Skip to content

Through the looking glass

February 7, 2012

The interior of the Cavalli Club DubaiMany working Mothers with children would recognise the structure and routine of my day and the calendar of our family life.  Days revolve around school, homework, meals, activities and on weekends we might have supper at a friend’s house or we might stay in.

But sometimes the curtain draws back and there is a glimpse into another world.  It’s every bit as tantalising as entering Narnia through the back of the wardrobe or suddenly falling down a rabbit hole.  An invitation to the Cavalli Club was one of these occasions.

Perma-tanned, silver-haired, raven-clad Roberto Cavalli the fashion designer lends his name to this venue at the Fairmont Dubai. Pictures in the press show him with a fat cigar in hand or a willowy model on his arm, always wearing sunglasses.  He sports that brand of Italian chic which really ought not to work, but even aged grannies in Rome seem to carry off.  I challenge you to find leopard-print and designer sunglasses in old peoples’ homes in Britain. Benidorm more like.  So lashings of high-end, designer bling was what I expected and exactly what I got.

Red carpet cocktails and the glitterati

Entering the lobby escaping from unseasonably cold Dubai temperatures into Antarctic conditions, I ran shivering into the fur-lined lift which had elements of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.  Thank goodness Scott’s expedition wasn’t replicated in the club, just oceans of dripping Swarovski crystals formed into gigantic chandelier, tables with elegant candelabra, twinkling lights, some neon and yes, quite a bit of animal print.

Crystal chandelier

I was there, by invitation, to the first Cavalli Connoisseurs wine dinner with the winemaker – none other than Tomassi Cavalli, next in line in the Cavalli dynasty who has chosen viticulture, over haute couture.

After being primed with a medicinal Red Carpet (a Campari and cranberry cocktail) and some elegant canapé at the bar (surrounded by groups of women in sparkly mini dresses) we moved to the dinner table which was slightly raised giving us a great view through the spangly curtains of crystal of the cavernous interior,  (these cast very odd bruise-like shadows on flesh which is why there are no close-ups of people in these pictures!).

Cavalli Club Dubai interior with opera singer and vodka

The number of staff in attendance was bewildering and I lost track of how many came to our table, especially as they were all wearing red and white striped tops for the Italian-themed evening.  Each course was served by an army bearing white cloche-covered plates, dishes revealed simultaneously in a theatrical flourish.

Some of the menu descriptions were a bit odd,  ‘Crisp potatoes’ looked just like chips to me and ‘earth salad’ finely chopped carrot.  The starter of seared scallops wrapped in smoked duck were soft and plump and the main course Mesquite smoked Black Angus was beautifully cooked.  I think I’ve been watching too much Masterchef The Professionals as I expected some smoke to appear when I lifted the glass lid of the little dish of smoked tomato cream that accompanied it; this would have been completely in keeping with the theatre of the surroundings.  Dessert was a dark chocolate moelleux with heart of caramel (sadly served in a ramekin so it didn’t ooze out onto the plate).

A very accomplished singer, who looked like a china doll, emerged twice during dinner to entertain with arias from Italian opera.  The crystal curtains are very clever as you can see the whole room but they give an illusion of privacy – you see everything through shifting twinkling prisms.

Scallops on risotto and Aberdeen Angus

The wines for the evening were from Tenuta Degli Dei, an exquisitely beautiful Tuscan estate owned by the Cavallis.  Tomassi, having first dedicated his life to breeding horses, turned to wine-making; the vines were planted from scratch in 2000 with traditional Bordeaux black grape varieties.  We tasted Le Redini 2009 first which was made primarily with Merlot; then Tenuta Degli Dei 2007 with the main course followed by a limited edition from the Cavalli Collection which came in a very heavy, encrusted bottle and I believe was Tenuta Degli Dei 2005, both blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  The Merlot was an odd pairing with the scallops, but the other two wines were great with the beef, especially the 2005 which had the most complexity and some very forward tannins meaning this wine will probably improve.  All were well-balanced wines, with layers of flavour and I was glad when Tomassi joined our table for questions.

Chocolate Molleux

As he had been given a blank slate of a vineyard at the start of the millennium, I was very interested to hear about why he decided to take the route of exclusively Bordelais vines and winemaking styles (like Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia and Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia Masseto before him) rather than use Italian grapes of the region but he didn’t really answer my question apart from saying he wanted to be a bit different from his neighbours and  “Most wines you want to drink a glass but this wine you want to finish the bottle.”  Beyond this he seemed happiest to talk about ‘being in the fields’ and ‘with the horses’ and then left the table rather abruptly.  Ah well, perhaps it was rather late in the evening for intense wine conversations. I’d asked Chris, the friendly sommelier from Macedonia earlier in the night, why I would want to drink a Bordeaux-style wine made in Italy and he answered, “With the Italian wine, the wine is singing; it’s softer, more elegant and stylish.” Both answers were quite vague but Chris was by far the most enthusiastic!

Cavalli wines

We were given a bottle of the encrusted Cavalli collection in leopard-print leather box to take home. Sadly it was empty!

Wine-nerdiness wasn’t the order of the evening and the Cavallis clearly know their market.  They offer a little bit of their designer lifestyle in everything they do, from the exclusive wines made to high standards (hand-selected grapes from a boutique vineyard), to premium vodka in sculptured bottles, to the dinner club concept of the venue; and it works – I certainly felt like glitterati (not fooderati) that evening.

The tempo of the evening altered by degrees throughout the night starting with dim lighting and lounge for the cocktails.  At around midnight, the lights got slightly brighter, the music pulsed and the atmosphere changed from that of a dining club to a party vibe.  Eschewing the Nonino Moscato Grappa (this was a Wednesday night after all) I emerged from this parallel universe back out into the real world, blinking a little and marvelling at the line of people who were just at the start of their evening.

crystal chandelier

Can you see our table reflected in the chandelier?

This special Italian set menu is available throughout February and if you book for the 8th, 9th or 10th they’ll be another Italian-themed evening with cooking demos overseen by Chef Rolando Lolli and Italian wine producers, Cevico, to chat to.  The set menu is priced at 250 AED (plus an additional 250 AED if the wines are included – with the exception of the Cavalli Collection limited edition which is available from the wine list at 890 AED per bottle).  There are more ‘Cavalli Connoisseurs’, culinary evenings to come including Spanish and Japenese themes.

Thanks to The Hedonsita and Life in the Food Lane for being great company (click their names to read their reviews of the evening).

Disclosure: I enjoyed this complimentary evening as a guest of the Cavalli Club.

Behind the barP.S. Part of my wine nerdiness was inspired by my Wines and Spirits Education Trust 3 exam which I was revising for then and have now taken. I’ll know whether I’ve passed in about eight weeks but I’ve loved every minute of it.

  1. February 7, 2012 10:14 am

    so lavish. seemed like a scene out of the golden globes or somethingd

    • February 7, 2012 3:53 pm

      You’re right Anita – I felt like a proper s’leb!

  2. February 7, 2012 10:18 am

    Love this post. Drippy chandeliers – perfect.

    • February 7, 2012 3:53 pm

      Thanks Sarah – I think we were on the same wavelength about the CC 🙂

  3. February 7, 2012 10:42 am

    Love the table reflection 🙂 Sadly, Tomasso didn’t give me much to go on in terms of wine selection tips when I interviewed him so am struggling to write up my review. You’re right the Macedonian sommelier was much more on the ball.

    • February 7, 2012 3:52 pm

      A winemaker who doesn’t want to talk about wine is pretty unusual!

  4. February 7, 2012 11:17 am

    What a fantastic meal and evening!



    • February 7, 2012 3:52 pm

      It was indeed Rosa – thanks for your comment.

  5. February 7, 2012 11:18 am

    Love the review! Had a very fashionable friend in town recently and we were contemplating going…he’d have loved the ambiance (even though I figure we’d have left the place hungry and grabbed a midnight shawarma ;)…) I’m guessing it’s almost impossible to get in without a huge cover charge?

    • February 7, 2012 3:51 pm

      I think this is the appeal of having the set menu. Sure there are huge, newsworthy bills racked up by high-rollers and a whole page of the menu dedicated to caviar, but this set menu is 250 AED plus another 250AED for those wines free-flowing (not the one in the fancy bottle). It’s easy to spend 500 AED per head for dinner in hotels and this is a real experience. I’m going to take visitors here for sure.

  6. February 7, 2012 12:03 pm

    only in the Theme Park! what an amazing experience..thanks for sharing!

    • February 7, 2012 3:48 pm

      I’ll take you next time Debi!

  7. February 7, 2012 2:12 pm

    Have always thought the Cavalli Club to be incredibly pretentious but have to admit I’m intrigued 🙂 PS: Love the pics

    • February 7, 2012 3:48 pm

      It probably is…very…but you don’t have to be pretentious to go there (pretentious? Moi?!). I’m always up for a new experience and this truly was…an experience. 🙂

      • February 8, 2012 11:09 am

        Seems like it 🙂 definitely a side of Dubai visitors to the city would be keen to see for themselves. And the set menu definitely makes it more accessible to the mere mortals among us 🙂

  8. February 7, 2012 4:36 pm

    I certainly know what you mean about the daily in’s and out’s of being a mom, but that looks like a great night out away from the kids! While we don’t do it often, getting dressed up for a night out always makes me feel like a new woman. Your photos of the even are stunning!

  9. February 7, 2012 6:48 pm

    Wow, a wine event. I lived in the EMirates in the 70s, when that wouldn’t have been possible. I have returned since then to visit and am always staggered at the changes. Looks like a lovely, lovely evening–but no more lovely than taking kids to school!

  10. February 8, 2012 8:33 pm

    Speaking as someone who’s setting off on the school run in 2 minutes time, this sounds like an out of body experience. How amazing, Sally. And how well told and photographed.

  11. Catherine permalink
    February 8, 2012 10:15 pm

    Hey Sally, Next time I volunteer to be your wine ‘wing-man’. The pics look oh, so , shii-shii~

  12. February 8, 2012 11:40 pm

    Living the life, is the phrase that springs to mind! As a mother who doesn’t get much sun :-). I feel you, and am glad you had a ball! Well done

  13. February 11, 2012 9:33 pm

    Looked like a very interesting night out!

  14. February 13, 2012 10:07 am

    Oh my, so this is how the other half lives! So glamorous, and those chandeliers are absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing your special night out with us, Sally!

  15. February 13, 2012 10:49 am

    Cvalli has always scared me; i always assumed it to be sparkly and people drenched in diamonds and venetian masks; hahaha oddly enough the scene seems rather close to my assumptions… however the food!!! that I didnt expect.. oh and the price for all that glitz and glamor… so well worth it! will have to do it

  16. February 13, 2012 11:42 pm

    Omg look at those chandeliers!! I thought it was Ossiano at Atlantis at first 🙂 Those scallops sound amazing – in fact, I envy you the whole evening! Lovely pics.

  17. February 14, 2012 4:57 am

    The pictures are absolutely amazing. Looks like a Dubai-style lavish event.

  18. February 15, 2012 3:25 pm

    I loved this post Sally. So true about the once in a while peek into Narnia 🙂

    • February 19, 2012 5:18 pm

      Thanks Mishti – it would be boring if you did it all the time but once in a while….lovely.

  19. February 17, 2012 8:11 pm

    Wow! That was just so entertaining! What a night… Mini-dresses, indeed! Merlot with scallops = odd. And the idea of French grapes in Tuscany is truly strange, and I am with you, I would want to get to the bottom of THAT, but it’s probably a dark family secret ;-).

    • February 19, 2012 5:12 pm

      You’ve made me laugh out loud now.

  20. February 20, 2012 12:43 pm

    it sounds like you had a great evening! I cannot fathom why restaurants use fancy names for simple dishes? We must be watching the same series of MasterChef the Professionals 🙂


  1. A big appetite for small food « My Custard Pie
  2. Goodbye, hello « My Custard Pie

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: