On a date with dates in Café Bateel

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Updated 21 January 2013
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On a date with dates in Café Bateel

Bateel’s consistent care for excellence in quality date products is the key behind its success. These are sold in its specialized outlets all over the Kingdom and abroad. Bateel also serves mouthwatering date pastries, date cookies and date chocolates in its own café situated off Tahlia Street in Riyadh. The menu, however, does not focus solely on date-based food ingredients but on a tempting selection of dishes. Café Bateel’s cuisine fuses the essence of Italian cooking from Umbria “with urban modern sensibilities”. Only the best products, such as extra-virgin olive oil and pasta made from top-quality hard durum wheat are used.
Bateel’s master chefs have attempted to renew Italian cuisine by focusing on healthy ingredients. For example, butter and fresh cream have been replaced by labneh and olive oil.
The a la carte menu includes an exciting choice of gourmet dishes as well as a collection of soups, main courses, desserts and beverages that change with each season.
The season’s specials include a trio of mouthwatering soups: a white onion soup with sautéed mushrooms and red chili pepper oil, an Umbrian winter soup with forest mushrooms, farro (an ancient wheat grain) and garlic and a roasted tomato soup with chickpeas, cumin, rosemary and sour cream.
The list of season’s specials included a risotto. This popular dish does not trace back its origin to the Renaissance, or even Roman times as most Italian dishes. The risotto became popular during the nineteenth century in the northern regions of Italy, Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto, where the rice was cultivated and still is.
Café Bateel serves this wonderful seafood risotto with lobster, mussels, scallops, squid and marinated prawns. It is made with arborio, the most popular variety of superfine rice used exclusively to make risottos. Its large, plump grains produce a delicious nutty taste.
The presence of a duck leg confit on the menu is the acknowledgement of yet another great cuisine, that of France.
A confit is a piece of duck, goose or turkey cooked in its own fat and stored in a pot, covered in the same fat to preserve it. The confit is one of the oldest forms of preserving food and is a specialty of southwestern France. At Bateel, you will have your duck leg – the most succulent part of preserved poultry – served “a la sarladaise” that is with fried potatoes. Other garnishes include frisee salad and onion confit.
There is also Bateel Chicken Tagine. The word “tagine” refers to a deep glazed-earthenware dish with a conical lid that fits flush with the rim. It is used in North Africa to prepare and serve a range of dishes that are cooked slowly in a rich and flavorsome sauce. This dish itself is also called tagine and Bateel prepares it with potatoes, fava beans, almonds, apricots, Wanan date. The dish is flavored with Ras El-Hanout, a fragrant mixture of cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and dried rosebuds. Ras El-Hanout literally means: roof of the shop.
The eggs and omelets’ section of the menu includes an interesting version of eggs Benedict. The term “Benedict” refers in fact to a number of dishes using either a puree of salt cod and potato or salt cod mashed with garlic and cream. Café Bateel’s version consists of two poached eggs served on toasted muffins over sliced turkey topped with a Hollandaise sauce and served with a garnish of green asparagus. Indeed, times change and nowadays customers do prefer a lean slice of turkey to salt cod.
I came to Bateel primarily for the date desserts. Most of all, for the wondrous Bateel Sticky Toffee Pudding, served with a regal butterscotch sauce, tangy yoghurt ice cream and caramelized pecan. I can only but agree with my French fellow citizen, a certain Monsieur Misson de Valbourg who, while visiting Britain in 1690, is known to have said: “Blessed be he that invented pudding! For it is manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people, better even than that of the wilderness. Ah! What an excellent thing is an English pudding!”
The pudding is indeed a unique British tradition. From the earliest medieval recipes, through elaborate and brilliant Elizabethan and Stuart confections to the elegant eighteenth- and substantial nineteenth-century puddings, a tradition has evolved which is an integral part of Britain’s culinary heritage. All British puddings originated from two medieval dishes: the early cereal ‘pottage’, which was a kind of porridge with honey, wild fruits and shredded meat or fish added to make it more palatable, and frumenty, a milk pudding made from wheat or barley eaten with milk and honey on festive occasions. There is hardly a town in Britain that does not have a local pudding!
I also loved the Kholas Pecan Pie, a crispy pure butter sugar dough topped with pecan nuts, chewy Kholas dates and date dhibs. This is one of the best date pastries I have ever tasted to this day! I also tasted the Khidri Date Opera, but was unable to recognize the distinctive taste of dates in the layers of date cream.
At that stage, I was unable to order another date cake. I was planning on trying the Barhi Sacher Chocolate cake. The Sachertorte is a famous Viennese gateau, created at the Congress of Vienna by Franz Sacher, a chief pastry cook. Sachertorte, literally means Sacher’s cake. It is a plain chocolate cake filled or topped with apricot jam, then covered with chocolate icing and served traditionally with whipped cream and a cup of coffee. At Bateel the apricot jam is replaced with Barhi date jam.
The dessert menu also offers an amazing selection of cakes and tarts. You might like to try the Hazelnut Rocher Cake, the Dark Pistachio Mousse – a silky dark chocolate mousse with a center of pure pistachio cream on a crispy chocolate praline base. Or try the scrumptious Chocolate Fondant, a warm, 70 percent chocolate cake with a melting center served with vanilla ice cream. Finally, I suggest you try the delicious Bateel sparkling date drink, which is nowhere as sweet as one would imagine.
Bateel is open on Saturday to Thursday from 7.30 a.m. to 1.00 a.m., Friday from 1.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m.


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The London Project: Unpretentious high-end dining in Dubai

The London Project resturant in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2019
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The London Project: Unpretentious high-end dining in Dubai

  • The London Project is located on Bluewaters Island off Jumeirah Beach Residence
  • The menu features “flavors from the boroughs of London where dishes are designed to be shared”

DUBAI: We’re fans of visiting restaurants before they reach Instagram-level hype, and so during an outing to Dubai’s newest neighborhood, we had to pass by The London Project. This establishment — which opened late last month, and is located on Bluewaters Island off Jumeirah Beach Residence — is the latest addition to the emirate’s ever-changing culinary scene.

It won’t be the first eatery you’ll come across when you arrive from the mainland; it’s tucked toward the far end of the marina, near the giant, yet-to-open Ain Dubai.
Offering glorious views of the Ferris wheel attraction and the Beach JBR, the venue has launched at the right time: perfect weather makes for perfect outings.
Upon entering, there’s an instant ‘Secret Garden’ feel to the place, with bespoke plants adorning every corner right up to the top level. Try and get a table on the terrace — the views are unbeatable.

The star of the show, naturally, is the food. Designed by chefs Christopher Walker and Robert Fairs, the menu features “flavors from the boroughs of London where dishes are designed to be shared.” The food is certainly eclectic, ranging from chocolate-fed wagyu steaks to salmon flatbreads. It is a tad disappointing that each dish doesn’t come with a story of the borough it’s inspired by though — that would have been a nice touch on the menu.
We opt for small plates to share, and they’re impressive. The buttermilk chicken is perfectly juicy with just the right amount of crunch, while the braised beef in the pulled beef soft shell tacos is melt-in-the mouth. The heirloom tomato burrata is another delight: fresh and topped with a smoked raspberry sorbet that surprisingly works; while the Ika Mata ceviche marinated in coconut cream is a sight to behold.

For dessert, the restaurant’s signature is a vanilla yoghurt parfait served with fresh strawberries, and strawberry parfait.
The food, then, certainly passes the test. Another plus point? The friendly service. We were met by smiling hosts and that welcoming, laidback attitude remained throughout service. The décor and dishes are upscale, but without the air of pretension often associated with venues like these. It’s so refreshing to see.

As you’d expect with any new establishment, however, there were teething problems. While the ‘adult’ beverage menu was extensive, little information was offered regarding soft drinks, and a staff member had to take a minute to check which sodas were available. It’s important for any restaurant, not just in this region but everywhere, to understand its clientele, and be knowledgeable about ‘zero-percent’ options. After all, non-alcoholic drinks are in demand more than ever in real London, too.
We visited midweek, avoiding the more-manic weekend. However, we were distracted a couple of times during our meal by staff members discussing the evening’s service in a group huddled together right behind our table. We know that it’s important to cross-check things with colleague — it just might be more professional to do so in a quieter area away from diners.
Nevertheless, it’s evident that a great deal of detail has gone into The London Project, and if it maintains its food quality and friendly, laidback style of service, then it will fast cement itself as one of Dubai’s restaurants to watch in 2019.
And the eatery recently announced that it is now brewing its own brand of coffee, Queenie’s Estate.
“The Queens first ever official, unofficial roastery in Dubai,” the restaurant’s Instagram page stated this week. “Obviously named Queenies, and obviously roasting coffee that is strong, sophisticated, and has a touch of sass — just like Ma’am herself!”
That gives us one more reason to pay another visit.