whilst showingsuperiority of his position. Now it seems that the man responsible for the kitchen doesn’t have to wear any hat at all, while everyone else does. Furthermore, it seems in the caseof Pots, Pans & Boards, the more hair and beard, the better.
I blame TV and media. You don’t see Gordon Ramsey or Ferran Adrià wearing a hat when they are cooking away. Chefs are the new rockstars, and it causes havoc with lighting andmake up if a pesky hygiene requirement gets in the way of that.
However, perhaps I am being over sensitive, seeing as I just recovered from an international bout of food poisoning and am now convinced I can see e-coli and salmonella oneverything I put in my mouth.
Nevertheless, honestly, if you have been put in charge of a kitchen, and especially a kitchen of Tom Aikens caliber, you really should be wearing a hat as a mandatory. Lead byexample, and at least show some respect to your customers and their health.
Imagine a surgeon not wearing scrubs or a hair net whilst performing your surgery. Me, before falling asleep, “Hey, the doctor didn’t wash his hands, and he’s not wearing anyscrubs, is that hygienic?”
Nurse – “It’s OK, Sir; the doctor was featured in Surgeons Weekly –he’s pretty famous. Sleep now.”
So, anyway, on with the review. Pots, Pans & Boards, which will now immediately be shorted to PP&B, is a new British import from two star Michelin chef Tom Aiken. For avisual idea, Tom is the culinary equivalent of Ed Sheeran and just as talented, but in a kitchen, rather than behind a guitar, obviously. PP&B is his latest international venture and isoperated by Meraas with a location at the end of The Beach, JBR. I also worry about those restaurants, because I can’t imagine business is particularly brisk in the height of thesummer; but then I remember they are their own landlords and subsequently I don’t feel so bad.
PP&B is exactly what it says on the tin. The décor is pots and pans and boards and the food is served in pots and pans and boards. However,that is not as bad as it might soundbecause the interior is actually pretty decent. They have excellent seating zones, from banquettes to booths, to large party tables to window tables for two. It is well-designed anduses the space rather admirably.
The flow of the restaurant is natural and organic, and it has one of the most intimate open kitchens I have seen (hence the extra need for the Chef to wear a hat).Overstocked pantry and kitchen shelves are used as room dividers and it all works rather well.
The waitress very carefully explained to us that PP&B was a sharing restaurant concept, and the food came out when it was ready. I did my best to look surprised and act as if thiswas a very foreign and utterly exhilarating proposal, and definitely not one copied by every new restaurant without fail for the last five years.
However, I think serving staff should now tell you if the food is going to be served together instead. That would be a cause for real surprise.
“Sir, this restaurant adopts a rather traditional policy which means all the food will arrive together, and in the order that you placed it in. I do hope that’s ok with you.”
The menu is an influence of Mediterranean, French and British cooking, with dishes such as short ribs, salmon, crab cakes, beef tartare and mac & cheese.
The Serb wanted to order healthy, so we started off with the panzanella salad and the buratta salad (as long as it has salad in the name, we’re good). Our health drive wentdownhill fast, with the triple fried chips and the ice cream to finish. “If you share it, there are no calories.”
The buratta salad was a solid dish – excellent use of several different varietals of tomato, from black prince to green zebra (I’m not making those names up; they exist!)bringing some nice subtlety and flavours to the dish, sorry, pot.
The panzanella dish was always going to be a tricky one. When you are selling a peasant dish designed to make use of stale bread, it is invariably risky. The risk is that you serve adish that is soggy, without flavour and is, well, stale. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. The tomatoes were powerless against the taste of the anchovies and overly oily peppers.Not a great dish, unfortunately and would benefit from some more work on either the recipe or execution.
The three times fried chips should have been called what they really were; almost perfect roast potatoes. Big chunky wedges of potato served in an, erm, pot. They were excellentin the sense of their crispy crust and perfectly cooked center, but I could feel my veins thickening as the excess oil seeped down my chin with every bite.
“What did you expect with three times fried?” asked the Serb, and I hate it when she raises a valid point. However, they were belting chips nonetheless, and possibly the best I’vehad in Dubai.
The ice cream was ice cream; cold, chocolate flavoured and creamy and the only surprising thing about it was it was served in a bowl; not a pot or a pan.
PP&B is a difficult restaurant to sum up. It is part hipster, part family, part serious and part relaxed. It is difficult to put into a box, and although I wasn’t wowed by any of the menu,I know that two dishes out of twenty don’t make a final verdict and i certainly didn’t leave disappointed.
I’ll tell you what else I know; Dubai is getting spoilt for choice when it comes to decent casual dining options. The usual suspects of the franchised casual restaurants need to takeheed of this new breed – because they’re here, they’re getting better and better and they don’t wear hats.