The gourmet franchise Jones the Grocer is now peddling its wares in Abu Dhabi. Jessica Hume pays it a visit If it's the ingredients that make the meal, the ambitious at-home chef just got a serious upgrade in materials. It isn't visible from Muroor Road or 15th Street, but at this intersection, just behind the first row of buildings facing the road, is Jones the Grocer - the first of this Australian gourmet chain to grace the UAE's luxury-loving city.
The centrepiece of the store is its deli. Almost all the items on its menu can be bought to be prepared at home. Among them, Wagyu beef burgers, a Wagyu pie, fish of the day, fresh pasta (on the day of the visit it was chilli squid linguini), mushroom risotto and a lamb shepherd's pie. Inside the small but impeccable shop are shelves full of rare and delectable goods. Alongside the deli's hot meals and sandwiches, there are housewares and cookbooks - all branded and priced for discriminating clientele, of course.
The owner Yunib Siddiqui, 40, explains that the building his shop sits in has more than 4,000 people working in it during the day, so he "won't have to worry about daytime business". He takes me on a tour of the shop, starting at the bakery. It's the end of the first day of business - busier than expected - and the bakery has been almost completely cleaned out by customers. "I got here at 7am," the baker says. "When I come in I start baking the bread from scratch. We have four different kinds. I make 20 or less of each. Today was busy; people loved the sandwiches."
Next on the tour is the chilled cheese room, where clients can choose from 80 varieties that Siddiqui assures will not be found elsewhere. Brie with a truffle centre, for example, can be yours for a cool Dh35 per 100g. In addition to top-of-the-line cheese graters and other accessories, dried fruit and sauces to go with the cheeses sit outside the room. The juice selection includes the Jones brand as well as a fresh-squeezed blend - a different combination each day. Today's is beetroot, carrot and orange; Dh15 for a small container, ready for consumption. Voss "artisanal" water is available at Dh18 for 800ml, for the H2O connoisseur.
Jones makes several type of pastas (egg fettuccine, Dh35.9 for 375g) and sells other high-end brands. An impressive oil selection follows, stocked on shelves from the cheapest at the bottom to the priciest up top. At eye level is a bottle of hazelnut oil for Dh100. Jones brand apple and tomato chutney goes for Dh42 for a 320g jar. An equally extensive offering of spice rubs will surely help remind clients to get out the barbecue. Jones brand rubs can be refilled on site; among its selection, Jamaican Jerk, Dh39.90 for 105g. And just in case you aren't convinced this store offers only quality items, make note of the Peugeot salt and pepper mills, Dh150 each, or the red and steel edition sitting next to them, Dh210 apiece.