When I hear Alfie’s has opened in Emirates Towers, I think “Interesting, two British restaurants in the same Boulevard – let the battle begin!”
Taking our seats ‘inside’ the restaurant, I look at my less than satisfying view of a large metal escalator and question why the restaurant was kept completely open to the mall. The cigar lounge inspired interior greatly contrasts, and not in a good way, the Boulevard escalator and a retail shop’s promotional sale campaign. I feel as though what atmosphere the interior creates quickly gets blown away and lost forever in the emptiness of the Boulevard Mall.
We receive our two page menus and I am pleased by its simplicity and ease of interacting with. They cleaverly marked an S next to all the signature dishes on the menu which makes my ordering process go something like this “I’ll have the all S-es on the menu. My Penelope Cruz look alike waitress responds with a laugh. Realizing the volume of S-es on the menu, I narrow my choices down to the following: pear salad, cured salmon and cauliflower soup for starters and fish and chips and rabbit pie for mains with a chocolate tort for dessert.
After sipping on a beautiful white wine recommended by Ms. Penelope by the name of Gewürztraminer Hugel (I promise you it tastes better than it sounds) and munching on a very forgettable bread basket, our starters arrive.
At first glance, I’m very content with the portion size that veer on the smaller side. Smaller portions mean I can order more – I am a woman that likes to have options.
The cauliflower soup represents earthiness in a bowl. The smokey, sweet flavors of the cauliflower are irresistible to me and each spoonful acts as a warm hug to my lips.
The pear salad is beautifully constructed and delivers contrastingly sweet and tangy flavors traditional to the salad.
Salmon is a tricky ingredient for me. Personally, I feel it has such a dominating character, something I particularly don’t like in food and in men. Always ready to give my dominating friends a second chance, I squeeze some fresh lemon over the salmon, tell it to play nice and take my bite. True to its name, the salmon truly has been cured both in a culinary and characteristic sense. Though curing does intensifies the flavors of a meat product, it did so in such a particularly balanced way that I can taste the lemon, salmon and spices all in harmony which then results in a plate wiped clean.
We sip our wine in a satisfied but wanting and anticipating more good food mood.
Our mains arrive, yes the choice of fish and chips is very predictable, but staples are a must to always try. If you can’t get a staple right what can you get right? Right?
The fish and chips comes beautifully presented accompanied with all the bells and whistles, mashed peas, mayo mix, lemon and larger than life potato wedges. The extra crispy crust with the tender white juicy fish in addition to all the sides combine to create a spot on staple that binds my feelings of anticipation and satisfaction.
The dish I looked forward to the most while ordering is my rabbit ‘pie’. Pie in parenthesis because it is nothing like a pie and for that, I am greatful. The rabbit pie is served in a small deep bowl with the filling of soft rabbit meat in a thick spring vegetable broth topped with mustard infused mashed potatoes and a side of extra soft, butter sautéed carrots. Each bite of my Rabbit Pie held its own, meaning each bite offered something different, whether it be the fresh vegetables including spring onions and carrots, soft rabbit meat or even mustard potatoes.
And finally to top off the whole meal, a chocolate tort. Rich smooth chocolate with an amaretto infused crust. Yes it tastes as good as it sounds!
I am always open to different types of cuisines and I have enjoyed British food but usually only at that moment. For the first time, if felt a pull back to the food I enjoyed long after the meal was over probably because of the infusion of some contemporary notes to the dishes. But then I remind myself that ambiance is such a large part of an enjoyable dining experience, and one I unfortunately think Alfie’s has missed the mark on. I’d recommend a small design change to harness the atmosphere they are loosing to the Boulevard and I would most definitely be back!
If you were to ask me The IVY or Alfie’s? My answer, based on what I enjoy and maybe contrary to what a lot of people think, Alfie’s food offerings with the IVY’s ambiance – a match made in heaven.