Highlights of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates

So I am about to leave the UAE in a week and even though I am looking forward to leaving and not looking back, there are a few good memories I have from these past 3 and a half years.

If you’re in the region, here are my top 5 picks of where to go and what to see:

1. Best Restaurant:

Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire – Intercontinental Festival City Dubai

Everything from the décor, to the scrumptious food to the sommelier in his horn-rimmed glasses impressed me. For more information, check out my review here. 

2. Best Bar Scene:

Barasti Beach Bar – Dubai Marina

Ever since I first stepped into Barasti I loved it, well how can you not when your able to buy a bucket of corona and sit on the beach with it until the early hours. I also have a liking for the one-man-band who always plays ‘500 Miles’ for me.

3. Best Cocktails:

Bar 44 – Grosvenor House Dubai Marina

This is one classy establishment with live jazz in one corner and candles illuminating the various rooms. However it is the Blackberry Mojito’s that get me weak at the knees here…

4. Best Sight:

Dubai Fountains – Downtown Dubai

This is the one sight I never get of with showing friends and family who come to visit. This light and water show is rather spectacular and in a superb location to grab a bite to eat or a cheeky cocktail.

5. Best Activity:

Al Hamra Golf Club

Golf carts, 18 holes, no chance of rain, and a chilly bin full of corona on the back – need I say more? Actually yes I do, as after you have sunk that last ball you have a delicious feed of fish ‘n’ chips to look forward to at the sports bar. Not the swankiest bar but the fish ‘n’ chips are to die for!

Manhattan Grill – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Everyone loves a good steakhouse – minus the veggie lovers of course (though this may be the best one for the veggies of us anyway!). In the past 6 months I have visited the Manhattan Grill at Dubai’s Grand Hyatt twice and its horrible to say but everything bar the steak was exceptional. I don’t know if I am simply being fussy as I am no connoisseur of steak but really if I am struggling to cut through my medium cooked steak that is not a good sign. If this is really how they wish to cook their steak perhaps they should invest in sharper cutlery?

However on the other hand we have a beautiful ambience – dark wood, low lighting, candles and all the quirks for that perfectly romantic evening. Portions were great, with my chewy steak came thick potato chips on the side as well as grilled avocado (delish!), artichokes and spinach. The dessert was also delectable – Oreo cheesecake with a berry sauce on the side.

Now both times I went were work related, so the first dinner was completely matched with Edward Mouiex’s wines (unfortunately no Petrus but the Chateau Hosanna 2004 was surprisingly delectable), and the second was a GlenGrant dinner (a good single malt alternative to Chivas!). Though I was able to grab a couple of glasses off the wine list – with my cesar salad I was served something I knew oh too well – Wither Hills 09 Sauvy and in contrast to my last review of this wine it was a treat with the cesar salad – the freshness reflecting in both the food and wine. With my steak I was served a Brown Brothers Shiraz, which was as disappointing as the steak – I didn’t even finish the glass, which is so unlike me!

I would definitely recommend going there but perhaps opt for the lamb or salmon over the beef – and also make sure you take your date for a stroll through the indoor rainforest in the hotel. Yes, you read it right, indoor rainforest ! Only in Dubai !!!

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc at Studio One – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai camel statue
On a true gastronomical adventure yesterday I found myself spending the afternoon in the luxurious ‘Dubai Marina’ – though I just couldn’t bring myself to prep myself up in heels and spend the afternoon in all the boutiques – I had a true calling and it involved my trusty diamonte jandals (ultimate comfort factor with a splash of chic).
In true Kiwi fashion i needed a good feed and what’s better than BurgerFuel? Their second international store has opened and oh I thank the gods that they decided to put it right here in Dubai. So after my BF Monster (you didn’t think they’d call it the Bastard burger over here, did ya and of course no pork bacon either – beef will have to suffice) some friends decided we hit one of the bars in the Hilton across the road.
After much trepidation about my ‘relaxed’ outfit, I figured what the heck and hit the Studio One bar. Everyone knows what you should expect from a bar in the Hilton but I must say I wasn’t prepared for this. The colour scheme consisted of all primary colours, whilst a cheesy 80s tune played in the background and we were served up popcorn with our drinks. I was half expecting Baby and Johnny to be lurking in the corner.
After a long week of night shifts I was in the mood for a good glass of wine. Low and behold my decision was going to be made very easy with a total of 6 wines to choose from on the wine menu and two of those being described as simply ‘red’ and ‘white’. After much umming and arrring I settled for the ‘Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc’ thinking it would be pretty safe, a nice easy-drinking Chilean Sauv which is what a lot of the restaurants will serve up over here, they are cheaper than other alternatives yet still drinkable.
My glass came out, a rather large one and it was served to the brim – nice and chilled, though I would have to drink that baby fast to keep it that way. Even for something which sells at approximately US$13 a bottle I would steer clear of this in future as it didn’t live up to my knowledge of Chilean Sauv’s or did it appeal to my taste buds one bit.
Now half of this is due to the soapy residual still in my glass, I really didn’t ask for my mouth to be washed out with soap at the same time as I ordered. Though on my second glass (who can just have one glass!) I realised perhaps the soap improved the wine?
It had some of the typical Sauvy characteristics; herbaceous, a bit of tropical fruits and a pinging sharp streak that kept vibrating around my mouth. The citrus coming through was more on the very bitter grapefruit side of things and the herbs were a mixture of eating flowers and grass straight from the ground.
After investigating Caliterra a bit more I am surprised by the wine, seeing as it was originally a joined venture between Robert Mondavi of the US and the Chadwicks of Chile, however now it is 100% Chilean owned. It would be very interesting to try their reserve range rather than their standard line – but whats in the word ‘reserve’ these days anyway.
If I were to drink this wine again I would make sure I was eating a nice creamy pasta to hopefully cut through its astringent acidity or then again knowing me I would probably just opt for my old faithful – nice chilled glass of Kiwi Sauv.

Vintage: The Cheese and Wine Bar, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Last night we decided to venture into the pyramids of Dubai – aka a shopping mall based on Egyptian architecture – Wafi. It is a small intimate wine bar that we stumbled across a couple of years ago but due to our attire we weren’t exactly welcome – I understand why people think the wine business is so snobby at times!

So naturally we got all dolled up to go this time and I must say it is a nice small, comfy relaxed atmosphere inside, all snobbery left at the door. It is much like you’re in someone’s houses or even better their cellar with wine racked around you and comfy leather couches to fall in to. Even better was that we showed up during happy hour which meant 40% off all beverages – now I like that, especially when you paying approximately US$14 per glass (servings are on the small side too).

Of course I couldn’t help myself and I had to dissect their wine list which I have to admit needs a bit of TLC.. Being quite a meticulous person I couldn’t help but notice typos and when they are on the names of 5eme Grand Cru Classe wines I found this really off-putting. Alongside this, unless you were after a bottle of 95 Romanee-Conti or a 1923 Haut Brion you weren’t to know what vintage wine you were ordering, unless you wanted to get the waitress to go check and come back in 5 minutes.

The food menu looked absolutely delicious, we indulged in a baked camembert drizzled with honey and with fresh oven baked bread – the cheese and specialist honey was lovely but the bread had obviously just come out of the storeroom and was heated in the micro… interesting touch.

Overall its not a place I would be rushing back to, even during happy hour – I’ll wait till they give their menu a bit of a make-over and some loving and then ill pull those stilettos out of the cupboard again.

Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire Dubai

Image sourced from: www.timeoutdubai.com

If you live in Dubai or are ever visiting Dubai and truly want to indulge in a food and wine affair that can only be described as first class quality you have to visit Reflets by six-time Michelin starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire. This is a pull out all the stops romance – Krug is the house pour, chandeliers hang like diamonds from the ceiling over the lushly decorated room of plush purple carpets and floor to ceiling mirrors – a whimsical Wonderland with all the class. My Jimmy Choo handbag was even treated to royal treatment, having its own plush mauve stool to perch on alongside my chair. I would hate to think what Pierre Gagnaire would think if he knew it was actually a Thai export Jimmy Choo!

The best way to describe the food would be ‘molecular gastronomy served up like a science experiment’. Our meal consisted of about 20 courses, i lost count after about the 5th course and my 3rd glass of delicious Antinori Tignanello – so 20 may be a tad exaggeration. These ranged from red wine sorbet served elegantly on a teaspoon to beef tartare to truffled gnocchi and to the exuberant  ‘Feuillitage croustillant’, a puff pastry baton halved at the table by the waiter in a neat piece of theatre and served with mascarpone and apples on a bowl of apple and calvados ice cream and apple sauce – mmmm delish!

The ambience, food, and wine of Reflets were all nothing short of spectacular –  a bill for 2 would roughly be around US$500-600 obviously depending on how indulgent your night plans to be. Guys if your after some extra brownie points i am sure this will get you at least 100! It’s the epitome of romance.

InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.