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Eyes on the stars, feet on the ground

June 7, 2012
STAY at The One and Only The Palm

Chef Yannick Alleno and manager Michael Payne at STAY in the One & Only, The Palm, Dubai

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.

A selection from the menu

The menu in bite-sized pieces. Black peppered wagyu beef and pommes frites, foie gras with pear, slow cooked John Dory with avocado and Laurent Perrier Champagne

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?

The One and Only The Palm

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

The pastry library

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.

staff at the One and Only

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.

Pigeon wrapped in cabbage

Have I mentioned my favourite? Wild pigeon chartreuse with foie gras, savoy cabbage and perigourdine sauce

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).

View across to Dubai Marina

The view across to Dubai Marina

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.

The One and Only The PalmP.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?

  1. June 7, 2012 9:38 am

    ‘Eat with my fingers’ fan all the way.

    • June 7, 2012 3:04 pm

      Fair enough! Although actually these were perfect to pick up and pop in your mouth – no cutlery required 🙂

  2. June 7, 2012 9:56 am

    I love fingerfood! Great eats…



    • June 7, 2012 3:05 pm

      Thanks Rosa and this was the most incredible finger food I’ve ever had.

  3. June 7, 2012 10:44 am

    Yep-me too. I love having lots of tastes of different things then being able to go back and have another…and possibly yet another if they are simply fab!!

  4. June 7, 2012 11:42 am

    I’m both! I love a bite sized taste explosion, and I love food art – where the plate is a canvas designed to entice in more ways than just one or two. I love the way bite sized food can be like a story unraveling in your mouth, but for me, it’s just as exciting to taste morsels one after another, designed to contrast in flavour and stimulate the palate and eyes simultaniously. There is more to food than just taste – appearance, scent and texture are also vital to the balance of a great dish, and this cannot always be achieved in one mouthful. What is horrible is when a dish missed out on one of these things, and as you mention, most important will remain taste. But a pretty plate of fish that stinks? No. A perfectly presented, densely meaty, odorously magnificent but chewy steak? Yuck. Jamie Oliver’s recent pictures of his Diamond Jubilee chicken? Not appealing.

    Hmm… I guess I just like all food, as long as it’s good…

    • June 7, 2012 3:07 pm

      Thanks for such a considered comment – much appreciated as I know you dine at both ends of the spectrum (whereas I’m usually found at kitchen tables). I’m off to google Jamie’s chicken now – was it that bad? Intrigued.

  5. June 7, 2012 12:48 pm

    🙂 Mandy

  6. June 7, 2012 1:28 pm

    I am always in favour of honest food, I love home cooked food, and the quality of home cooking, even the rustic look of country looking food. But I also have a palate for fancy food, and an eye for the fabulous creations by the talented chefs, I always welcome a chance to see it through their eyes, and don’t mind playfulness as I find that food gives us a chance to connect with our inner child sometimes, in the sense that it gives us a plane canvas open for our imagination.
    Some creations are ingenious, and knowing the limitations and difficulty level of producing new concepts, I appreciate molecular gastronomy too. It feels like this is so simple in concept, but takes a huge imagination to start with.
    Would I go molecular on daily basis? definitely not, but will surely appreciate it once offered. I love The new One & Only, and had the pleasure to try Chef Yannick’s creations. I thoroughly enjoyed his take on food…
    Very interesting post Sally as always xx

    • June 7, 2012 3:10 pm

      It’s always good to have people exploring the boundaries of a discipline or art – my experience has been of molecular ‘me-too’s and this most definitely turns me off. I’d love to return to this restaurant especially after endorsement by such a discerning gourmet.

  7. June 7, 2012 1:50 pm

    I will be going tonight after 3 attempts that failed due to work, sick kids….. I am very excited! will let you know how i like it 😉

    • June 7, 2012 3:11 pm

      Oooh – have a lovely time….let me know what it’s like…and enjoy.

  8. June 7, 2012 2:43 pm

    Indeed a fabulous evening. I must admit for me personally there’s a time and place for mama’s family style cooking, desconstructed cutting edge cuisine a la Ferran Adria (as he detests the words molecular gastronomy) or simply fine dining like Yannick’s. Having eaten in a few Michelin restaurants and tasted the cooking of Michelin chefs recently in Dubai, there’s no doubt these guys and the odd girl are geniuses. If Thomas Buhner can make a watermelon carpaccio taste and look like tuna, then you have my vote – but I couldn’t eat this cuisine every night. Do try 101 but perhaps when the weather cools down – the Spanish-inspired tapas is divine.

    • June 7, 2012 3:13 pm

      But why not just eat tuna? I guess I need more exposure to the people at the top of their game to be convinced. Appreciate your view though and, let’s face it, the Foodiva knows the best 🙂

  9. June 7, 2012 2:56 pm

    Definitely both, with the added remark that if I’m going to spend top-range money on food, I really want it to blow my mind. I hate to pay 300dhs for something I could do at home. STAY sounds like a place to try! Oh and you could’ve fooled me with the “light not good for photography”, your photographs are simply stunning.

    • June 7, 2012 3:13 pm

      And your ‘home-cooking’ is not the ordinary run-of-the-mill for sure. Thanks for the nice comment about the pics…

  10. June 7, 2012 5:03 pm

    did your sister like it? made me laugh seeing Roker in one of your articles 🙂 memories, fabulous hotel, I reviewed their 101 Bar a few weeks back.

    • June 11, 2012 4:18 pm

      She loved it – but she loved her tour of Bur Dubai even more. Roker is a one-off! Where’s the 101 bar?!

  11. June 7, 2012 7:14 pm

    You got me at pastry library! Amazing looking place.

    • June 11, 2012 4:17 pm

      Yes there are some swanky places in Dubai but this was rather special.

  12. glamorous glutton permalink
    June 7, 2012 10:18 pm

    What an amazing evening, I love the look of the pigeon wrapped in cabbage. Brain-like though it be, it looks delicious. GG

    • June 11, 2012 4:16 pm

      I keep thinking about it…and I ate there in February!

  13. June 8, 2012 12:40 am

    Oh Sally, you have (as you often do) touched on a topic that I’m quite opinionated on. I’m over fussy food. I don’t want delicate little morsels arranged on my plate like a diorama. I want simple, tasty peasant food in big communal pots that will fill my stomach and soothe my soul. I rarely eat out at hatted restaurants, although it would be churlish to say I don’t enjoy the experience when I do, but so often Pete and I will return from a fancy dinner with the feeling that we’d have enjoyed a home cooked meal even more.

    • June 11, 2012 4:16 pm

      I agree Celia – although it’s nice to be spoiled I’d rather eat a lovingly made casserole at the house of a good friend. However that cabbage wrapped pigeon….!

  14. June 8, 2012 10:26 am

    I want a plate of food when I eat out, no matter where I’m eating 🙂

    • June 11, 2012 4:15 pm

      Ha ha Tandy – so does KP…he is positively allergic to canapes and fiddly eats.

  15. June 9, 2012 8:47 am

    Great Eats…i love such food

  16. June 9, 2012 8:46 pm

    LOVE the look of all those pastries. When we were in Dubai about 5 years ago now, we went to the restaurant with the massive aquarium at the Burj Al Arab. Even the children’s menu was amazing! My daughter spilled a glass of Runart and they brought us a whole free bottle for not being attentive enough! Brilliant.

    • June 11, 2012 4:14 pm

      You would see a big change in the place even in 5 years Urvashi. Hopefully you will make a repeat visit and we can try out the pastries.

  17. June 10, 2012 1:06 pm

    have a “stay” in Beirut too! Love the tea room across with the vertical garden and the mini-cream puffs, would have loved to discover this place in Dubai.

    • June 11, 2012 4:13 pm

      Get in touch if you are ever travelling here Joumana. We can go together.

  18. June 10, 2012 4:48 pm

    I believe there is a place for homey food and artsy food … and I enjoy both equally!

    • June 11, 2012 4:12 pm

      There’s art in your food Joan.

  19. June 10, 2012 7:46 pm

    Gorgeous pics and yummy ruminations– food as art should still be edible above all, I think. Look at Pop Rocks– sure, they’re fun to eat, but would they still be, if they weren’t so sweet?

    • June 11, 2012 4:07 pm

      I had to dodge the UAE firewall to get to your blog – I wonder what was so shocking! I had to Google Pop Rocks! Thanks for stopping by.

  20. June 18, 2012 12:50 am

    What an amazing opportunity! I bet you and your sister had an amazing evening! That view is stunning

    • June 18, 2012 7:03 am

      We did Jenny. There are many spectacular city views in Dubai but this hotel and its situation is quite special.

  21. June 20, 2012 1:21 pm

    It all looks absolutely gorgeous, the food, the surroundings…the whole ensemble. We were in Dubai about 18 months ago and not a week goes by without one of the children telling me how much they ‘need’ to go back. I’m enjoying your beautiful blog. Thanks for stopping by. Phillipa

  22. July 24, 2012 12:24 pm

    love the images and very informative article! I have been in Dubai a year and not still couldn’t stop discover the new hot bread areas !


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