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.


OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

OPA, a Greek restaurant in the Fairmont hotel Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 30 min 13 sec ago
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OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

  • OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats
  • Take a step into Greece with OPA's lavish decor

DUBAI: Upon entering Dubai’s latest Greek restaurant OPA at the Fairmont Hotel, diners are transported from the concrete jungle to a lavish, plant-filled lobby with a tree growing right in the center of the room, before moving into the dining area that’s been made to look like a traditional Greek establishment, with white-painted walls and light blue linings.

OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats, many of which are similar to those found in most Mediterranean cuisines, but with a fancier touch.
Before we even sat down at our round, saloon-style couched table, loud (like, loud!) Greek music burst from the speakers as the waiters, dressed in chiton and peplos — traditional Greek clothing — gathered around and began dancing across the restaurant, inviting guests to join the fun and be a part of the unique experience. White, clay plates were passed to every table and diners were encouraged to smash them on the floor. More people were willing to get involved in the latter. Who knew the dining experience would come with an anger-management class?
First up was a trifecta of spicy feta, tzatziki and tarama dips coupled with seasoned and toasted triangular pita bread. While the tarama dip was fishier than others I’ve tasted, the spicy feta and tzatziki dips were lick-the-bowl-clean good. After came a chunky and refreshing Greek salad (because why not) and a black truffle tuna tartare that hit the spot both taste-wise and texturally, as the velvety softness of the raw fish worked well with the crispy koulouri.

The hot appetizers rolled in later — grilled octopus, prawns saganaki, and grilled Cypriot halloumi. While the grilled octopus offered little to differentiate it from other restaurant offerings, the saganaki offered a twist to the traditional flaming saganaki, with its feta cheese and roasted peppers-infused spicy tomato sauce. The halloumi was on another level — the sweetness of the grilled fig and grape dressing went hand in hand with the saltiness of the cheese, making it a pleasant surprise to the taste buds.
The mains began with three lamb chops served with pickled cucumbers and tzatziki, a hearty and rich dish that will have you sucking at the bone just to get more of the lamb flavor. Next up was the lobster orzo “risotto” (according to the menu), a grilled half-lobster marinated with seaweed butter laying on a bed of orzo mixed with tomato sauce. While the dish sounded extravagantly rich, it was actually rather flat — the flavors never really reached their full potential: the sauce was a tad bland and the lobster-to-orzo ratio leaned heavily on the orzo.

For dessert, we were served the OPA baklava sundae, a large crispy filo cup stuffed with pistachio cream, caramel and Greek yoghurt ice-cream, pieces of baklava and topped with crumbled pistachios and caramel sauce. It resembled a massive Turkish cupcake, and was enough for a table of four hungry diners. If you’re skilled enough to dig through from the top to the bottom and manage to balance all its components without having one fall, then you’re in for an exciting mouthful.

All in all, OPA is well worth a visit. Whether you’re in a group celebrating a birthday, a couple going out on a date or even going solo to reward yourself for surviving yet another hectic work week, take a step into Greece and away from Dubai’s tall towers and traffic-filled roads.