Dubai Design District is a place where relationships are truly tested.  I’ll clarify that a little more – trying to get to Dubai Design District is a real test of a relationship.  Through a combination of an out-of-date GPS, Google Maps confusion and the Serbs built-in sense of direction, it will test your limits of commitment, trust, patience, and love.  I urge all couples to make this journey together at least once – you will learn so much about each other.  Then afterwards, go to IKEA.

Dubai Design District is located in.. I don’t know… you’re on your own for this one.  But once you get there, you’ll be pleased to know there is plenty of parking.  Plenty of parking – particularly at the weekend.  In fact, it is so empty that I felt like I was in the movie ‘I am Legend’ where the end of the world is upon us, and zombies lurk in dark corners.

Empty roads surround empty buildings, with empty offices and empty parking bays. Sand blows apoplectically across the small town, and temporary road signs sway ominously in the wind.  I even stopped the car to have an emotional conversation with a window mannequin; such was my solitary madness.  Then the Serb told me to stop being dramatic and get back in the car.  She was right – I could have sworn I heard a pack of wild wolves baying in the distance.

We parked across two parking bays, because, who knows if there will be a tomorrow.  We walked, hand in hand, finding comfort in each other’s company.  There, in the distance, was a café, with lights on and an open sign hanging in the window.  Relief flooding my body, I saw real humans inside, talking, communicating to one another, interacting.  I felt like we hadn’t spoken to another person for an eternity.  At least, not since I had said “Full, special” to the gas attendant – but that had felt like a lifetime ago.  Stumbling into the restaurant, I wanted to hug the hostess and sob with relief into her shoulder – but instead I sat down at a window table and perused the lunch menu.

We quickly placed our orders in case they changed their minds and shuttered the restaurant up.

We ordered the slow cooked duck salad with baby greens, fresh orange, and roasted walnuts.  We also went for the Korean marinated chicken ciabatta with yogurt and honey and the beef Anticucho with smoky chili garlic and oregano.

With the order secured, we sat back and took stock of our surroundings. Craft Café is well designed, as it should be, considering the address.  Bird cages are hanging from the ceiling, with an open kitchen that deserves it’s own Instagram account.  It is hipster yet classic in feel, with enough design features for all the creative cats that prowl these streets during the week to feel comfortable in choosing this place for their Guatemala single origin cold brew.

The restaurant columns are adorned with rather unique custom made lighting, and there are some random African shields (I think – could be Mayan masks) on one wall – and the other is a wall of moss – yep, African shields, and moss walls. You get the idea.  Craft Café is a great fit for the soon-to-be-busy design district.

However, the chairs have been over designed in my opinion, with sharp angular backs that contrast against the softer design of the room. They are large, awkward and cumbersome, and if they were humans, they would be the first to be eaten by zombies.

The food arrived in between large heavy thumps of construction coming from somewhere in the building.  Probably the infected trying to get in, I discreetly informed the Serb.  It was met with a pitiful shake of her head.

I am loath to say it because I generally want to celebrate restaurants, but I think the menu sounded slightly better than the food was – however, I think that is more of a compliment to the menu rather than a criticism of the food.

The duck salad was a good size – the baby greens were crisp and lively, and the shredded duck was fatty and carried its flavour well.  However, there was a yellow foam that covered the plate, and despite forcing myself to try it several times, I couldn’t figure out what flavour it had.  The only way I can describe it is like a vicious, sharp lemongrass foam. However, whatever it was, I don’t think it belonged on that dish.

The Korean chicken sandwich was the Serb’s choice.  It was marinated in Korean paste, and I assume yogurt and honey because those two ingredients weren’t anywhere else in the sandwich.  Overall, the sandwich was good – the bread was crusty, yet soft and the chicken was moist but didn’t make the bread soggy.  It arrived with a side of coleslaw and another foamy sauce that unfortunately was not easy to identify either.  Perhaps my taste buds were temporarily disabled.  I hope it’s not a permanent predicament as my future reviews will be rather useless.

Beef Anticucho are tenderloin skewers originating from South America, that according to the menu are with smoky chili, garlic, and oregano.  So you can imagine my surprise when it arrived covered with a bright yellow sauce.  A yellow so bright, it looked liked runny egg yolk.  The sauce wasn’t bad, but I just wasn’t expecting it.  However, again, I couldn’t tell you what sauce it was – I thought it might be a mustard, but it had no heat, and then maybe some crazy South American mayonnaise, but lacked the consistency.  So, if anyone knows – answers on a postcard please.  Having said that, the meat was great – tender, well seasoned and a good portion.  There were some baby potatoes hiding under the yellow magma that could have done with being cooked a little longer.

The drinks menu is ideally suited for the D3 creative crowd, with hand-harvested teas, cold brew coffees, smoothies and crafted soft drinks, of which some are from the excellent Fentiman’s range.

I must also add that all the food and drinks are served by a very friendly and approachable team, who seem genuine, down to earth and friendly – kind of like a group of your friends inviting you round for lunch – except much nicer than my friends.

I think when life returns to D3, which is probably Sunday through Thursday, this little café, with its on-trend menu, quality ingredients and cracking drinks list, will be a busy little place.

As the Serb and I made our way back to the car, we found a new appreciation for the D3 area – it’s going to be a great business hub for all the new innovative, disruptive SME’s that Dubai is getting good at nurturing into life.  I’m happy that places like the Craft Café are part of that journey.

As we approached the car, a security guy came out of nowhere and told us off for taking more than one parking bay.  I guess there will always be a tomorrow.

minilogo Craft Café

Craft Cafe – 7/10
Lunch for two – 200 Dhs
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