Travel and food have been the hot couple for a few years now. They have spurred a whole genre of storytelling, from significant production shows like Parts Unknown and Ugly Delicious, all the way through to someone who once tried a Pastéis de Nata at Faro airport and is now a travel and food blogger with a profile that reads “Wanderer. Thinker. Eater.”
It’s no wonder that restaurants are now incorporating this combination of epicurean escapism into their offerings. The newly rebranded Brunswick at MOE is launching Charlie’s Brunch, which in the 1980’s would have meant something completely different, but now means that Charlie Lane, who is a traveling expat, brings back flavours and stoires from his travels and serves them at brunch. Another example is Miss Tess at The Taj hotel; a traveler who is here to take you on a journey through the street foods of South East Asia.
This leads me to my most recent restaurant excursion to Dubai Mall. Going to Dubai Mall in itself is a journey, especially if you commit to exploring the newly opened Fashion Avenue. Somewhere in Dubai Mall is a travel café, that serves modern Levantine plates. I’m not being vague and facetious – Somewhere is the name of the place. Emirati owned, from the same group as Parker’s and Salt, Somewhere takes its inspiration from a newsstand, which is synonymous with travel hubs – train stations, airports, bus stops, valet parking and the like. As you walk in there is a neon light saying “Let us take you somewhere.” I whispered to the Serb that I wasn’t falling for that line again. Last time I fell for that, it ended with a trip across international borders with two strangers and a small goat.
We arrived early and were seated right away in an almost empty restaurant. Opposite us was a half wall of shelves. Stacked with books. The type of books that sit on the coffee tables of those friends who, at all times, maintain a pristine, picture perfect living room, just in case Architectural Digest pop by for a quick photo shoot on a Wednesday afternoon.
I asked if the books were for sale because at that moment I had an overwhelming urge to own an unnecessary collection of beautiful, oversized picture books that I would maybe look at once. Luckily for my credit card, they were not for sale, and I sat back down again in a dramatic huff. I was going to be so embarrassed if AD came calling.
Somewhere’s menu is Levantine at its core, with some fresh twists that liven up a familiar offering. The dishes are all quite shareable and “mezze-like” in their make-up, which is why Somewhere has more of a café feel than a restaurant. It actually is a well-conceived concept for the new fashion district and a good place to refuel after your Hermes shop and before heading into Prada. It isn’t such a big commitment to eat at Somewhere – it is easy and accessible.
We went with the chicken musakhan rolls, lime corn salad, chicken shawarma bao, the chicken ouzi puff and the zaatar and cheese cones.
As we waited for our food, the place quickly filled up with local families, and I’ve heard it already has somewhat of a cult following among the Emirati foodie crowd. There was, however, an expat couple in the corner, who might have been Miss Tess and Charlie Lane discussing brunch strategies.
The music was notable too – artists like Alina Baraz and Galimatias providing excellent energy to the place and the staff were approachable and attentive also.
The interior design is clean and uncluttered and what I call the “Millennial Instagram” style. Grey walls, marbled grey table tops, clean archways and pendant lights. It is not of any particular place, which I think is the whole point. It is somewhere. Anywhere. I would have liked to see some global accessories and trinkets from around the world built into the décor – I think they tell a better story than a few travel books.
The food arrived in no particular order, and each dish was bright, lively, fresh and modern. The musakhan chicken rolls paid homage to its namesake, the Palestinian dish and were fragrant and well spiced. The chicken shawarma bao was a good effort, but the shawarma is such a difficult food item to reinvent. The winner was the chicken ouzi puff. An oversized vol en vent, stuffed with delicious, soft, slippery spiced rice with chicken and roasted pine nuts. A thick, umami gravy accompanied the dish.
They also brought a chicken jalapeno fatteh to our table as well, although we didn’t order it. I ate it before they realised their mistake. I was unapologetic about it – it was delicious.
The Serb had claimed she wasn’t particularly hungry. However, she demolished most of the dishes and still had a look at the dessert menu.
Somewhere is a cute little café that serves some delightfully fresh Levantine dishes that are great as a light bite while in the mall. If you find yourself with nowhere to go in the new Fashion Avenue, I can recommend Somewhere.
Lunch for two – 243 AED