The idea of a beach bar and grill in a country where the weather is very rarely anything less than warm is a near faultless one. It’s surprising that there are not many more of them. But ask any average person what such a name conjures up in their mind and they’ll probably describe a barbeque tended by an Australian man in shorts, people drinking from cans and women in bikinis. The title would be somewhat misleading by itself, but given that it’s at the One and Only Royal Mirage, it’s a fair bet that was never going to be the case.
The setting, however, is better than you could possible imagine. Out on the multi-level wooden decking, with chunky rope railings and a view out over the beach it does look like a holiday brochure come to life. There are palm trees, golden sand stretching out in front of you and clear water sliding up and down the shore. There’s also a man-made palm housing development on the near horizon with construction a plenty, but on our visit there was no disrupting noise from the future summer homes of England footballers.
It was tranquil and the service was as you’d expect from the Royal Mirage. However, my dining partner ordered the scallops to start but when they turned up, disappointingly there were only three small scallops on the plate. Three. And it was quite a big plate, so it made the offering look all the more scant. Factor in the reality that it cost Dhs70 you begin to wish there really were Australian men with barbeques flipping burgers. I don’t wish this to sound like inverted snobbery, but there’s something really annoying about reading a menu and seeing something you think might be enjoyable to eat, only to find that when it arrives, the description on the menu was larger than the actual quantity of food itself.
I ordered the tomato soup for my starter largely because it’s just something you don’t see that often on a menu and done well, it’s fantastic, simple, comfort food that is a perfect opening gambit for a meal. And so it proved. Rich, just creamy enough and with that flavour that could only be a great tomato soup – nothing like the watery, thin flavour of a slice of tomato but that warm and deep flavour that makes it such perfect comfort food.
For main course my tenderloin was a fine chunk of ex-cow and cooked wonderfully with a rose pink centre and requisite tenderness. They also do the famed wagyu beef here but my steak was less than half the price and certainly better than half as good as wagyu. But while the turf was luscious the surf was a little disappointing, the sea bass my companion ordered was a bit on the scant side and while it was a tender and flavoursome piece of fish it just felt a little to minimal to suit the surroundings. Desserts reeled things back nicely though.
Our cheese board was a suitable ending to proceedings with four kinds of cheese including some brie that was a gooey slice of pungent dairy brilliance. The crème brulee also scored well tipping the balance very much into the plus side overall. But here’s the thing – while it was largely very good food it just felt a little too hoity toity when simple would have sufficed.
The One And Only Royal Mirage is the best hotel in the city – I won’t hear of any other contenders, it really just is. While the Burj Al Arab might get the attention, it’s the Royal Mirage that has that touch of extra class and elegance, so in some ways you expect the food to have taken the high ground in terms of culinary endeavour. That said, the setting outside is just so perfectly relaxing it demands that you undo the top button, sit back a bit and loosen up and the food seems a little too uptight and formal. I’m not suggest that hot dogs and burgers should be the order of the day by any means, but being a little less fussy and in places, a little more of it, would do the restaurant wonders.
Verdict: The setting is perfect; the food needs to relax a bit more.
The bill came to Dhs370 without drinks.
For 7Days newspaper, December 2007