The real Reform social club is in Pall Mall, London and first opened their doors in 1836. Founded by Sir William Molesworth, it is a wonderfully traditional private members’ club thathas rather stern and rigorous rules for becoming a member. One must be nominated by an existing distinguished member, and they require your application to be posted for onemonth on the notice board so other members can sign their approval.
It is so British that when I read this paragraph back to myself, I read it out loud in a Winston Churchill/Prince Phillip accent mash-up. It sounds glorious. I recommend itwholeheartedly.
However, The Reform Social Grill in The Lakes, Dubai is a little different. Sister restaurant to its namesake in The Mandeville Hotel, London, The Reform Social Grill was founded byGates Hospitality FZ-LLC in 2014, exactly 179 years later, to the day. Maybe.
When I called to see if there was a dress code I was asked to make sure I was wearing a top. “A top” I asked, “You mean like a collar?”
“No, sirma’am. A top – any top. You just need to wear a top” Came the answer. Sir Molesworth would be aghast in his grave.
Anyway, undeterred, I took the Serbian along to Reform Social Grill for a weekend breakfast. I was hoping it could be my new favourite breakfast place. I rather like the idea ofanswering phone calls on a Saturday morning, and saying things like, “No, old chap. I’m just at the Social, having a spot of breakfast,” in my best Churchill/Prince Phillip accent.
Back in the day, Saturday breakfast shifts were my favourite to work – there is something special about the weekend breakfast in a restaurant. It’s a new day, full of promise.Everything is clean from the night shift and when you put on that first brew of coffee, you are pressing the reset button on a long week.
Upon entering, I was nostalgically calmed. A half empty, quiet restaurant greeted us. A sleeping personality, resting, gathering its strength.
A couple in the corner, drinking coffee; a young family, feeding their baby in a high chair. A single man, reading a book, eating muesli and yogurt. The rustle of a newspaper, thescrape of a knife on toast. It was exactly as I remembered it. Even the manager was leaning against the empty bar, drinking her coffee, and happily chatting away to her staffpretending her day hadn’t started yet.
No rush, no stress, no drama. It was the restaurant equivalent of the extended triangle pose in yoga. Namaste, Reform Social, Namaste.
Such was my relaxed mood, I left the Serbian speechless (impressive, I know) by deviating from my usual, reliant, mainstay Eggs Benedict and ordering the Full English. Even thewaiter looked surprised, and he’s never met me before.
The Serbian ordered a Complete, which is eggs any style and coffee, OJ and toast. Typical, boring order, not like mine at all, which was exciting and different.
The menu is traditional English, and knowing what reputation the wet islanders have in the cooking department, this restaurant is obviously going for a very captive expat market ofthe Emaar residents.
And the residents should be happy that they have the quality of restaurant such as The Social on their doorstep. Because for a residential community restaurant, (which it really is,despite the name, cute fit out and the menu de jour options), it is not half bad. Certainly more than than the residents of Discovery Gardens or International City has on theirdoorstep! Arguably even better than The Palms’ local watering holes, although a friend just messaged me, raving about the Bidi Bondi Burgers, so perhaps I’m wrong.
Our coffees were good. My partner’s cappuccino had that fancy heart design in the foam. But you know what, I’m so over that. I want to see levitating sugar cubes. It’s harder tofind a bad cup of coffee than a good one in this town now.
My full English arrived with the usual suspects on a platter plate, beans, eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms and tomato and toast. All was perfectly edible and filled a hunger I hadsince I woke up. There was really nothing bad about it. It was a solid fry up. However, I hate to say it, but my old university house mate, Oshy, could have served exactly the same inour student house using a single hob and a microwave. But Oshy was a bit of a genius in the kitchen, so that’s kind of a compliment. I think.
Except, I would like to say that if you have the license to serve alcohol and pork on your menu, then you should take advantage of it. Chef Ryan Waddell should have the skills in hisrepertoire to produce a better-quality sausage rather than the store bought one that was served. A home-made artisan sausage perhaps, that would cause Sir Molesworth to twistthe tips of his walrus mustache in glee. May I suggest apple and sage sausage or vintage cheddar and onion sausage, for example. Oshy would have done it.
I had a quick look at their other menus, and they do everything I would expect. They do roasts, curry nights and afternoon teas. They do ploughmans’ and puddings, fish & chips andscotch eggs. They even have a Josper grill, which was a chef’s “must-have” toy, back in 2010. But they do cook a mean slab of meat if used properly. And if our breakfasts areanything to go by, they will probably be quite adequate and enjoyable.
Nevertheless, to summarize, The Social felt to me like an average gastro-Brit pub that lazy morning. However, I can imagine it as a rather good residential community restaurant,busy and lively with regular guests in the evening. It all depends on how you want to look at it. And remember, a well-run bar can hide a multitude of sins.
Now read all that again in your best Churchill/Prince Phillip accent.