Monday, June 28, 2010

The Retreat, Premier Inn DIP

In a nutshell: tasty food but very smoky atmosphere

Premier Inn has a bar and restaurant chain in each of its hotels: The Retreat is the bar and Bedouinn's is the restaurant (don't know why they have such a strange spelling for the word bedouin though!) We live 5 minutes from the Dubai Investments Park hotel (and I used to work there) so we’ve eaten there quite a number of times. The Retreat is a sports bar with big TV screens dotted around the walls, although the seating lends it a more lounge-y feel. They also have a great outside terrace and used to have a weekly BBQ before the weather got too hot. Although the décor is attractive, there is just something about it that gives it a ‘hotel cookie-cutter’ feeling as opposed to being funky or stylish, it’s hard to put a finger on though.

For the last 2 years, the menu has never changed but finally a new menu has just been launched which is a great improvement. The bar menu is extremely limited but they were happy to serve food from the restaurant in the bar as well so we ordered off that menu instead (although it is also not extensive). There are special offers for fixed price multi-course lunches and dinners which make eating there that little bit more wallet-friendly. They also had special offers of buckets of chicken and platters of loaded potato skins for the World Cup.

I saw they had “French-style” steak and chips so I ordered that and the cut of meat was very much the ‘entrecôte’ cut you would get at a café in France. It tasted really good except that I’d ordered it medium-well done and although half the steak was medium-well done, the other half was medium-rare; good job I can eat bloody meat or it would have ruined the meal. Simon had their burger and he said it was one of the best he’d eaten! Soft bread and juicy meat.

We've always found the service extremely slow but it was pretty quick that night, another improvement it would seem. The only negative I found was that I didn’t hear anyone except the managers use any guest names. I used to work in the hotel and the waiting staff didn’t even use my name so what hope is there for anyone else?! As a regular guest, being greeted by name is a real ‘wow’ factor and it would be nice to see the team making the effort to learn and remember those names.

The biggest (and I mean HUGE) negative point was that the manager has decided to allow smoking in The Retreat during the World Cup. I’ve become so used to being able to go out for dinner or a drink without coming home reeking of cigarettes that it was a real shock entering such a smoke-filled room. I’m sure he has his reasons – although I would seriously question their validity, could it be that because he smokes he wanted to be able to sit at the bar and have a cigarette himself? Hmmm.

If I was rating The Retreat purely on the food, taking into account this is a sports bar and not a fine dining restaurant, then the score would be 3/5 for the meal we had (the underdone steak causing the lower score). However, the whole meal experience was ruined by that fact smoking is allowed and I wouldn’t go back for dinner again – maybe I’ll give it a second chance once the football is over. In terms of price it was reasonable – my steak was under Dhs 100 – and during the World Cup select drinks are only Dhs 25 (previously a beer was a very steep Dhs 36) so hopefully they’ll keep that reduced drinks price to go with the improved menu!

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