Wednesday, May 12, 2010

St. Maxim’s – Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates

In a nutshell: Excellent food and service but something just didn’t feel right – maybe the mall location with hotel prices
Score: 4/5

St. Maxim’s has quite a ‘moulin rouge’ style with dark red banquettes and chairs and romantic lighting. There is a live pianist/singer in the bar area who was excellent. The bar and restaurant are separated so the music didn’t drown out conversation and he sang a huge variety including Louis Armstrong, Lionel Richie, Chris de Burgh and Bob Marley. You could see everyone in the restaurant had their foot tapping along to the beat. The only down side was that the large TV screen behind him was playing Mr. Bean; a slight distraction! If you’re a smoker then they have a balcony where smoking is allowed and you then have a great view onto the metro as it whizzes by.

The service throughout the evening was first rate and my parents (who are regulars there) were welcomed back like old friends by all the staff we encountered. The manageress spent close to 10 minutes chatting to us and kept checking on us throughout the evening. Our waitress, Lolita, joked with me when I ordered dessert that there would be no garlic or pepper on it – very refreshing to find a sense of humour.

Simon and my father ordered litres of beer but the glasses were so huge they were quite over-faced and could barely finish them. Great idea but not recommended with a 3 course meal. My big issue was that they didn’t offer local mineral water, only San Pellegrino, claiming that a plastic bottle on the table “wasn’t five star”. Although the food and service were excellent, the fairly casual uniforms and general feel of the restaurant (entering into the mall) is not five star. Plus the pianist had a bottle of Arwa water on the piano with him – did he bring it in himself from Carrefour?? My other gripe on the drinks was that the Cranberry juice was a cheap, super-sweet brand. Still, the food made up for the drinks…

As it is a French restaurant the menu has all the traditional French dishes: snails, foie gras, frogs’ legs, confit de canard and, not good for me…garlic with everything! There was no issue making my food garlic and pepper-free though. Most main courses are served with sautéed vegetables plus 1 side order plus a sauce – top marks for this as it always seems to be such a rip off when a main course comes with nothing and you have to buy every side dish. The baguette that was served on the table tasted as good as any you could get in France – divine.

All our starters were generous portions without being too big and were full of flavour without being overpowering. The beef carpaccio was served with lettuce and fresh parmesan cheese. The mushrooms on toast had a garlic and sour cream sauce, not a rich creamy one so it wasn’t too heavy. The bortsch (beetroot soup) had my dad in raptures. The foie gras was served with crushed nuts all round it and a mango salsa. Finally, my prawn cocktail was served with avocado but whilst it was a good portion, there was nothing in the flavour that really stood out as different to anywhere else.

The speciality of St. Maxim’s is their stone grilled meats. My mum had a stone grilled steak which came raw on the hot stone and you then had to cut off slices and cook them on the stone (which is salted so it flavours the meat as it cooks) – great presentation! The lamb chops coated with mustard and herbs were very succulent and fairly meaty – not cutlets with barely a mouthful of meat on each bone. The beef stroganoff was creamy but not overly rich or heavy on the stomach. My confit de canard was perfectly cooked to have a crispy skin but to be tender inside - why when I cook it does the whole leg become dry?!

For dessert I was really looking forward to my chocolate fondant, hoping to cut it open and have the molten chocolate ooze out…but I was sadly disappointed as it had been over cooked and although moist, it wasn’t liquid in the middle. I live in hope that one day I will find a restaurant that can make this dessert properly.

If you order off the set menu then the prices are very reasonable at Dhs 109 for 2 courses. If I go again, that’s what I’ll do because the à la carte price worked out at Dhs 220 per person (that price included the drinks and the beers were Dhs 68 for a litre). Although not extortionate for a hotel, because you enter St. Maxim’s from inside the Mall of the Emirates, it just felt very expensive for a mall restaurant.

Soups and salads range from Dhs 25-60; New Zealand beef on the stone grill is Dhs 80-160, Australian Angus is Dhs 115-195 and Australian Wagyu is Dhs 250-300; other mains are Dhs 60-125 and desserts are Dhs 30-35.


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