Two and a half years ago, I started on a journey to experience restaurants and create helpful, credible and entertaining reviews.  I gave myself a few self-imposed rules to follow, without exception. I would always review independently, anonymously and fairly.  I would never get on my high horse and belittle, embarrass or berate.  This was not an egocentric mission to blast the smallest of errors but to give the restaurant a genuine summary of their performance.  Every review I write has two audiences – one is the consumer who wants to learn about the restaurant and be entertained at the same time.  The other is the restaurants themselves.  I try to offer genuine advice and feedback with each review, with the hope that FoodSheikh can play a small part in helping the industry raise its standards – one restaurant at a time.

I have reached a milestone in my journey – I have just finished my 100th review.  It may not seem a lot – especially against the thousands of restaurants in Dubai, but for me it is significant, because each review is a story in itself – one thousand words of research, knowledge, and narrative.  It is a portfolio I am proud of, and I am grateful for all the people I have met along the way.

I’ve developed a significant audience across all my platforms.  It’s not the biggest audience, but they are intelligent, engaged and supportive and I wouldn’t swap them for anything.  Every review is read thousands of times, reaching into the hundreds of thousands in totality, if you include everyone who clicks through from other platforms as well.

Here are a few highlights from one hundred restaurant reviews

The Ingredients (serves 100 restaurants):-lily-lvnatikk-540998

52,560 Aed – Amount spent on restaurant bills alone.  No alcohol included.
451 – Number of dishes eaten.
116 Aed – Average dish price.
525 Aed – Average Check (for two)
3 hours – the time it takes to write a review
5 hours – the time it takes to research for a review.
13% – % of restaurants reviewed that have since closed.



Methodology/What I’ve learned.

I can count the great restaurants on one hand. The rest fit into a mosh pit of mediocracy.  Originality cannot be celebrated enough.  You can tell how committed or passionate the owner is within 3 minutes of walking into a place.  The art of the table touch is dead.  Only 18% of reviews had a meaningful table touch by a manager or supervisor.  Genuine hospitality is still an issue in F&B service.  Avocados, so many avocados.  Most restaurants are 40% too big.  Bread quality is mediocre.  Foodies can spot an influencer fluff piece a mile away.  Nothing is as important as overall experience.  Facebook is the blogger’s frenemy.  Restauranteurs trump hoteliers when it comes to F&B, hands down.  Ingredients maketh meal.  The word authentic is overused and misunderstood.  Some PR companies don’t truly understand restaurants.  Celebrity Chefs will have to work harder.  Restaurants are obsessed with escapism.  Always tip in cash.  Eating out is expensive.

What year are we in?  Is this 1903?  Pepsico is creating snacks exclusively designed for women.  I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast where the CEO of Pepsico (who is female) claims that women don’t want their Doritos to crunch “too loudly”, they don’t like licking their fingers in public, and they want to be able to carry their snacks in their purses.  Apparently, Pepsico is getting ready to launch several lady specific snack ranges very soon.  The backlash in the media has been swift and brutal.  #ladydoritos.   I’m assuming women would like equal pay, not crunchless crisps!

I feel like we’ve taken an enormous step backward and this got me thinking, the F&B industry has a terrible misconception of women – for all our advances in technology and ingredient trends, food provenance, and ethical farming, it is embarrassing how the industry communicates with the female audience, even in Dubai.

Reese Witherspoon created a film company which came out with some pretty big hits, amongst them are Big Little Lies and Gone Girl.  She created this company with the desire to create films that not only have female characters in them, but that have female leads that are mysterious, deep, confusing, brave, controversial… all the things that a regular woman is.  Why can’t we communicate to all the nuances of the female gender instead of assuming all she wants is pink, sparkles and unicorns?

Almost twenty-five years ago, back in 1994, a company called Six Continents asked the question, “how do we make the British pub more accessible to women?” Surprisingly, they asked a bunch of women, and the answers were simple and effective.  Improve the bathrooms.  Put hooks under the bar counter for scarfs, jackets and handbags.  Provide more comfortable seating.  Improve the food.  Have lots of windows so you can see the atmosphere before walking in.  Ban all football shirts, to eliminate “tribes” and conflict.  These are pragmatic, respectful and obvious considerations and in hindsight apply to both genders.  This is how All Bar One was born.

Fast forward quarter of a century and we seem to have gotten worse.  How restaurants talk to their female customers is downright embarrassing at times.  I’ve seen many ads that have gentrified the eating experience, or the food, or the ambiance, to attempt to appeal to a female audience. The thing is, women are far more nuanced than needing to gentrify anything.

Traditional steakhouses trying to appeal to the female audience use tag-lines “Not your daddy’s steakhouse.”  Really?

They use adverts that highlight the legs and lips of the women who are supposedly the restaurant’s target customers.  If anything stimulates a woman’s appetite for a piece of meat, it’s seeing another woman being treated like one.

Restaurants give cocktails names like “French Kiss” or “Pink Elegance” because those will clearly make their female audience feel cute and sexy and asking a bartender for a French Kiss is totally not awkward.   It gives the term “switch and bait” a whole new meaning!

Dubai’s ladies’ nights probably allow for the best/worst examples.  Close-ups of women’s lips, pictures of red lipstick, handbags and high-heels adorn most of the promotional flyers.  Three free drinks and discounted food seems to be what the entire market has agreed it will take for women to act as bait for men to visit a venue.  Bonus points for pink champagne and super sweet cocktails.

Check out a few of these real ladies night names.

Lipstick Ladies. Gossip Sundays.  Leave Your Boyfriend At Home.  Pink Elephant.  One for the Girls.  12-inch Tuesdays.  Friends with Benefits.  Pin Up.  Lost Angels.  Mile High Club.  Sparkle in the Sand.  Go, Geisha.  Her Night.  Dollified.  Boom Boom.  Berries and Bubbles.  Miss Independent.  Lady Liberty. Guilt-Free Ladies Night.  Ladies on Top.

Come on Dubai – can’t we do better than demeaning names and free pink drinks?


If a British artist decided to open a café and build it, largely by himself, in some obscure space, in some unknown neighbourhood, then that is what Cabin would be.

Which is funny, because that’s exactly what happened.

Food and art is not a new thing – not by a long shot.  Food has always played a role in art.  Even Stone Age cave painters used vegetable juice and animal fats in their paints.  Going even further back, when More Café first opened, they used their walls as a canvas for local artists.  Some might even say the combination of food and art has been a little overdone.


However, Jonny Gent is a legit artist – his work has been shown in galleries and exhibitions worldwide.  Serious art collectors seek out his work.  He has been featured in globally recognized publications.  He gets inspiration from cool stuff like books, music, food, gardens, castles, cars and the way his dad shaves.  He has also just opened a café in Barsha South.  I have no idea why, but I’m glad he did.

Cabin is an indoor/outdoor, upstairs/downstairs kind of place.  It’s quirky, amateur and unpolished.  It is clearly a labour of love for Gent.  The patio is encased by a large untreated plywood fence.  If you look up, there are ripped strips of bedsheets that provide somewhat unequal shading for diners.  If you look down, there is rough concrete flooring and dusty plants.  It is as if my dad had built it over a long weekend.

Naked Man

The patio is actually on an incline, so nothing is quite straight.  If the chef serves anything round, he’ll be in trouble, as it is likely to roll off the plate and into Barsha South.  Peas, melon balls, meatballs, grapes, cherry tomatoes – these are all off limits to the chef.  It must be difficult to work with such culinary restrictions.

Inside is a narrow-elevated corridor that is home to a curated selection of arty stuff.  Notepads, pens, books, small naked men, etc.  All of it is available for purchase.

The actual café is down a short flight of stairs where the kitchen shares the room with several large American style booths.  There is, of course, art on the walls, although I didn’t see the Warhol or the Hirst that are apparently on display there.  However, I wouldn’t know Picasso’s Pomegranates from Munch’s sunflowers if they hit me in the face.  The room is like a studio – it is functional, quirky and welcoming.  It is also a little rough around the edges.  The extraction doesn’t get rid of the stronger smells, and seating efficiency is terrible.  The décor is an extension of Jonny’s personality, once would assume.  It is charming and unpretentious.

IMG_1327They hand out complimentary carafes of mineral water infused with long strips of cucumber, which is a nice touch and should be recognised.  However, ice would have also been a nice touch, as the carafe got quite warm in the sun, and warm cucumber water is not particularly refreshing.

The service is laid back but good – friendly, accessible staff, clearly empowered and respected by the management there.  They are happy to engage in conversation and seem to know many of the customers and their dogs too.  (Guests brought their dogs with them – they weren’t just asking after people’s dogs, randomly.)

We ordered the broccoli and bulgur wheat and the grilled cheese sandwich.  The Serb very nearly had the cheeseburger, but has recently watched some Netflix food program and has decided she doesn’t want to eat meat for a while.  She ordered the chicken Caesar salad instead.  I know.caesar salad

They brought us some sliced bread with a quarter of a demitasse worth of butter.  I see in older reviews the bread used to come with cherry tomatoes as well, but for reasons I’ve already explained, they have had to replace them with a ratatouille of some sort.  Probably.

The menu is elevated café food – it’s tight, with just a few options covering a single page, but with enough variety to satiate most dietary requests.

The chicken Caesar salad arrived with big chunks of rustic croutons and a well-balanced dressing.  The chicken was ridiculously tender and juicy as if it had lived its entire life submerged in some delicious moisturizer bath.  The egg was also perfectly cooked to soft medium as well.  Good job all round on the poultry!

wheat brocoli

The broccoli and bulgur wheat arrived looking like it was waiting for something else to join it on the plate.  An odd presentation style, but a well-constructed dish.  The broccoli was slightly charred and had a hint of spice to it.  The bulgur wheat was well cooked, and its softness found a harmony against the bite of the pomegranate and broccoli.  My only comment would be that the avocado puree did nothing for the dish. It was there because it was avocado, and for me, served no other purpose.

The grilled cheese sandwich is filled with cheddar and taleggio cheese, sweetened with a tomato jam and sealed with a parmesan crust.  The different flavour profiles of the cheese were good, but drowned out a little by the overly sweet tomato jam.  The key to any sandwich is balance. Nothing should be overpowering.


We ordered the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.  It looks nothing like what I saw on their Instagram account and was a bit of a disappointment.  It was cold in the middle, and quite dry, not very sticky and was more of a cupcake than a pudding.

For someone who, one day put down his paintbrush and opened a restaurant, Jonny Gent has done a remarkable job.  It is a work in progress, and I think with every piece of feedback given, Cabin will get better and better.  I look forward to watching their journey.




Al Barsha South
Lunch for two – 210 AED
Cabin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This is a risky review for me, personally.  Even as I type this, I am being watched by an over-protective Serb who is reading every word I write, in case I irk her fellow countrymen over my interpretation of her cuisine.  They say 21 grams is the weight of the human soul.  I might be 21 grams lighter, if I get this review wrong.

IMG_1149121 Grams is an urban Balkan bistro.  The Balkans is the collective term for a bunch of countries, whose relationship status would be “it’s complicated” if they were on Facebook.  It is basically South East Europe.

21 Grams is a cute little modern-day Kafana or tavern, run by a Serbian, and I must tell you, the Serbs know Kafanas.  From the 200-year-old tavern, with just a “?” for a name, to the intimate, smoky Smokvica, the Serbs have understood bistros for generations.

We arrived at the new Park Regis Boutique hotel and found 21 Grams just off the lobby on the right-hand side.  21 Grams is an intimate little place with seating for thirty.  Technically. In reality, it feels much smaller than that.  The place was full when we arrived just after lunch.  I believe that’s the future of restaurants here in Dubai – smaller, more intimate dining rooms, which are easier to fill and have lower rent costs.

We needed a table for four people, and our host, in true Serbian fashion, told a single diner enjoying his coffee to move outside so that we could sit at his table. I felt a little bad, but he didn’t seem to mind, and I’ve learned not to question Serbian decisions too much.

We sat down and had a look around.  It didn’t take long.  It’s a single room, with quaint little sidewalk tables around its perimeter and a larger communal table in the center. There is a service counter in one corner for the bakery items, coffee, and discussions of revolutions.  The room is pleasant, with millennial peaches, residential rugs, bookcases and intimate corner tables and chairs.  It is simple, charming and very natural.


The place was full of Slavic speaking customers, chatting, relaxing and contemplating whether they should re-join the outside world anytime soon.

Our server handed us each a menu, but we didn’t need one.  The Serb had known what we were going to eat before we had even woken up that morning.  She rattled off our order before we could say ‘ajde.’

We had the mezze to start, which consisted of Kajmak, Ajvar, and Urnebes, which are all dips and not IKEA’s latest bedroom range.  We also had a shopska salad as well.  The trio of dips arrived in quenelles on a terrazzo disc and the shopska in a quaint little side bowl.

Kajmak is one of the most famous of Balkan exports – it’s like a clotted cream cheese, rich, creamy and perfect on warm, crusty chunks of bread.  Their ajvar is a sweet, bell pepper and eggplant relish, creamy red in colour, with a deep, layered smokey flavour, perfect on warm crusty chunks of bread.  The final dip we ordered is the spicy Urnebes, which literally translates to ‘mess.’  It is a cheese, paprika and chili flake spread, confusingly classified as a salad in the Balkans.  It is perfect on warm crusty chunks of bread. The shopska salad was diced cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and onions under a mound of salty feta cheese.  Fresh, lively and filling.


Balkan food is naturally eclectic and diverse, thanks to the vast amount of (sometimes) unwanted influences the region has experienced throughout the ages.  From the Romans to the Turks, to the Italians and Germans, the cuisine of the region has benefitted enormously from these influences.

In fact, Balkan cuisine might be one of the world’s most versatile, with flavours and ingredients that are recognizable to many different cultures.  Yet, it is a food that is grounded, almost soulful – preferring simplicity and accessibility over sophistication and fancy.  The Serb wants you to know I am not writing this under duress.

cabbageOur mains were the grilled cevapi, or kebabs, the sarma, the slow cooked lamb and the spring salad.  After the success of the starters, we were looking forward to the mains. Unfortunately, we were made to wait a long time.  I was worried that by the time we got the mains, the Balkans would have formed new international borders with Europe.

They have just opened, so it was clearly a teething issue, but waiting 45 minutes really disrupts the energy and flow of an experience.  However, it did mean we were able to listen to the Balkan’s entire collection of Starogradska Muzika, the traditional folk music, or old city music.  It was surprisingly pleasant.

The mains were cleaner, more polished versions of what I was expecting.  The food is very humble in origin, but 21 Gram’s interpretations elevate them to a much more premium level. The portions were lighter than usual and showed a real understanding of the Jumeirah market.

The cevapi, six little minced beef kebabs, are seasoned and grilled and served with urnebes, onions, and peppers.  A simple, nostalgic dish, with bright flavours and quality meat.

The sarma is sour cabbage rolls, stuffed with seasoned ground beef and sour cream, in a sweet tomato and bell pepper sauce.  The sharpness of the pickled cabbage cut through the umami of the beef, creating a wonderfully balanced, flavourful dish.

lambThe slow cooked lamb was a triumph – tender lamb roll cooked in milk, served with a horseradish sauce and sweet, soft poached apples.  The flavours married perfectly together, creating a delightful harmony.  The lamb was so soft it fell apart like Novak in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

The service would be my only gripe – friendly enough, but not particularly attentive with a few breakdowns in standards.  However, they are newly opened and are for sure still finding their feet.  I’m sure they will improve.

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 21 Grams is a place you should visit – the food is relatable and delicious, and the dining room is personal and charming. Congrats to Stasha and Chef Uros for bringing a little bit of Balkan soul to the city.




21 Grams – Balkan Urban Bistro
Park Regis Boutique Hotel
Umm Suqeim 3
04 349 0744
Lunch for 4 – 501 AED


21 Grams - Urban Balkan Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The new year hasn’t even got started, and Zahira restaurant at The H Hotel has already closed their doors, after trading for just seven short months.  Two hundred and fifteen days was all it took for the owners to cut their losses and turn off the lights.  That’s like getting a divorce during your honeymoon.

I have walked through a few closed restaurants myself, always with grief and sad reflection.  Where there was once laughter and life and happiness, there is just silence.  Where there was once good food and drinks being enjoyed every day, there is nothing but emptiness.  The restaurant team scattered into the wind, each one of them responsible for finding work that will support their families.  It is a surprisingly emotional event – someone’s hopes, dreams, and savings extinguished.

Zahira was a venue with a dream kitchen team, a slick, well-designed restaurant, and a quite delightful menu, conceived and cooked by none other than Chef Greg Malouf – the “Godfather” of Middle Eastern cooking.  This restaurant should have had a waiting list weeks long.  The food was critically acclaimed and boasted perhaps the best hummus and Ouzi in town.  Greg himself was cooking alongside his talented and trusted head chef, Troy, six nights a week.  The pricing point was excellent, and the bar had some decent bottles behind it.  Alas, after suffering a torrid summer and seeing no upturn in business over the remainder of the year, the writing was on the wall.  In capslock.

Having read the online social and trade commentary about the Zahira closing, and understanding a little of the history of the restaurant, some interesting things became apparent.

The first thing is that the Dubai F&B industry is a close-knit community, despite everyone ferociously fighting for the same diminishing dirham.  When a new place opens, industry colleagues pass by, partly to have a nosey and check out the “new place” but mainly to support and congratulate their industry peers.

Similarly, when a place closes, there is an outpouring of condolences and support, as if a dear friend had passed away.  For the most part, there is a real integrity and mutual respect for what every restauranteur is trying to achieve out here.  It’s these little things, in moments like this, that make me proud to be associated with this industry.

Additionally, the strong empathetic reaction is not just because Greg is a popular chef and personality, but also because every restaurant owner and chef know they could easily become the next Zahira restaurant.  Closure is just a bad weekend away for some operators – that is the reality, unfortunately.

Another thing I realised is how easy it is to perform a back-seat autopsy and claim the closure was because of this or that.  Poor management, an undefined concept, lack of marketing strategy – there are hundreds of reasons why restaurants fail, and it’s easy to throw the blame around when it’s all done and dusted.

The astonishing part and this is what impresses me the most, is the desire to do it all over again.  Reflect, learn (find new investors) and stand back up, again and again.

The very best traits of this industry are its persistence and resilience and eternal optimism.

Zahira might have been the first casualty of 2018, but unfortunately, it won’t be the last.  Yes, the challenges are there, and this is not an attempt to sugar coat them.  The industry is approaching breaking point; rents are crippling, food costs are soaring, disposable income is decreasing, and yet there is hope.  There is determination, and for the very best, for the ones who will win, there is strategy and discipline and a commitment to excellence.

In a market that is softening faster than my soufflé cheesecake, it is remarkable that restauranteurs are still hungry for good locations and opportunities, and ways to serve food experiences that bring joy to the city.

I wish each of us the same resilience and optimism, and the very best for 2018.

DIFC is terrible for providing directions.  The only destinations they want people to know about are their gate numbers.  I’m looking for BB restaurant, and unless I need to board a flight to get there, I don’t need to know what my gate number is.  They’re located at gate eight by the way.

Also, I have no issue with staring at a little “you are here” icon on an information board to orientate myself, although I know DIFC are not going for the whole startled tourist look.  People in DIFC are meant to know exactly where they are going and how to get there at all times.

BB Terrace

BB Social Dining is the latest restaurant to try their luck at the promised DIFC gold mine.  However, with over 60 restaurants open already, and a few recent high-profile closures, there is no guarantee that DIFC will provide a home run for BB Social Dining.

If you are in a wheelchair, heels or simply ate too many mince pies over Christmas, then BB Social Dining is not going to be very social for you.  There are multiple floors, with tiny spiral staircases and lots of awkward steps, nooks, and crannies.  There are also at least three entrances, on three separate levels, not counting the option of bursting through the terrace foliage in sheer desperation of trying to get in.  The space used to be an art gallery – perhaps they closed down because no one could figure out how to get the art out of the shop, once purchased.

Anyway, the staff seemed young, fit and spritely, and I’m sure by their six-month probation, they will all have the lower body definition of an Olympic weightlifter.


Despite my jest, the place is quite eclectic and the awkwardness I speak of only adds to the character and charm.  There is a quaintness to the décor, a humble nostalgia with black and white flooring and small grandmother curtains on brass rods at the windows.  Yet, the mustard yellow cushions and the steel blue brickwork give the space enough eclecticism to bring it into the modern age.

BB’s tagline is “social dining” which, thanks to the intimacy of the dining rooms, means you have no choice but to be social.  The concept also has a touch of self-indulgence about it.  In their own words, BB boasts of giving the guests a “sense of freedom to design their own experiences based on single-plate meals.”  That’s simply called a menu in all other restaurants.

Speaking of the menu, it is heavily influenced by the East, with bao, bites, bowls, and BBQ as the main sections.  Rumour has it that this is the menu they will serve at the next ASEAN summit.  It’s a rumour I made up.  There are Baos from China, Phos from Vietnam, Ramens from Japan and Brussel Sprouts from, err Santa Claus.  The menu is very inclusive, and unless you are a paleo fruitarian, there is going to find something you like.  If you are actually a paleo fruitarian, I have a number you can call.


Having not been out for a meal for quite some time, The Serb and I ordered with gusto, enthusiasm, and carefree abandon.  We ordered the butterfish, cauliflower popcorn, chicken pho, crispy leaf potato, Kung Fu wings, crispy duck bao, short ribs bao, and two glasses of water.

The server was helpful, encouraging and knew his way around the menu.  His stamina seemed excellent, running up and down those stairs, but after the seventh dish he brought to the table, he did need to have five minutes on the oxygen tank they keep in the corner.  OK, that’s not entirely true – they don’t have a oxygen tank.

The butterfish was a sashimi dish – six slender gold coins of Japanese butterfish resting in a tangy dressing, topped with finely sliced white asparagus spears.  It had hints of early days OKKU quality; it was that good.


The popcorn cauliflower was moreish by itself, but the accompanying truffle mayo/dip was far too overpowering and turned the cauliflower into a tasteless vessel for truffle cream, unfortunately.

Both baos were great – not entirely authentic, but certainly addictive.  The duck bun with its lime hoisin sauce was better than the short rib, which we found quite chewy with a slightly odd flavour to it.  Both had generous fillings.

The chicken wings had the right balance of sweetness from the honey, and punch from the chili.  They were very sticky, slightly spicy and topped with coriander leaf that acts as a spice time-out for your mouth.


David Chang once wrote that the Vietnamese pho was the future of noodles, and I think BB might be onto an early trend here.  Their chicken pho was a great starting point – the broth was a little one dimensional, but the build of the bowl was good.  It was hot and salty, it was umami and heat, it had texture from the sprouts, and the coriander and mint offered freshness and respite.  A good effort on a dish that often lives in the shadows of the ramen.

By the time we had finished our food, our server looked rested and recovered, so we sent him off again for some dessert – a fry pan brownie with raspberry marshmallows, ice cream, and toffee caramel.  It was good, but then again, I haven’t had a bad brownie since… nevermind.

A home-grown concept from some former Zuma folk, BB Social Dining is a casual, inclusive little restaurant that’s big on personality.  With its multiple levels, cute European terraces and decent Asian inspired food, BB is worth visiting, especially if you’re between gates 8 and 10 of DIFC.



BB Social Dining
DIFC Gate 8
04 4074444
Dinner for 2 – 487.30 (pre VAT)
BB Social Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hello!  It’s fast approaching Christmas and I wanted to share with you my top five Christmas gifts that I will be giving to people that I don’t really spend that much time with.  They are five pieces of equipment that are usually found in commercial kitchens but are incredibly useful at home too.

If you’re looking for a super practical Christmas gift that will score you zero affection points, then read on.

Restaurants need just three things from their kitchen operating equipment. They need to be durable, functional and inexpensive, and I like all three of those in my Christmas gifts.  That I give, not receive.

1. Bench Scraper

Otherwise known as a Bench Knife, is one of my favourite tools to keep around the kitchen. As you can see from the pictures, it can be used for a bunch of things, such as portioning dough, scraping clean work counters, decorating cakes, picking up large quantities of chopped onions and stuff, and cutting large amounts of errm, white powder.  About 50 AED

Bench Scraper with ruler
Bench Scraper and White Powder








2.Plastic squeeze bottles

Standard issue in restaurants, these squeeze bottles are really cheap and really useful. I keep things like cooking oils, sauces, dressings, and honey in mine, decanted from the larger bottles. They are kept close to the cooker and are super convenient and keep things clean. Sometimes I suck honey straight from the nozzle like a sugar-crazed hamster. About 50 AED for a pack of six

The Boy Band of Squeeze Bottles










None of these fancy tongs with silicon tips and non-slip grips. These tongs are made tough and are uber functional. Although they come with a closing pin, their natural resting position is a sensible 30-degree angle, and they make a wonderful clacking sound when you use them. They can be used for pulling pans out of the oven, turning pieces of meat and fish over or flipping roast potatoes without burning your fingerprints off. You can also spin them round your middle finger like a gunslinger. About 130 AED

No Nonsense Tongs







4.Stainless Steel Prep Bowl

Multi-functional and highly durable, this prep bowl can be used to collect food prep waste, helping keep your counter clean. They can hold ingredients ready for mixing. You can mix sauces or dressings in them, or you can marinade meat or wash vegetables in them. You can also eat a full box Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of them at 4 in the morning. Highly versatile and highly recommended. About 10 – 15 AED each

prep bowls
The multipurpose Prep Bowl








5.Half Sheet Pan (with rack)

This perfectly sized stainless-steel baking tray can be used for so many different things. You can lay out your chocolate covered strawberries on them, or you can use it for roasting vegetables or making your homemade hipster granola. You can turn it over and use it as a pizza peel, or put the insert in and it becomes a cooling tray or a perfect rack to cook a Sunday roast.  About 150 AED

sheet pan cooling rack sheet pan sheetpan dinner










The prices I have given are based on what I could find online, on professional trade websites.  They are ballpark figures only and are subject to change.  Try visiting a trade warehouse here in Dubai for better prices and products than retail.  Al Difaya Trading in Al Quoz Courtyard has a pretty good stock of kitchen stuff.

Merry Christmas and let me know if there are any other must-have items.  Like the automatic omelet sausage maker.

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.

BB Invoice


Bleu Blanc by David Myers
The Renaissance DownTown Dubai
04 5125533
Dinner for two – 556 AED

Bleu Blanc By David Myers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jumeirah Beach Road, in Jumeirah One was always the link to Dubai’s heritage and a magnet for expat pioneers.  It is home to three malls that blazed a trail for the rest of them – The Jumeirah Beach Center, The Village Mall, and Palm Strip Mall.  It is home to one of the first and perhaps only remaining Magrudy’s bookstores, and expat favourite Spinneys is still operating there too.  There is the Marine Club too, and back in the day, between The One and IKEA, your villa was guaranteed to look exactly like everyone else’s.


Fifteen years ago, Jumeirah One was the center of now.  Life didn’t get much better.  Large milky cappuccinos with an imported copy of HELLO! magazine, pilates with Sergio followed by a manicure and a carrot cake from Lime Tree Café.  Bring back the Naughties!

Imagine my surprise when I heard that a new café, Society Café and Lounge had just opened, right in the heart of this land that time forgot.  Didn’t they know this was protected land?  A living time capsule of how people used to exist – before Deliveroo and WhatsApp allowed us to stop talking to one another.  Before Amazon bought Souq and Netflix meant we would never have to leave the house.  Where was their sense of respect for the past? What the heck were they trying to pull here?  You want to open a brand-new café or restaurant, go up to JLT or talk to Meraas.

Anyway, it’s open now, and there is nothing we can do about it.  Except go and have a look at what all the fuss is about.

It turns out – Society is pretty good.  There’s a convenient parking lot out front, and you walk immediately into an open, airy glass conservatory.  On a brisk November morning, it is a wonderful, light, spacious room, but I fear for it under the intense summer sun – air conditioning is no match for midday sun through sheets of slightly curved glass.


Society is what I call an Instacafe – which, in hindsight, is a terrible name as it sounds like a freeze-dried coffee brand.

Society is a direct reflection of the Instagram age – it is a chic, attractive space, with subtle touches of glamour throughout.  It has been conceived with a careful eye on angles, natural lighting, and neutral colours.  Blurred backgrounds are abundant, as are neutral marble table tops and pastel coloured stoneware plates and bowls – every Instagrammers favourite things.

In the middle of the conservatory, there is a pastry display where they have trapped croissants and pastry specimens under massive glass bell jars, like some gastronomic laboratory experiment.

The place was full when we arrived, which is a good sign for restaurant boss Darrell Guest and his investors.  With his help, we nabbed the only table left and had a look through the menu.


The menu is solid – it is a robust café menu, with some excellent options.  Breakfast, eggs, salads, burgers, larger plates, and desserts.  Chef Jarek is clearly going for recognizable comfort food over pushing culinary boundaries, and he is absolutely right to.

The acoustics are not so great in the conservatory, and with the background noise reverberating off every hard surface, I was worried about the integrity of the pastry samples.  They might be compromised.

The Serb’s mother is in town and speaks no English, so it’s always fun to watch the server do his best table talk, to what looks like a highly engaged customer, who, in reality, hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about.

We ordered the baked eggs and the avocado toast (guess who ordered that) with some cappuccinos and a flat white.  The Mother Serb was asked how she wanted her baked eggs, and she smiled and nodded.  I asked for mine soft.

As soon as the waiter went to punch our order, we immediately moved tables, without telling anyone, as the Serb saw a quieter table open up in the back.  Always a good way to test the communication skills of the service staff.

Credit to them, they spotted our table migration and swiftly bought our coffees and drinks over without any fuss or drama.

The service team seemed genuinely friendly and approachable, and there was lots of table discussions, friendly chats and smiles, and laughter.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t like that at the launch, but it was good to see they are finding their feet so soon after opening.


The food arrived looking bloody fantastic.  Chef Jarek has clearly been on an Instagram cooking course.  The baked eggs were served in a cast iron skillet, nestled in a hearty, spiced chorizo ragout, with chunks of creamy feta cheese.  The eggs were cooked to soft, and the tomato ragout had a slight sweetness to it that went well with the chorizo.

The avocado arrived on a generous slice of sourdough toast, with cream cheese, smashed avocado, peas and micro herbs.  It was a very green dish; the sort of dish the Hulk might eat as an hors-d’oeuvre before smashing something into oblivion.  However, it was also well prepared – but you’d have to be pretty abysmal in the kitchen to mess up avo cream cheese on toast.

The waitress approached the couple at the table next to us as to ask if there was anything wrong with their meal, probably because they hadn’t taken any pictures of it.

The Serb got food envy from our neighbours and ordered the French Toast which arrived promptly.  It could have benefitted from being cooked a little longer – some parts of the bread were very soggy with the egg mixture, but overall, it had good taste and flavour and would have done the French proud.

Although Society is not blazing any new trails, following firmly in the footsteps of Tom & Serg, Arrows and Sparrows, Pantry and the like, it has found a good home in Jumeirah One, and if their dinner business is anything like their breakfast, they’ve hit a little goldmine.



Society Cafe and Lounge
Jumeirah One
Tel:- 04 222 2811
Breakfast for three – 323 AED

Society Cafe and Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food enthusiast Alia Ibrahim reached out to me and in a breathless, excited email, proclaimed that she had a food story for me.  It was about her journey across the globe to find Alain Ducasse, infiltrating one of his master classes and finding some important lessons in the process.  Here is her story.

Alain Ducasse, needless to say, is one of the most instrumental French chefs and restaurateurs whom the world regards as “The Architect of Flavors.”

I have always been mesmerized by Alain Ducasse’s creations that I only got to see from afar (on TV etc.). When it came to gastronomy, there was always something about him that stirred my curiosity and interest.

Thus, I decided to go to Paris to solely meet him at Restaurant Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athènèe. I kept myself updated with his whereabouts (yes I’m sugarcoating “stalking”), and I was suddenly nuked by the fact that he left Paris. I did not give up. I was so determined to meet him that I signed up for a Baking Master Class at one of his restaurants in the Middle East.

I entered the restaurant with the biggest smile on my face, only to be disappointed, once more. As the maître d’ warmly welcomed me and escorted me to the kitchen, he also told me that Alain Ducasse took off the same day I landed. I wanted to leave at that moment, but I tried to ground myself.

Even though I crossed borders to meet Alain Ducasse, and not really cared for the baking class, I was surprised by the way I was all-consumed – even more interested in the class than the bakers who attended to learn all the recipes.

It was my turning point as a culinary arts aficionado – I hit so many realizations at once.

  1. As much as we think, as hardcore foodies, that our knowledge in food is on the right side of the bell curve, being alongside chefs who work for the world’s very best opens our eyes to the many voids in our knowledge… and it fills those voids
  2. Such master classes, even though might not benefit us in the sense of executing the “secret” recipes, offer keys to understanding culinary arts like never before
  3. These classes also reveal the reasons why fine dining, as an overall experience, is indeed worthy of its cost when done properly
  4. New facets to reviewing food are created, new sensibilities, and new perspectives

The “unofficial” lessons (the side-note kind of lessons) surpassed the “official” ones at the master class. The chefs drew our attention to the littlest details of food, whether the cooking of it or its consumption. For example, the pastry chef emphasized on how the cooking of caramel and its addition to desserts should be in regard to the weather (less when it’s hot, more when it’s cold), and how fruits and vegetables should only be consumed in respect to their seasons.

He also shared the birthplaces of the best ingredients, and how we should not be fooled by the “good enough” ingredients (i.e. fleur de sel should be from West of France, almond milk from Italy, chia seeds from South America, and sugar from cane is better than land (beetroot) sugar)… to name a few.

Moreover, among the many lessons learned, I will never forget the “10, 10, 10” technique, in which one is supposed to wait until caramel is cooled to remove it, instead of applying cold compress or ice on the burnt skin.

Equally important, watching the chefs synchronize perfectly in a clean and organized kitchen, smile even under pressure, use only organic and premium ingredients, utter knowledge, and wisdom, and deliver their feelings before the dishes (that seem as though have fallen from heaven) really justify why fine dining is what it is.

It all starts from the kitchen, the backstage, and it all stems from the core principles of culinary arts that the team follows. Being in that backstage, just like a theater, gives an idea of the hard work that the performers (the chefs) put in their creations. As food reviewers, food fanatics… whatever we may call ourselves, we often attend the show, the front stage, and we critique accordingly. Yet, having a closer look at what happens in the kitchen is an opportunity we should always consider. It so beautifully widens our horizons and ignites the emotional aspect of food.

All in all, I may not have met Alain Ducasse like I planned, but I have definitely understood him and his success through his exceptional team, especially through the performance of chef Benoit Champeau – the head pastry chef at Alain Ducasse Enterprises.

About the Author
Although a holder of BA in International Affairs, Alia considered food as a career in her early days in university. She was a Nutrition and Health Sciences student at first until she found a bigger challenge in International Affairs. It might seem like the two majors are worlds apart, but her background in health sciences strengthened her passion for food, and her degree in politics made her the writer and researcher that she is today. Every so often, the two harmonize with each other.

Dubai has an opportunity to create something inspiring in the world of gastronomy. Sure, there are challenges – the start-up costs for a restaurant can be crippling and must be a huge deterrent for an inexperienced operator looking to share his or her passion with the community. Because of this, grassroots start-ups need colossal investment behind them, to get projects off the ground. Hundreds of great restaurant concepts and ideas lie in a landfill of F&B dreams, some destined to live only in the minds of their creators. Which is a travesty.

David Chang’s Fuji apple kimchi or Ansel’s cronut. Mosimann’s mushroom risotto and Blumenthal’s bacon and egg ice cream. Ducasse’s baba au rhum. These are dishes that have enthralled thousands and inspired generations of chefs, amateur and professional alike. What a different world we would live in if those dishes were never created for us to experience.

Worst still – imagine New York without Balthazar, or Paris without Chateaubriand. What would Tokyo be without Sukiyabashi Jiro or London without The Ivy? What would Dubai be without… well, I guess that’s my point. What is Dubai’s dish? What restaurant legacy can Dubai truly own? Not Zuma – that belongs to Rainer and Knightsbridge. LPM belongs to Nicole Rubi and Nice, France. There are a few recent restaurants that perhaps can lay claim, but 18 months of business does not make a legacy.

So how do we support and encourage restaurant start-ups that don’t require the backing of a Russian Oligarch or the sort of money that Man City throws at mediocre left back wingers? How do we give these grass root start-ups the opportunity to shine and stand on their own merit?

The answer is clear – throw a glitzy independent restaurant award ceremony – obviously. That’s what Martin Kubler, the founder of is doing.

Jumeirah Lake Towers is home to over 200 restaurants, many of them falling into the “independent” category, who don’t have the benefit of large investments behind them. Some are tiny little establishments, with just 10-15 seats, (Pitfire has a table for two!) specializing in a particular dish or cuisine. Many are owner-operator with a few employees. (Chef New at Café Isan for example). Because of this, there is an absolute consistency and quality that is there day in and day out.

To celebrate this, JLT Dining is launching the JLT Restaurant Awards – the first micro-community awards scheme focusing just on the JLT neighbourhood. It’s a fantastic initiative, and one FoodSheikh is proud to champion.

But here’s the thing. It’s not really about the awards, in my opinion. Yes, the awards themselves are significant, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an initiative built for and supported by the community of JLT. Humble neighbourhood restaurants, smiley staff and simple service that often get lost in the fuss and froth of the fine dining world. The JLT Restaurant Awards are important, particularly to Dubai as a city. It is the start of something quite special. That’s why the awards seem secondary to the real purpose of this initiative – to provide the neighbourhood with something to rally around.

Martin says, “We want to support the local food scene and its doers and makers, mostly SMEs and family-run companies, who often struggle to make their voices heard in a city filled to the brim with restaurants.”

It reveals a sentiment that is increasingly being felt on high streets, in shopping malls and throughout retail precincts around the world – residents want to support businesses that are woven into the community rather than just exploiting a passing opportunity.

Martin says the support has been tremendous – they were lucky to get some excellent partners from the community and this is how it should be – an initiative from the neighbourhood, for the neighbourhood.

If you’ve been reading my ramblings for long enough, you know that FoodSheikh tries to celebrate the industry with refreshing, humourous and honest content. Here’s one of my first serious calls to action. Get involved with your own neighbourhoods. Reward your local pizza place, hang out at your local coffee shop and order from the family-run Chinese down the road. Show these businesses that you care.

Glastonbury music festival started in 1970 with an audience of 1,500 people. Last year, they welcomed 175,000 people to the event. The Crossfit Games started in 2007 with 70 athletes. Last year, 324,000 athletes competed worldwide. Head over to see if you can get yourself an invite to their inaugural JLT Restaurant Awards ceremony. You can tell your grandkids that you were there at the beginning.

JLT Restaurant Awards Ceremony – 27th of November, 2017 at 7 pm. Bonnington Jumeirah Lake Towers. Click here for further information and demand an invitation!


Awards Logo Banner - 851 x 315 copy

Mixologists, cocktailians, Barkeeps, Beverage Craftsmen – whatever you call them, if you are a bar owner, you are always on the look-out for talented bartenders.  They are the lead singers in your rock band – your front men and women who give your establishment personality and energy.

Good bartenders have an encyclopedic knowledge of all spirits, drinks, and cocktails.  They are charming, charismatic and hardworking.  They are attractive even before that fifth long island iced tea kicks in, and they multitask like a one-man orchestra.  They manage a station that is five customers deep and pump out good quality drinks with minimal of fuss.

A good bartender can pop a beer bottle cap off with her bar blade.  Some will be able to flare; some will know napkin tricks.  Others can tell great stories or share worldly advice.

However, a good bartender, unfortunately, will also be able to rob you blind.  Most don’t, but some less scrupulous do.  Here’s how they do it.  Don’t try this at home.  Or in a bar.

The primary question bar owners ask is “does what we sold in the register till match what we sold physically?”  Typically, if the two balance, then everything’s good and life goes on.  Well, not so fast.

There are a small group of highly intelligent scam artists that are exceptionally good at playing the system. It is highly illegal and is not to be condoned – but it’s important to know how they do it.  Here are three well-known scams that can make the bartender quite rich.  And unemployed.  Perhaps even jailed.

BYO – Bring Your Own.

The premise:  A bottle of vodka can sell for over one thousand Dirhams in a bar.  Here are the maths.  Your average 750 ml bottle of liquor contains 25 shots of a 1 oz measure.  An average drink with mixer will cost you 45 Dirhams.  45 Dirhams multiplied by 25 shots is 1,125 Dirhams retail value.

The Scam:  So, all a sneaky bartender has to do is bring in their own cheap bottle of vodka, which cost them 80 Dirhams and drops it in their speed rail at the beginning of their shift.  Throughout the night, any drink that comes from that bottle is untraceable.  The bartender doesn’t have to ring it up, as the bar’s stock levels never change.  If a bartender does that twice a week, that’s an additional nine thousand Dirhams per month in the pockets of that greedy little barkeep at the expense of the business.

Shot Counting.

The Premise:- The key is to ensure the inventory balances at the end of the night.  If the point of sale system says it sold ten bottles of vodka, there had better be only ten bottles gone from the storeroom.  Not eleven bottles or even nine bottles.  Ten.  Balance the books.  So, much like card counting in Vegas, this method involves a very sharp mind with an ability to run a multiple shot tally in one’s head over the course of a six-hour shift.  Like The Rainman with a bottle opener.  The less sharp ones use toothpicks or coins in a glass as a makeshift abacus.

The Scam:- The bartender under pours on a certain number of drinks – cocktails with multiple spirits are the easiest for this – and remembers how many shots she has “in the bank.”  To trick people into thinking they’ve received a strong drink, she might fill a straw with alcohol before they stick it in a cocktail.  This makes the first sip taste exceptionally strong, even though the drink has less alcohol.  The bartender is then free to cash those shots in throughout the evening by not ringing in certain drinks and pocketing the cash. Let’s say she “counts” a conservative five drinks per night, five nights per week.  That’s four and a half grand extra a month for her nefarious troubles.

The Distracted Guest

The Premise:  Towards the end of the evening, as the drinking crowd gets less and less attentive, the sneaky bartender thrives.  Usually, after one am, guests are happy, sweaty, feeling liberated and are much less alert to what’s happening behind the bar.  Some bartenders take maximum advantage of this, unfortunately.

The Scam:  Ordering a premium liquor with a mixer at two am? Well, firstly, why? Secondly, chances are you’re getting a cheap liquor from the bartenders “bank, ” and he’s pocketing the cash.  Premium spirits can go up to 75 Dirhams a drink.  A bartender only has to do that just three times a night, and he’s got another dirty four and a half grand in his real bank account every month.

Dishonest bartender scams are notoriously difficult to figure out and can ruin a business, both from a reputation and profit and loss standpoint.  The best way to stop these things from happening comes down to two main elements.  Hire the right people to start with – follow up on proper reference checks, and make sure you know who you are hiring.  The second is to have a vigilant, well-experienced management team – they are your best line of defense against the dark arts of bar tendering.

Street 4b, Community 318, Al Karama.  Just three hundred and fifty meters long, and home to over one hundred businesses.  That’s roughly one shop every three and a half meters.

Out of those one hundred businesses, seventeen of them are restaurants – a perfect example of the diverse and rich culture that the older parts of Dubai are famous for.  From Indian, Asian, Desi, Chinese, Italian, global and Ethiopian cuisine these seventeen restaurants support hundreds of families and feed thousands of mouths every week.

Furthermore, there are over two thousand different choices available across all their menus.  Yes, I counted – roughly.  What that means is, if you chose a different item every single day, it would take you six straight years to get through every menu on Street 4b.

Could this be one of the best dining streets in Dubai?  Check out my fancy photo journal review thingy below.  Thanks to Giles Wright for the idea!




When the brunch was invented back in 1895 by Guy Beringer, it was done so with the greatest of intentions, and without the foresight of what future generations might do to pervert and debauch this quaint alternative to a heavy Sunday dinner.

Guy made the case that instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a marathon of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served just before noon, that offers a lighter, more cheerful option. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting.” Beringer wrote. “It is talk-compelling.  It puts you in good temper; it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

Guy Beringer – “Brunch should be a quaint, cheerful Sunday meal that is lighter than the heavy, traditional supper.”
Dubai – “Hold my Shisha.”

I don’t want to talk about what happens at the brunch – we’ve all been to one, and quite frankly it’s been written about by better writers than me.  I want to write about what happens before and immediately after a brunch.  I’ve split this into four moments based on recent experiences.  As usual, I have taken great poetic liberties.

1 – Making the decision.

I hadn’t realised how much organization needs to go into booking a Dubai brunch.  The initial suggestion starts as an innocent throwaway comment around a few drinks at someone’s house.  Excitement crackles in the air at the mere thought of a brunch.  Diaries are opened, and potential dates are thrown around like ideas in an ancient Greek court.   Guest lists are discussed in secret whispers on the balcony during cigarette breaks.  It becomes very serious, very quickly.  Some international peace treaties are agreed upon with less drama.

2 – Choosing the venue.

Once the premise of brunch has been agreed, and the adrenalin has had time to dissipate, the earnest business of selecting the actual venue begins.  Apparently, this needs approximately a three month lead time.  Larger groups need longer.  The official invite arrived in my inbox three and a half months ago, and within a few days, I had received an email newsletter reminding me of the date and had been added to a WhatsApp group chat as well.  Choosing the location is far more complicated than you might think, especially when trying to be democratic about it.  A few excerpts from the group chat.

“Not there, they have too many carb stations.”
“That brunch has a shitty dessert selection.”
“I’m not allowed to go to that one, not after last time.”
“I can’t wear my fancy heels at that one.”
“That brunch is full of chavs.”
“That one is too posh.”
“That brunch only has eight live cooking stations.”

3 – Arrival time

The morning of the brunch is possibly the most stressful time of the whole experience – almost as stressful as my wedding day.  From 9 am onwards, WhatsApp lights up like Satwa during the Diwali festival.  Thousands of messages fly back and forth – but by now, there are multiple sub-group chats that have been created, as various factions have formed separate alliances with one another.  It is chaos – last-minute fashion issues, a cancellation from that flaky friend Paul invited, Uber on surge pricing, Salem’s still in the shower – these things suddenly become very important – but not as important as the brunch arrival time.

Arrive early, and you risk sitting at an empty table, looking like two overly keen brunch novices.  However, arrive too late, and you risk the wrath of others for wasting so much valuable consumption time.  The funny thing is, no one wants to commit to what time they will be there.  “We’re leaving the house soon” or “we’re on our way,” or “see you there,” are the vague, unhelpful answers you must work with.

As we left the house, The Serb asked if I had left enough food and water for the dog.  I have no idea how long she thought we were going to be away for.

4 – The recovery.

The brunch recovery can take anywhere between a few hours to a few days, depending on your levels of consumption.  In some rare cases, full recovery never happens – but those occasions can usually be read about in the Daily Mail.  Recovery time is also related to age as I have recently noticed.

I woke up at 7:30 pm, alone, on the couch in a complete state of panic. I couldn’t feel my legs; my mouth was as dry as the Empty Quarter, and my belt and the top button of my trousers were unfastened.  To add to the horror, wrapped around my wrist was a hospital admittance band.  Clearly, something had gone wrong since the chocolate fountain, which was my last lucid memory.

Sitting up straight, checking for any life-threatening injuries, like a missing kidney – I realised that I was not in any immediate danger.  The dry mouth was a result of too much time at the Asian station, the unbuttoned trousers a result of too much time at the dessert station, and the hospital band was the brunch band letting the servers know I was only allowed prosecco, not the real stuff.

I can’t wait to do it all over again.  I would love to hear your brunch observations. Comment below!

Once an industrial no man’s land between SZR and the old Hard Rock Café, Al Quoz is now an established destination with repurposed warehouses providing places for expression, play, retail, and restaurants.  The Original Gangsta of the Al Quoz scene, The Courtyard continues to hold off competition and remains one of the coolest alleyways in Dubai.

BL Signage

Tucked away in the lush foliage of The Courtyard is a wonderful little cobblestone walkway called The Collective.  The Collective is a modern-day Souk, showcasing a collection of concept stores, designers, and shops from local vendors.  It’s a posh hippy market – think Portobello Road market except with maids, Range Rovers and AC.

Boston Lane is the latest addition to The Collective and replaces its previous occupant, Brew with pastel peaches and eggshell blues, pink terrazzo, rattan weaves, riad archways and whitewashed wood.  It is a café that has charm and character in abundance, and I desperately wanted to fall in love with it.

However, I say this with utmost affection and honesty, but I wish they had applied the same amount of care and detail to how the place operated as they did to how it looked.  Customer friendly, it is not – especially when busy.  Awkward queuing systems, bottleneck collection points, no menus until you reach the counter and no table numbering systems.  It puts such unnecessary stress on the guest experience.

BL Counter Shot

Boston Lane’s hero products are coffee and toasted sandwiches, which is an eclectic combination.  They serve other deli options, such as chia seed puddings, smashed avo pots, salads and pastries, but they pride themselves on homemade toasties and coffee from local roasters, Nightjar Coffee.

We ordered the breaky roll, chicken on rye, mac ’n’ cheese toastie and a Mexican salad.  I ordered a flat white because the lovely girl who took our order was Australian and The Serb ordered a mint and lemonade juice because she liked the colour.

Like Starbucks, they ask for your name and call you when your order is ready.  In these situations, I like to give superhero alter ego names.  Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, Diana Prince – you get the idea.  That day I was Stanley Beamish, A.K.A Mr. Terrific.  Stan for short.

BL Breaky Roll

We eventually found a table, and I refused to let the Serb engage in conversation as I had to be ready to jump up the moment I heard my name called.  It was my bat signal.  In hindsight, it was a foolish move, as she picked up her wallet and wandered off to peruse the various collections of beautiful things we definitely don’t need at home.

Eventually, I heard my name called, and Mr. Terrific sprang into action.  I approached the crowded counter with my receipt held high as if it was my passport and I was trying to enter my embassy in a foreign country during a civil riot.  I made it to the front and collected my flat white coffee.  Nothing else was ready.  At this rate, I would have to make an additional five journeys to complete our order.  Thank God, I had chosen Mr. Terrific.

BL Maccheese

The place was busy with a great mix of nationalities.  Locals and expats mingled, taking Instagram pictures, smelling soy candles, convincing themselves they needed a beautiful looking bicycle from The Movement, or a wicker lamp shade from Tribe.  It was a testament to the attractiveness of the space and created a wonderful atmosphere.

Meanwhile, in Boston Lane, after several frantic dashes to the counter, we eventually had our drinks and toasted sandwiches.

Unfortunately, the toasties were largely underwhelming.  The mac ‘n’ cheese filling was unseasoned and bland, and the bread was dry and crumbled into pieces as you ate it.  It was the same with the breaky roll – a dry brioche bun with underseasoned eggs and stringy veal bacon.  The rye bread fared better, but again, the chicken mayo filling lacked flavour and seasoning.

BL Coffee and Juice

The good thing is these are not unfixable issues – encourage the chef to taste the seasoning levels, focus on getting a better bread delivery schedule, and most of the problems are solved.  The concept of Boston Lane is wonderful, and I am sure they will iron out these niggly little things in due course.

Mr. Terrific’s final trip to the embassy counter was for the Mexican salad.  The salad consisted of baby spinach, sweetcorn, kidney beans and shredded cabbage and squirted over the top was the most unfortunate looking dressing I have ever seen.  If your dressing must have that consistency and colour, it is advisable to toss your salad first.

BL Mexican Salad

Overall, Boston Lane is a delightfully quaint little DIY café that is a perfect spot for a quiet afternoon chatting with friends, reading books or writing your latest blog.  It has its quirks, which I think is part of the appeal.

I did mention earlier that I desperately wanted to fall in love with the place – If they can improve their toasties, focus on the guest experience a little more and provide me with a proper Bat-signal, I definitely think love is possible.

BL INvoice


Boston Lane,
The Courtyard
Al Quoz
Lunch for two – 168 AED

Flamingo Room is the brainchild of Natasha Sideris, owner and founder of Tashas – a thirteen strong portfolio of cafes across South Africa and Dubai.  Choosing the Flamingo as a nod to their African roots is a smart move – it’s a good creature to reference considering the other choices.  I heard a rumour they were considering the Penguin Pantry, the Kudu Kitchen or the Baboon Bar.  Maybe.  I might have made that up.

FR Interior

Unlike its neighbours, Il Borro, Blacktap, and Katsuya, the Flamingo Room doesn’t fit into a neat little box.  Flamingo Room is a little bit different.  It is unique in design, egalitarian in cuisine and exudes a distinct personality.  It is somewhat special.

We arrived early for breakfast.  I have been a little despondent about breakfasts recently – there is only so much avocado on toast and eggs benedict one can eat before craving something different.  I was hoping Flamingo Room could offer something for me to get excited about once again.

The main entrance is a large, art deco walnut wood door that is far too beautiful not to keep closed.  Pulling it open, we walked into a spacious entrance lobby and were greeted by a hostess that looked a little surprised to see us.  She recovered quickly, pretending to check something on her computer and then whisked us to our table.

FR Avo

The Flamingo Room certainly makes a statement – it is African inspired, with zebra print fabrics and fauna combined with a little bit of Palm Springs, a touch of Art Deco and Ace Hardware’s entire stock of pink and peach paint.  It is glamourous, chic and feels expensive – but not overly thematic.  If Elton John did safari, it would be the Flamingo Room.

Although we were there for breakfast, I stole a glance at the rest of the menu. You never know, I might go back.  There were seaside classics, buttermilk sliders, salads, starters, pasta, main courses, mains for sharing and side dishes.  Jill Okkers is the chef behind the menu, and she has put together a great selection of dishes, using classic techniques and quality ingredients.

Our server was bubbly, enthusiastic and chatty and promptly brought us some freshly squeezed orange juice, and coffee.

The breakfast menu was just as elegant and glam as the rest of Flamingo Room.  There were dishes such as parmesan and truffle scrambled eggs, Nutella French toast, a salmon turmeric crepe and banana and vanilla oats.

FR Ricotta hotcakes

As I mentioned earlier, I was determined not to go for the usual smashed avocado or eggs benedict, so I ordered the asparagus and bacon soufflé omelette.  The Serb, of course, did nothing of the sort and ordered the smashed avocado and feta open sandwich.  I despair sometimes.  We also ordered the ricotta hotcake as well – because it was a weekend.

A soufflé omelette is effectively a very fluffy omelette that is made by whisking the egg whites first and then folding the yolks back in and then cooking.  Okker’s version was filled with a semi-sweet ricotta cream, lardons of veal bacon and slices of grilled asparagus.  It was well cooked and was light, airy and creamy.  They even used slivers of asparagus to create an animal pattern on the outside of the soufflé.  It was like a zebra omelette.

The Serb’s avocado toast was an intense avocado puree over some multigrain bread, with chunks of feta and a mountain of shaved fennel and cucumber.  If my omelette was a zebra omelette, this was the Table Mountain of toppings.  It was good, although the bread became a little soggy from the puree towards the end, and might have benefitted from being grilled slightly.

FR Omlette

Our ricotta hotcake was the star of the show for us.  A beautiful, skillet-cooked pancake, with a gorgeous ricotta cream and sticky, intense honeycomb bits, topped with handfuls of fresh berries and ripe figs.  It was lively, decadent and generous.  It was also demolished within seconds.  Our ever-helpful server wanted to fetch us side plates, but I informed her that she wouldn’t get back in time.  No one can move that fast.

Natasha Sideris and Jill Okkers have created something quite special at the Flamingo Room.  The Turtle Lagoon at Al Naseem hotel is becoming a powerhouse of F&B, and the Flamingo Room certainly holds its own against the elegance of Il Borro, the monster shakes of Black Tap and the big name of Chef Katsuya.

It’s not easy to execute such quality on your first weekend open, and I am happy to say that, despite the punchy bill at the end, this was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had all year.

FR INvoice


Flamingo Room by Tashas
Jumeriah Al Nassem
04 244 7278
Breakfast for two – 302 AED
Flamingo Room by Tashas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato