As you might expect from Grosvenor House and the people behind the perennially popular Buddha Bar, Siddharta Lounge in the hotel’s Tower Two is a classy, grown-up kind of place. Decorated in muted shades of cream and gold, it is sleek and modern with a central bar, a few booths, a scattering of small tables and a separate lounge with large tables and plump white sofas. Once the weather cools a little, the outdoor terrace with its individual gazebos, oversized bean bags and deck chairs will be a major draw.
It will probably come as no surprise that the food is not cheap. During our meal we also found that there was a bit of an anomaly between the prices and the portion sizes. The menu consists of both European and Asian-style dishes and is set out in a tapas/grazing fashion which prompted us to order four smaller items and one main course to share.
First to arrive after a 20-minute wait – notable because it was a cold dish and the restaurant was quiet – was a plate of beef carpaccio featuring well-flavoured meat, grassy olive oil and shards of salty Parmesan. However, there was not a lot of it; three large bites and the dish was finished. While it was certainly enjoyable, by no stretch of the imagination did it warrant the Dh85 price tag.
Our second dish of the night, octopus Gallegan (Spanish style, braised with spices) was also rather diminutive and by that I mean it was definitely smaller than the average restaurant starter. That said, it was rather good. Thanks to the slow cooking, the octopus was soft and fluffy, the roasted spice paste was full of gutsy, paprika-heavy flavour and whole cloves of garlic were meltingly sweet. After another slightly longer-than-ideal wait (not so lengthy that you’d complain, but long enough that you begin to surreptitiously scan the restaurant), the next two dishes arrived. As if designed to silence our (unvoiced) murmurings about the octopus and carpaccio, both the tempura prawns and tuna tartare bruschetta were generously portioned. The four prawns were large, meaty and well cooked and the rugged tempura coating was crisp, with a faint chilli heat. Had they not had a floury aftertaste, they would have been even better.
The bruschetta topping was very pleasant, buttery and rich, thanks to the combination of oily fish and soft, diced avocado; the mixture was lightly bound in a tomato dressing. Our only criticism was that the bread was past its best – it was chewy and almost impossible to cut.
Our shared main course, a 200g sirloin steak, was excellent. The glistening meat was tender and full of flavour and barely needed the teriyaki sauce served on the side, although that was a nice touch, too. At Dh170 it was also more reasonably priced than some of the other larger plates; charging Dh160 for a stir-fry is audacious to say the least. A three-chocolate terrine proved to be a disappointing dessert. The slices of bananas weren’t caramelised, as the menu had stated, and the chocolate mousse was very cold in the centre, perhaps suggesting that it hadn’t thawed out entirely. It tasted, my friend noted, like a “standard hotel buffet pudding” and I’m inclined to agree.
Despite their slick appearance – complete with headpieces and sharp gold suits – service from the front-of-house staff wasn’t exactly smooth. Soon after we were seated, there was some confusion over whether we’d made a reservation (we hadn’t) and if we’d been placed at the right table (apparently not). This was a small issue and one that the staff could have resolved themselves without interrupting our conversation on three separate occasions. Other bemusing incidents included being asked if we were enjoying our food before we’d taken a bite and a waitress approaching our tables, pausing to stare at our empty starter plates for a good few seconds and then walking away without clearing them. Nothing to really complain about, just a few oddities.
For all I’ve said here, it may sound as if I didn’t enjoy my evening at Siddharta Lounge, when actually the opposite is true. While the food wasn’t flawless and the pricing is on the high side, we nonetheless ate some very enjoyable dishes. Instead of visiting with the intention of sitting down to a three-course meal, my advice would be to go with a group of friends, commandeer one of the large tables and order a selection of tasting plates to share. For light snacks and bar food, this place serves some of the best in town.
• A meal for two at Siddharta Lounge, Tower Two, Grosvenor House, Dubai, costs Dh500, including service charge. For reservations, call 04 317 6000. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito