There’s long been this idea among some that Dubai could become the sin-free, slightly more upmarket version of Ibiza. For those who subscribe to that notion, the recent opening of Cove Beach at Jumeirah Beach Hotel is probably what they had in mind.
To start, hats off to the architect and interior designer. The main room looks like a cross between the room at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the deck of a super yacht. It really is lovely.
However, when we arrived late afternoon, it was just too loud inside. And not, “I’m not as young as I used to be” too loud, but so loud you’d have to shout at the person sitting right next to you to be heard. This is something you accept in a nightclub, but when you’re sitting down to eat it turns a meal into a farce. In the end it feels a bit like the scene at the end of Carry on up the Khyber where they’re politely eating dinner while the building is being loudly blown up around them.
Outside, the setting is not as lavish but it’s far more relaxing. The Patio gives way to loungers, a small private beach and then the sea in front. For sundowners it’s a more than pleasant place to be, so this is where we ate. The inside was largely empty while the patio was full, which perhaps was because of the music but also due to the last of the good pre-summer weather.
The beach-side dining is apparently inspired by the French Riviera and the heart of Italy and put together by chef Vergan Robert, who was previously chief consultant trainer at Ecole de Cuisine at Alain Ducasse. It’s pretty clear he knows what he’s doing. The burrata we had to start was truly fantastic and among the best we’ve had anywhere in the city, with just the addition of traditional tomatoes, basil and pesto proving that a simple thing done well is nearly always the best way to go. Likewise the sautéed prawns salad was the type of South Mediterranean dish that really works in Dubai, especially when eating al fresco.
The beef was perfectly well done while the Tortellini with spinach was a really lovely modern Italian dish that would not have been out of place in one of the better Italian restaurants around the city. In fact, every dish was great and the ones we saw other people ordering looked great as well.
So full marks to the food and the chef who created it. But sadly it’s the little things let the place down at the moment. The service was polite but slow and things were forgotten. Orders had to be repeated and staff had to be searched out. I should point out though that our waiter was a lovely guy who never stopped working hard, but apologised and pointed out that they were understaffed.
And of course there was the music. To be fair it was turned down to a reasonable level as the afternoon gave way to evening. And when that happened the inside areas was a more than pleasant place to be.
To be fair you can say that sound levels are a problem in many other places. In this case it’s a shame because it’s one of those lazy, early evening spots that, given the setting, the decor and the food, could be great. But the little kinks need to be straightened out before the overall experience matches chef Robert’s food. It will probably quieten down over Ramadan and the summer, giving them chance to work on the issues, but come Autumn, this could be a great place to round off a weekend.
For Esquire magazine