Eyes on the stars, feet on the ground
In a recent Masterchef episode, a Michelin-starred chef was talking about his inspiration for a dish. “I always walk on the beach in the morning and I looked around me and created this” he said. ‘This‘ included ‘sand’ and little jelly things cut into the shape of crabs. It looked like a children’s tray garden project resembling a rock pool. Everyone fawned about how clever this was but no-one seemed to mention the taste of the food. This, for me, is foodie pseudery (and presumably is part of the inspiration for this brilliantly funny pastiche review Four Restaurants Where You’ll Never Ever Get a Table). I hate all this food as art nonsense – there is no place on my plate for a ‘pea’ (or a sea-creature) of some flavoured gel. Of course chefs should innovate but constant reinvention and novelty puts the ‘experience’ over the food in my opinion.
Given the choice of eating new season asparagus drizzled with Hollandaise, from the Vale of Evesham, in a Gloucestershire pub or dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant I would probably opt for the former (and my wallet dictates that too). However, when invited to meet Yannick Alleno, a three-Michelin-starred chef, at STAY at One and Only, The Palm, I accepted (especially as they graciously allowed me to bring my sister who had left the bleak coastline of Roker, Tyne and Wear, for a trip to sunny Dubai). Who wouldn’t?
To get to The One & Only you take a left at the top of the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah and keep going as it curves back on itself ending in a spectacular view of the Dubai coastline and Dubai Marina. The hotel is a pretty Moorish-inspired style with the rather less splendid views of the water in between the fronds tempered by a series of lovely water features. The interior of STAY is striking, managing to be dramatic, elegant and cosy at the same time. Yannick and the hotel manager Michael Payne were charming and the staff proceeded to serve the entire a la carte menu in bite-sized but perfectly formed morsels (while keeping our glasses of Louis Roederer Champagne topped up). Not a gel capsule or a puff of dry-ice in sight.
The ‘pastry library’ fills one wall of the restaurant, the book shelves refrigerated to hold a range of delicate desserts. The dedicated pastry chef Marie Wucher (who obviously loves her job as she didn’t stop smiling) makes little confections to order including exquisite raspberry choux with vanilla cream and chestnut Mont Blanc with eglantine cream.
It’s easy to give a favourable report when you are the guest of an establishment, especially when treated like a VIP and plied with excellent Champagne but the evening did make me think differently about Michelin-starred food. Mainly inspired by classic French dishes there was enough innovation to be exciting while the combinations of flavours were relevant and in harmony. The pigeon wrapped in cabbage may have looked like a small, green brain but it tasted superb (I managed to eat quite a few of these). The waiting staff were friendly, professional and showed great attention to detail.
A few other highlights from the menu were: foie gras with mulled wine jelly and pear on toasted brioche, soya bean risotto with almond, parsley and chives and black peppered Wagyu beef fillet ‘Cafe de Paris’ with pommes frites (ok – excellent steak and chips). At time of writing prices range from 70 AED for Tofu veloute (from the vegetarian section of the menu – quite rare in a classic French restaurant) to 330 AED for the lobster fricasse with beetroot and chestnut confit. My favourite wild pigeon chartreuse with foie gras, cabbage and perigourdine sauce is 310 AED so I’ll have to save up.
The alternative route to the hotel is to arrive by boat departing from The One and Only Royal Mirage. This takes you into the private marina where 101 Dining Lounge and Bar is situated (great tapas I hear).
The lighting was extremely challenging for photography – for very beautiful professional pics and more information visit the hotel’s website.
There’s a short interview in The National Bites if you want to know more about Yannick Alleno. I like the fact that he eats perfectly roasted chicken and a salad at home.
P.S. My sister loved the evening but her favourite event of the holiday was a tour of the ethnic restaurants of Bur Dubai.
So given the choice when dining are you five-star all the way or an ‘eat with your fingers’ fan?