• 27Mar

    Let us be quite clear the Left Bank I am writing about here is in the Souk Al Bahar as we have not tried the others in Dubai.

    We are now well into double figures for the number of times we have eaten at the Left Bank in Souk Al Bahar and we are pleased to report that the food is great as too are the staff. It is always so clear when staff have been given some training and know what they are to do. The waiting staff are all Phillipino and all know what they are doing .

    Special note needs to go to the chef whom I have never met and understand that his name to be Alex Dixon.  He too I understand is Phillipino and brings that Asian twist to western dishes.  If I were to open a restaurant he would be the first I contact.

    The menu is not so extensive as to overstretch the kitchen and allows the dishes to be freshly prepared giving the chef the opportunity to concentrate on quality and presentation. The fillet steaks are superb as too are are the herb crusted lamb cutlets. Steamed mixed  vegetables are perfect and served in a seasoned oil dressing. The weakness on the menu is certainly the desert selection as these tend to lack that home made taste. Last time we went were given a complimentary desert which I believe was a sticky toffee pudding and were told is their best seller. Not good when the benchmark is set so high by the main course.

    We have never been to the Left Bank when it heaves with party people as we have learned that in Dubai you need to avoid the times when staff become stretched as the wheels tend to fall off very quickly.

    I wrote a none too endearing blog about The Hive in the same Souk and all that The Hive fails at, the Left Bank achieves admirably.

    The purist may argue that the Left Bank has a confused theme with not knowing if it’s a Bar, Restaurant or Night Club. It doesn’t matter as what they are doing works well and is consistent in its delivery of service and food.

    Conclusion

    An excellent place to eat, drink and chill out. Provides high quality food and service by unpretentious staff who take pride in what they do. Keep it going.

    Improvements

    • Review the desserts menu
  • 13May

    Now this is a place worth visiting for a light bite to eat and a drink in a courtyard setting. This side of the road has captured a more intimate atmosphere without all the glitz and razzmatazz of the fountains surrounding the Burj.

    The service is friendly and the food very acceptable in an intimate courtyard that comes alive in the evening with the Arabian shisha filling the air. We have eaten in this place on a number of occasions and thoroughly enjoyed every time we have been back.

    Points to note wireless internet access is available for free as in many places in Dubai and that alcohol is not served between 4 and 6 in the afternoon due to some licensing law and the shisha pipes.

    There are a few suggestions to improve upon but none that would stop us from going back if things don’t change.

    Improvements

    1. Try serving the drinks all at once rather than a beer first then five minutes later the wine arrives
    2. Get reception hooked up to the internet so they can assist customers with local questions
    3. Menus are looking a bit tatty

    Conclusion

    Very happy with this place, making it reasonably priced in Dubai terms

  • 19Feb

    This is becoming all too familiar, realy nice happy people waiting on tables that nod and say yes to everything but understand very little. This was the second time we had been to the hive as our first experience was very casual and pleasant. This second time was unfortunately nothing like the first which just shouts we are inconsistent. If you are looking to take advantage of happy hour and get lashed in the two hours from 5-7 in the evening then this place is as good as any. The staff are happy smiley nodders that understand little but always seem to want to please.

    Anyway back to our experience. We decided to take advantage of the happy hour as this brings drinks down to about £4 per glass (half price) for wine or a bottle of beer. So, we asked the waiter for a drinks menu to which he replied “Sorry we don’t have a drinks menu.” Now forgive me asking but is it not the most basic thing a restaurant has is a menu? Obviously not. So we then ask what wines do you have and with that this happy smiley face reaches into his pocket like a naughty school boy looking for his conkers, conjours up this pathetic screwed up piece of paper from his pocket and carefully unfolds it in front of us. He then starts to read out the wines that he has on the list. Now forgive me for being observant but here we are sitting in a ‘wannabee’ restaurant supposedly part owned by the Irish rugby star Brian O’Driscoll and we have some fourth rate tin pot menu. Recognising that there is now an opportunity to investigate an opportunity for some improvement I ask the waiter to read out the whole wine menu. Once he had finished we then asked what the house wine was. The answer is not important as he took away the order for a beer and house wine. In no time at all he returned, why? Because of the 10 or so wines he listed the house wine had run out! Yes run out and the time was only a quarter past six in the evening. Now its play time, for me. “OK so if you have run out of house wine does that mean that anything else we order is the same price?” I should have said it in Russian as this was now expecting the waiter to step outside of his tick box world and now he was expected to make an executive decision. I gave up before him and ordered another wine which cost another 30% extra.

    With the drinks now on the table we are ready to order some food. Be warned that starters are 10-15 pounds and that this is really a finger food place – it is not a fine dining experience. So we stick to the mains and both order rib eye steak with pepper sauce. What could be simpler with a restaurant half full with only drinkers and no one else eating. Hmm theres a clue there! Not to worry we continue anyway as ever the optimists. Well the food arrives or at least most of it does and once again its delivered by enthusiastic happy smiley faces that always keen to say yes. Just as the waiter tries to rush off we ask “what about the sauce for the steak?” “What sauce?” the waiter asks “The sauce that we asked for with the steak.” With that he runs off and in no time returns asking “What sauce?” Now this is all very amusing except we have two small £26 steaks cooling nicely in the evening air. So now I see this as a point to make a process improvement and tell the waiter “the same sauce that we asked for and the waiter very kindly repeated to us before he took our order away.” With that he ran away again. By this time we thought we had waited long enough so carried on with our dinner. After consuming three quarters of our meal the elusive pepper sauce arrives with buckets of apologies and sorreys and more apologies blah blah! “Is there anything else we can get you sir?” I’ll leave the managers of the establishment to work out what should have happened at this point, but for the rest of you the waiter never stepped outside his yse sir no sir comfort zone.

    Having eaten our meal the manager decided to walk by a very nice Philipino man and he asked me if everything was OK. I told him to take a seat as this could take some time. This he did and to be fare he listened and seemed to take on board our comments with regard to the wine and food order. At this point we also said that as we were local we had come back to the restaurant because of a previous pleasant first experience. However we also pointed out to him that customers like consistency and that from our experience the hive was failing in that. Also we advised him that he should be aware that when waiting on tables to Europeans then the waiters should not clear any of the plates before the whole table had finished at which point I pointed out to him that my wifes plate had been cleared her chips were left on the table and I had not finished. Now this may be a cultural issue but it is for managers to understand this and train the staff accordingly.

    So a very disappointing meal came to a close and we thought that was that. Oh no we then had oodles more apologies from waiting staff and were offered the dessert menu and told that we could have some chocolate dessert as a complimentary gesture of good will. Now why would you give someone a menu show them a list of desserts and then go tell them that they can only have one type of dessert as a means of recompense. We declined, which lead to more apologies.

    Conclusion
    Would we go back? We probably will because it is right on our door step and as useless as the staff are it is not their fault as they are trained to be compliant and not to understand the customer. It seems to be a common theme out here that because labour is so cheap then the answer seems to always be “lets get lots of staff!” Wake up establishments and start listening to your customers as they will help you to improve.

    Improvement opportunities

    • Get the wine list printed on a sensible piece of paper
    • If you have waiters that struggle to write then get them a tick list
    • If you are going to offer a complimentary dessert don’t tell the customer which one they have to choose
    • Learn the cultural etiquettes when clearing a table
    • Having lots of staff does not mean great staff
    • Management, stand back and watch how customers interact, you will learn something
  • 25Jan


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    Bistro Madeleine

    Here we go again! A restaurant that gets so much right but fails heavily in one section which taints the whole experience.

    This was our second visit to Bistro Madeleine in as many weeks which as you may expect from the name offers French cuisine . Our first visit my wife enjoyed more than myself as I had to excuse myself from the table before the end of the meal but never thought that it was anything to do with the restaurant. I wont go into detail!

    I had ordered a fish dish and it tasted OK. During the meal a table behind ours had reason to complain about their meals and the staff were very apologetic and wanted to put things right, but for whatever reason the customer did not want anything else.

    We passed off these incidents as unfortunate events but not enough to put us off trying again –  as we have just done.

    Well this time we turned up for a very early evening meal about about 6 o’clock and as you might expect we were the only ones in the restaurant. We were greeted by a lovely lady, Joelle I think her name was and she offered us the pick of the tables in the restaurant – good start.

    We ordered drinks and without giving a thought to our previous experience my wife ordered duck and I gave the fish of the day a try. Well the drinks turned up and a short time afterwards the meals arrived. As they were placed on the table all looked fine – as ever never judge the preverbial book! Taking my first cut the fish was warm but raw! How! How! How! can only two guests in the whole restaurant get an uncooked meal served at the table. Staff must have out numbered us by five to one.

    Once again the lovely smiling happy waitress comes over and I explain that the food is not cooked. She then asks if I want anything else in replacement, which is the right thing to do, but by this time the penny had dropped, the run to the loo, the table behind us and now raw food. Apologies for being a bit slow but the chef has a problem with cooking food which is something rather career limiting if you want to run a kitchen of a restaurant. Rather bizarrely all the time we were discussing raw fish with the waitress the chef with his big white hat and pressed white linens was marching around the restaurant proud as a peacock. Bit of advice Mr Chef go back into the kitchen get yourself a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cook book and learn how to prepare and cook fish.

    I genuinely don’t go looking for this sort of thing just to blog and make a nuisance of myself but dining out with friends or family is a ceremony that is dependent upon a seamless series of mutually dependent skill sets that seek to meet or exceed a customers expectation. You Chef, let your team down.

    Conclusion

    Would we go back? No, which is a great disappointment as the staff front of house are delightful and the setting is very comfortable. We just don’t want to have another culinary disappointment.

    Improvements

    • Give the chef some support to understand what is going wrong in the kitchen
    • Give the staff some feedback that they can relay to customers regarding the feedback forms that are touted at the end of the meal
    • If the chef is going to strut his stuff in the restaurant then get him to engage with the customers – I could give him some feedback
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  • 10Jan

    Rivington Grill

    This is my first blog in the Middle East and what better way to kick off with a visit to a ‘British Theme’ restaurant.

    Rivington Grill is set in the Old Town district overlooking the lakes, soon to be and under the awesome sight of The Burj. There is an incredible amount of construction going on all around the restaurant which is totally out of the control of Rivington Grill, but boy is it noisy!

    We went to this restaurant because we were on a walk about around the Old Town the day before looking for apartments to rent as we are going to be living out here for a few years. We stumbled across what we understand was a manager outside the restaurant who was an Iraqi and a charming chap. After some discussion he persuaded that we should try out the place as a lot of work and effort had been put in to opening up this new restaurant. We did just that the following day, Oh dear!

    The place as you would expect being brand new is spotlessly clean with chefs working behind counters that are in full view of the customers. Good start. Going through to the restaurant we were amazed at how many staff there were and not many of them British – which is not a criticism.
    Despite the noise outside from the building works we thought we would enjoy some alfresco dining as this is the only time of year you can do this without the weather being too hot.

    As a table was not ready outside we were asked to sit at the bar whilst the table was made ready, right move. At the bar we ordered a drink and in no time at all the table was ready. Making our way to the table the waiter took the drinks to the table which again you don’t get very often in the UK, right move again. Taking our seats my wife was given the wine menu as she was drinking and I could not as I was driving and there is zero alcohol tolerance when driving out here with a straight to jail policy if caught! Wow the price of quite ordinary wines are £40 – £120 a bottle or for the cheapest wine by the glass is £6ish.

    Then came the menu well this is not British food as you would know it. Its British named food that has a twist that from what we ordered failed to impress. Because we were unsure about the place in terms of culinary excellence we thought we would play safe and start off slowly, that turned out to be a good move. My wife ordered a ‘Welsh rarebit’ which had flaked smoked haddock in it on what looked like a piece of Mothers Pride – the latter I suppose was British! This was a single slice of bread served on an awful off white/brown 1960’s chunky style crockery and this was about £9ish – it looked very sad indeed. As for the taste well it was pastey, thick and heavy, it was not good.

    As for me well I ordered fish pie and this came out in the same awful style crockery and looked like it had been left under the grill too long. The sauce was tastey and there were some healthy chunks of fish. As for the size well for a fish pie that cost £20ish you would have thought you would get a small garnish of vegetables and something more than a small breakfast bowl of pie – you don’t and its mean!

    We didn’t have any desert as the main meal took an age to arrive despite it only being a slice of fancy cheese on toast and tiny fish pie.

    Now for the staff. You know a place is new when all the staff are super super super friendly and this is over bearing. From an outsider looking in there is considerable overlap with regard to duties and this manifests it self into a muddle. It is so obvious that everyone is trying really hard and there now needs to be a rethink about how in your face this needs to be. When we first walked in on the first day just to see what the place had to offer all the staff were lined up along the service counter and it was like everyone had come out to say hello – not very British thats more American! So to prove how silly this was I walked down the line and saluted everybody – you have to break it up somehow!

    Conclusion

    Would we go back? Not at those prices as the quality is not sufficient to raise the value (Value is proportional to the quality divided by the cost). The staff are willing and eager but need shaping and training to understand how to be proficient and not so over bearing. As for the food portions they are mean, slow to come to the table, and presented on some pretty awful lack luster china.

    Improvements

    • White china all the time – painters don’t start with a dirty canvas
    • Give the staff some boundaries to curb their eagerness
    • Provide some vegetables with the main meals – they are the cheapest things to provide
    • Sort the wine list out – even for Dubai its not right
    • Its difficult to make cheese on toast look good but a garnish would not be a bad start
    • Don’t charge top prices when world war three is taking place at the end of your terrace