Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Zahr El-Laymoun, Souk Al Bahar

In nutshell: lukewarm food, rude staff but reasonably priced and good location

Souk Al Bahar is designed in a similar way to Madinat Jumeirah so that it creates an 'old Dubai market' style of shopping arcade. The unfortunate major difference between them is that Madinat is the only shopping centre in its area and is surrounded by 3 large hotels whereas Souk Al Bahar is opposite Dubai Mall (the largest mall in the world outside North America) as well as being in the centre of town with a plethora of other shopping and dining options within easy distance. The result is that almost all the shops were boarded up with 'opening soon' signs outside, so as a shopping destination it really isn't worth a visit. There are a large number of restaurants although we found many of them appear to only open for dinner and most also had very much hotel prices as opposed to shopping mall prices - the souk is attached to The Palace Hotel. We finally found a restaurant with lunch prices that didn't take your breath away and settled down outside enjoying the view of the artifical lake.

Zahr El-Laymoun is a Lebanese restaurant so we of course had to start with hummous, which was very good. Fresh juices came in glass or pitcher quantities so for only Dhs 20 you got a great little jug of tomato juice - this was one idea that I really liked about the restaurant. When we arrived at 12:30 the restaurant was quite empty and the manager was very friendly but as it filled up with diners and the rest of the waiting staff came on duty the service went downhill. It was extremely difficult to catch anyone's attention, none of the staff were welcoming (I think they'd all forgotten how to smile) and we even saw a large Egyptian waiter smack a much smaller Filipino waiter around the head!! A complete overhaul and retraining of the staff in this place is very much required.

Amongst our party we ordered a variety of main courses that included jumbo shrimp (for me), chicken taouk, chicken shawarma platter, halloumi skewers and a chicken kebab sandwich. We had been told that the chicken shawarma sandwich was a regular rolled shawarma but the platter included additional side orders and was bigger. Disappointingly, the meat on the platter had been placed on top of the bread but in such a way that you couldn't actually roll it up as a shawarma and it meant Simon had to eat it with a knife and fork - not quite what he had imagined. All of the mains were delivered lukewarm, particularly the grilled vegetables which turned out to be a corn on the cob, a whole onion (!), a piece of courgette and a piece of aubergine. The prawns themselves really were jumbo-sized and were very good but the baked potato had clearly been sat in a warming oven far too long and was very black and tasteless.

You don't expect to pay a lot for Lebanese food and at Dhs 40-50 for each main course (the prawns were Dhs 68), this held true here. The location is very good as it is right next to the bridge to Dubai Mall and from there you can watch the Dubai Fountain which comes to life at 1pm, 1:30pm and then hourly from (I believe) 6pm. You can't see the entire water display from the bridge but you can see a large part of it and with the Burj Khalifa behind it, you have the perfect 'New Dubai' backdrop. Down near the Fountain is a great place for lunch, especially with visitors, but just make sure to choose a different restaurant or have some drinks and mezze at Zahr El-Laymoun and then move on.


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