The Pangolin Dubai is a new restaurant in the Els Sports Club, in Sports City. The restaurant is named after the Pangolin, which is basically an anteater in an Ironman suit. When threatened, they can roll into a defensive ball and emit a noxious-smelling acid from their glands. In fairness, I also do that when threatened.
Pangolin restaurant, according to the sign above the door, is a “Colonial inspired dining destination.” I raised a skeptical eyebrow to this. Although I am sure they are using Colonial in reference to their décor, I find it odd that a restaurant would want to be linked to such a word at all.
However, the interior space of the restaurant is beautifully designed – lots of rattan, beige fabrics, bleached wood, exotic foliage and ceiling fans. There is a terrace that overlooks a turquoise blue pool. It is laid back and casual, yet with enough sophistication to be able to level up to a more premium dining room.
There are hints of Africa all over the dining room, through both the décor, the menu and the artwork. There is a Biltong and cheese room and they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We aimed to get there for lunch, but due to some internal comms issues between the Serb and I, we arrived far too early and decided on breakfast instead.
As the hostess led us to our table, we walked past a little gated creche, a nice example of how Pangolin aims to be part of the local residential community. However, I told the Serb that it was a petting zoo for rescued Pangolins. She ignored me.
The Pangolin is headed up by F&B team Troy Payne and Sergio Lopez. The two of them seem to have built a solid partnership and you can feel the sense of ownership and passion in what they are trying to achieve. More importantly, they seem to be having fun with this project too.
Chef Troy Payne is regularly linked to Greg Malouf, having worked alongside him for many years. However, with this menu, it’s about time for his name to stand alone on its own merit, such is the quality, thought and craft that has gone into each dish.
There aren’t many chefs in the city who are combining flavour, ingredients and texture along with scratch cooking like Troy is at the moment. The menu is brave and exciting and if you follow Troy on social media, you know he is curious, experimental and extremely passionate about ingredients and provenance.
We sat by a window overlooking the terrace and pool and after looking around for a while, the Serb announced that it would have been nice if they had giraffes that you could feed croissants to through the window.
The Pangolin’s breakfast menu is expansive and daring with each dish sounding better than the one before it – dishes like iron pot baked egg custard with boerewors and hot smoked salmon with pull apart bread soldiers and caperberry mascarpone. There is no stand out cuisine that Troy has anchored his culinary direction to, rather he seems to be experimenting with bold and unusual flavours and technique.
The Serb ordered the silky sous vide omelette and I ordered the poached eggs on crumpet with wilted greens and smoked beef rib.
The sous vide omelette was a fun re-invention of a classic – eggs slow cooked in a water bath, served on a crispy sour dough toast, and topped with a sharp cherry tomato salsa. The sous vide bath gave the eggs a super soft, smooth texture, that contrasted nicely against the crunch of the sourdough.
My crumpet arrived, and it got very awkward with the three of us at the table. The Serb was not happy.
My crumpet arrived, one half topped with spinach and the other with pulled short rib and then topped with two medium soft poached eggs. A couple of observations – the crumpet was quite thin, and the spinach was quite wet. This meant I was left with half a soggy crumpet, and let’s be honest, no one likes a soggy crumpet. The pulled short rib was delicious, and the eggs cooked perfectly. The biltong infused hollandaise sauce was a triumph and would be right at home on restaurant menus across Camps Bay and Clifton.
Because we had missed lunch, we decided to order some more food. The Serb ordered the pancakes, just in case the giraffes stopped by and I added a sticky fig bun with roasted banana butter and whey caramel.
The pancakes were served with a blueberry marshmallow square and it wasn’t personally my favourite dish. I felt the texture of the marshmallow did nothing to elevate the dish, although the Serb didn’t have a bad thing to say about it.
My sticky fig bun was moreish. It was a warm, sticky, chewy, sweet, delicious invention and the banana butter and caramel flavours were on point.
The Pangolin restaurant is just the start of a larger lifestyle destination project that Serg and Troy have embarked on, and if this experience is anything to go by, it’s going to be a lekker location for the local community. Especially when the giraffes arrive.
NB:- The Pangolin are unfortunately an endangered species and a % of the restaurant profits will go to supporting them.