The first time I visited Bikers Cafe, I had already decided what I was going to order. The Emirati breakfast was recommended to me by a few people, including those behind the Emirati food website Barzh. So I was disappointed to find that the cut-off time for breakfast/brunch is 12.30pm on weekdays and 2pm at the weekends. We were unable to cajole our waiter into letting us order it anyway.
From lunchtime, the menu consists of an eclectic mix of international dishes: salads, steak sandwiches and soups sit alongside pasta dishes, fish and chips and generic starter staples such as nachos, spring rolls and Buffalo wings.
Perhaps I'd been thinking in cliches, but this place didn't look like the Bikers Cafe of my imagination: a little rough around the edges, slightly hostile-looking staff and a touch of griminess about the place. Instead, Bikers Cafe is a clean, modern and peaceful open space that comes into its own at this time of year. Windows and doors are rolled back so you can wander easily between the terrace and the main dining area. Of course, there's lots of motorbiking memorabilia. However, there's also a decent selection of magazines and newspapers to read. The beach is only a five-minute walk away.
We asked for the Buffalo wings to be served as a starter but they arrived alongside our main courses. This seemed to confuse our waiter, who struggled to fit all the plates on the table. There was nothing particularly wrong with the wings but neither was there a huge amount to praise; the batter was a touch soggy, the meat a little flabby and, although, the red sauce they were coated in was vibrantly coloured, the flavour was unremarkable. A couple batons of carrot and celery looked pale and world-weary and lacked bite, but a little pot of thick blue cheese dip had a nice, tangy punch to it.
As cheese sandwiches go, the kelage - griddled Arabic bread sliced in half and filled with cheese, turkey ham and tomato - was perfectly serviceable. The salty cheese had melted nicely and the turkey ham (which tasted and looked more like plain turkey breast) was fat- and sinew- free. It was decent enough food to fill a gap, but nothing to jump up and down about.
The same can be said for the classic Bikers burger, which was served with well-seasoned, crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-in-the-centre potato wedges and a pot of coleslaw that was so sweet and artificial tasting that it was more akin to a (not particularly pleasant) dessert. The burger was sizeable: a thick patty topped with a slice of cheese, sliver of pickle and a limp lettuce leaf, encased in a sesame seed bun. The burger meat was nicely seasoned but the texture was heavy and the meat was overcooked.
What was all the fuss about, then? The only thing to do was return the next morning to try the Emirati breakfast. The Flavor of Arabia platter is comprised of a number of items: balaleet featured an omelette that was subtly salty and sweet placed on top of fragrant, mildly spiced noodles; pockmarked chebab pancakes had a mildly fermented aftertaste and greedily soaked up the date honey that I drizzled over them. I spread pieces of airy, sesame-seed-speckled, golden brown khameer with cool, creamy cheese and dipped shards of muhalla in the honey at the end. All this was washed down with endless cups of Arabic coffee and plump, sticky dates.
It was very satisfying and I hope to return to try the Local Favor with a Twist plate and the Early Riser Platter, a hearty-sounding meal made of grits, gravy and homemade buttermilk biscuits. Skip lunch or dinner and visit Bikers Cafe for breakfast.
A lunch for two at Bikers Cafe, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai costs Dh178, including service. The Emirati breakfast costs Dh44. For reservations call 04 349 3585. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito