Sometimes, only a pizza will do. Perhaps because it’s so synonymous with fun, informal dining, with groups of people sharing their food, chatting while tearing away slices with their hands. In short, it’s simple, easy fare; the perfect tonic when you’re feeling jaded from eating too many meals that feature finicky, fussy details and rich ingredients.
And so it was that the other night, when a few friends and I discussed where to go for dinner, pizza proved to be the most popular choice. The consensus among the group was that we should head to Bussola at The Westin Dubai. I was reluctant, having endured a really mediocre meal at the fine dining (downstairs) part of this restaurant more than a year ago.
The majority won out though – and as we trooped upstairs to the open-air pizzeria section of Bussola, it become clear that with its family-friendly atmosphere and open kitchen (with chefs tossing dough into the air) that this was a world away from the white linen tables and formal feel of the ground floor restaurant. Seated at a table with great views out over the Palm Jumeirah and enjoying the evening breeze, we scanned the menu. There are pizzas galore on offer here and very little else in terms of main courses, which is no bad thing. At this point, a basket of warm bread containing some particularly good focaccia – light, fresh and salty – arrived and was promptly seized upon and dunked into decent olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For our starter, a generously filled sharing platter of cold cuts was certainly edible – enjoyable even – but by no means extraordinary. A couple of slices of meat were starting to curl around the edges, suggesting that they’d been hanging around too long and halves of artichoke and sun-dried tomato only made a brief appearance – just one or two pieces of each – which seemed a little stingy. The smoked mozzarella was dewy and full of flavour, though, and caperberries brought a salty tanginess to the table.
Our main courses then arrived very quickly – too quickly, really – and at the same time our requests for another bottle of water were forgotten about, twice. As the restaurant filled up, the staff seemed stretched and we found ourselves craning our necks and trying to make eye contact when we needed something, which is always a bit of a shame.
Bussola’s hot-out-the-oven pizza bases are pretty good: thin, crisp around the edges, with a softness towards the centre and a slightly sour aftertaste. The bufalotta (tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil) was simple, but winningly so; the cheese was creamy and vaguely sweet and the fresh herbs nicely perfumed. Despite its arguably more adventurous toppings, there was something lacklustre about the calabrese (tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy beef salami and roasted peppers). The mulchy peppers didn’t taste of much at all and the overall effect was rather greasy.
The mixed salad – a concession to healthiness – featured a nice mix of leaves, asparagus, tomatoes, shredded carrot and celery. Bussola doesn’t, in my opinion, serve the best pizzas in Dubai (that accolade goes to Rossovivo), but they are nonetheless enjoyable. If you want to eat outside, in a relaxed atmosphere, then it certainly ticks both those boxes. There’s just a nagging thought at the back of my mind that Dh300 is still rather a lot to pay for a meal made up of the most simple of foodstuffs (the pizza itself), a salad, starter and bottle of water.
A meal for two at Bussola, The Westin Dubai costs Dh321, including service. For reservations call 04 511 7391. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito