There's no doubting that The Farm is located in a beautiful setting. I have written before about the lush green surroundings, the sense of calm and distance from central Dubai, the clean, modern interior with its floor-to-ceiling windows and the wooden decking lined with hammocks.
It seems that word has quickly spread about this spot; when we visited on a Monday, the restaurant was busy - so much so that the only available space was on one of the comfy sofas (with a coffee table in front). This was absolutely fine by us, so we sat down and waited. And waited. And then waited a little longer. Fifteen minutes later - five of which were spent consciously trying to make eye contact with one of the staff - we eventually received a menu.
After placing our order, it took 40 minutes for any food to appear. When it did, the bread, a "pre-taster" of a small round of brioche topped with vegetables and our two starters all arrived at once. The staff may well have been busy, but it wouldn't have taken much to drop off a bread basket and it certainly would have prevented us from experiencing hunger-induced agitation. Our table also hadn't been set up properly; it was missing salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and napkins, all of which we had to ask for separately, as and when we realised they were missing.
The menu offers a range of international dishes: soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta and more substantial main meals. Both our starters were pleasant - nothing to get excited about - and very small indeed. Two dinky crab cakes were gone and pretty much forgotten about in a couple of bites, as were the rocket leaves that they perched on. My friend's grilled tiger prawns (again, just the two) were meaty and fresh, with a slight charred flavour and the slick of wasabi mayonnaise was smooth and creamy, with a background kick.
For our main courses, a decent-sized fillet of herb-flecked, roasted salmon was moist and properly cooked. The row of thin miniature carrots served with it weren't particularly flavourful, but then baby vegetables rarely are. Rather than being crisp on the outside and soft in the centre, our chosen side order of roasted sweet potato wedges (included in the Dh135 price), were soggy and we couldn't taste the smoked paprika seasoning listed on the menu.
Beef salad with papaya sounded interesting, but lettuce leaves and bean sprouts tossed together in what looked and tasted suspiciously like shop-bought sweet chilli sauce, topped with a few slivers of beef, proved to be very disappointing.
The Farm has an on-site bakery and both the bread and the subtly flavoured coconut cupcake that we shared for dessert were very nice. On a previous visit, I tried the vanilla cheesecake and enjoyed that, too.
Another note on the menu: I don't mean to harp on about this subject, but hammour (orange-spotted grouper) is a highly endangered fish. According to the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS), it is being fished "at more than seven times the sustainable level". It shocks me, then, that the fish continues to appear on restaurant menus, particularly in a place such as this, which claims to place such emphasis on sustainability.
The Farm is worth a visit; however, it is the location that is the major draw here, as both the food and the service are lagging some way behind.
A meal for two at The Farm, Al Barari, Nad Al Sheba costs Dh277. For reservations, call 04 392 5660. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito