Jack Daniels with everything – an evening at Seafire
I have a gripe about restaurants in Dubai. Despite acres of choice it’s difficult to find somewhere nice for casual dining. A lot do ‘fancy’, but where do you go when you don’t have a yearning for a tian of vegetables, a venison jus or dessert with a tuile? Street food is fine but I’d like to enjoy a nice glass of wine (without renegotiating my overdraft)? The ‘all-in buffet-style’ dining places offer value for money but they’re better suited for a school class Mum’s gathering (no-one fights about the bill). Simple food, nice surroundings with a drinks menu at a ‘mid-week kind of price’ is what I’m searching for. I just wish Carluccio’s was licensed here.
Anyway, when I was invited (more about that later) to Seafire at Atlantis I was prepared for swanky. This turreted pink hotel, out on The Palm Jumeirah, is just the wrong side of gaudy for me, but there is no denying the lavishness and grandeur of it all. We were there to try the new Jack Daniel’s menu so got started with Lynchburg Lemonade and Amaretto Jack cocktails. This is special Seafire Single Barrel Jack Daniel’s - a blend specially created for the restaurant. You may remember that I’ve cooked with Jack Daniel’s and my husband makes a mean Lynchburg so I was intrigued. We met Grant Murray, the very welcoming executive chef, who apologised that his baker had not added any corn to the corn bread but he’d rustle up something lovely for us.
Seafire, like most of the spaces in Atlantis, is absolutely enormous; the warehouse-sized space is made less intimidating by wooden beams, gigantic suspended lighting, a circular open kitchen and a vast marble bar. Red leather chairs and ochre sofas provide comfort, the lighting is quite dim and the soundtrack a bit Buddah Bar-ish (if you know what I mean). It was full of families with white blonde, impeccably behaved children (most playing quietly with i-pads and the like) – Danish school holidays?
‘You know what a corn dog is don’t you?’ said our breezy waitress. Actually I didn’t. The menu was inspired by Southern American comfort food – sort of posh barbecue and drive-in-movie; a Brit from South-West England was all at sea. It was minced chicken and beef with cheese, deep fried in a crispy coating, on a stick. ‘Just throw it in your gob as usual’ said ‘Breezy’ (more friendly and polite than this sounds on the page). We did and it was a great initiation to corn-dogs.
The slow-braised ribs (from specially bred, fed, reared and imported Atlantis Australian beef) marinated in Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce were unctuous slabs of meat falling off the bone (and quite enormous – are you getting a theme here?). The coleslaw was packed with interesting crunchy bits and there was a sweet little corn on the cob on the side. Something plain, like bread, would have been a good foil for the richness but it never arrived. However, we never asked and the attentive staff including very charming and enthusiastic Jeet would have obliged if we had, I’m sure (and they offered us more of everything else).
If you like ice-cream (Jack D and hazelnut) with chunks of Hershey’s milk chocolate, fudgey bits and sauce then the dessert would have made your day. I like 90 percent bitter chocolate and, dare I say this, I’m not very keen on ice-cream so I think it was wasted on me. The single barrel Jack Daniels was another thing and rounded off a very lovely evening with smooth, warm, vanilla-ey, deliciousness. The enormous space meant my friend and I nattered all night without being overheard but still feeling part of the atmosphere.
The menu is 195 AED per person (for three courses plus I think this includes a shot of the Seafire Jack with dessert) so it just fits into mid-range, unfancy (although you’d bump up the bill if you indulged in the JD Single Barrel cocktails). It was a perfect night out with a good friend, mid-week. Recommend to friends as good value and a bit of a treat? I have already.
Would I have thought the same if I hadn’t been a the guest of Atlantis and how did this come about? It’s quite common in Europe and the USA for established food bloggers to be invited to review all kinds of things (read here for an exhausting account of Mathilde’s Cuisine’s week in London). Tarik and Amanda from Atlantis marketing were absolutely charming with their invitation and our welcome was fit for VIPs. I thought why not try something different – but it does raise questions about whether it might have an impact on the integrity, content and style of what I’m writing. And do you, dear reader, really want to hear about me going out as a guest? Should I just enjoy it while it lasts?! What are your thoughts – do please let me know in the comments. I’d appreciate your feedback.