Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Karat, The Address, Dubai Mall

In a nutshell: Great value, fantastic afternoon tea with wonderful sandwiches.
5/5

Many people think that you should go to the Burj Al Arab for the ultimate afternoon tea, personally I think it's over-priced and I find the Burj ostentatious and garish - although the views down the coast are spectacular. Next in line for great afternoon tea has to be the Ritz-Carlton which offers a more refined experience in its fabulous wood-beamed lobby lounge, although a full afternoon tea is quite expensive (about Dhs 165 last time I went). When I heard rave reviews about The Address' afternoon tea, priced at just Dhs 125, I decided that would be the perfect place for Simon and I to take our mothers whilst his was here on holiday...and it was.

All The Address hotels offer the same afternoon tea, I'm told, but we went to the Dubai Mall (not Downtown) one. Getting into the hotel when you exit Sheikh Zayed Road from the Jebel Ali direction is quite circuitous and not particularly well sign-posted and even once we got inside we had to ask how to get to the lobby since the hotel is a rather strange shape and you can't see the reception as you walk in. We finally found Karat and immediately felt more relaxed as the calm, relaxing vibe of hushed voices and the large comfy armchairs in shades of beige, gold and cream worked their charm on us. We had to laugh at the wall paintings though: rather than being hung on the walls, they were all stood on a shelf that wrapped round the room and were balanced against the wall. Maybe this is the new thing in interior design, but to us it just looked like they were waiting to be put up - I should have asked about it but got so wrapped up in our food that I forgot.


The staff were all very friendly and our waitress was happy to explain how they run their afternoon tea and to recommend teas from the vast menu (all freshly brewed from leaves - no tea bags in sight). Many places bring out a cake stand with all the food (scones, sandwiches and cakes) placed on the various tiers but The Address serves it as separate course: scones, then sandwiches, then cakes and finally chocolates. Tea is unlimited but coffee is limited to only one cup. I ordered a caffeine-free tea which I really didn't like and so I shared Simon's good old English Breakfast tea. It's always worth trying new things, but often it's the tried and tested ones that still come out on top.


The scone course was delicious and included not just 2 scones (no fruit scones though, which I adore) but also a small brioche and 3 madeleines. The pinnacle of this course was the passion-fruit jam...absolutely delicious. Jam can be a bit too sweet for me sometimes but this had a wonderful sharpness to it and I couldn't get enough of it. The sandwiches then arrived in a presentation box and what a presentation! Bite-sized toasts with various toppings: quail's egg, roast beef, tuna, turkey and tomato with a cheese mousse. The most impressive was the cucumber which was a thin strip of cucumber wrapped around thin layers of bread interlaid with cream cheese...I won't be trying to replicate it at home that's for certain! The most original was a light, crunchy falafel on a tiny Arabic bread. The fact that each sandwich was so small meant you weren't over-faced and you were able to enjoy the different flavours without feeling stuffed full of bread.


The subsequent two courses were both wonderful but slightly too sweet for me. The cakes included 3 different small pieces of cake and the chocolates were not only chocolate cake and home-made chocolates, but also baclava, pistachio cake, a fruit tart, macarens and a chocolate eclair. We all agreed that it would make more sense to have the sandwiches first and then the scones since going from sweet to savoury and then back to sweet seemed rather the wrong way round. When we arrived our waitress had said that we could have the meal in any order we wanted though, so next time I'll ask for the sandwiches first. In fact, what I'm already planning to ask is whether I can have 2 rounds of sandwiches, then the scones and then just the fruit tart - not sure that will be possible since their pricing is based on the set menu but it can't hurt to ask.


There is something so civilised about going out for tea and we love to do it when we have visitors. Karat was so delicious, such good value and very chilled out...we will most definitely go back.

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