Naming a restaurant after an iconic slice of Paris was always going to be a tall order to live up to. But from the first forkful of my salade de chèvre chaud - and the Thai-style mussels I greedily scooped up from my companion's platter - it was clear Rive Gauche in The Address Dubai Marina hotel was more than up to the challenge of providing haute cuisine. The French eaterie has much in common with traditional brasseries: the ambience is one of understated elegance. It's artfully done, and one might forget the hotel outside were it not for the fact the tables and chairs are not the rickety ones you might find in St Germain, crowded together barely elbow-room apart.
Surprisingly, considering the picturesque setting of the marina, the interior is preferable to the outdoor terrace, where, despite the scenic backdrop in the distance, the immediate view is of a building site and some unsightly paving. The food's the thing, though. Like the best Parisian diner, Rive Gauche concentrates on a handful of offerings that hark back to the essence of hearty French cuisine: a juicy steak with thick-cut chips, pan-roasted sea bass or mussels in a garlic sauce. But like the setting, the apparent simplicity is an affectation: each dish has a modern twist or unexpected combination of flavours.
My goat's cheese was room temperature rather than piping hot, but had a delightfully creamy consistency, a mild flavour and melted like butter in the mouth. What really set it off, however, was the wedge of sourdough toast with a tangy roasted baby beetroot and walnut oil vinaigrette, which complemented it perfectly and prevented the rich cheese from becoming too cloying. My companion's huge bowl of Asiatique moules de Bouchot were all the better for a glazing of lemongrass, ginger, chilli and coriander.
Moving on to the mains, I opted for the snapper fillet while my companion chose a rack of lamb with sides of mashed potato and asparagus in lemon butter. The fish was perfectly cooked with a crisp skin, the meat falling apart in soft white flakes as soon as my fork touched it. It was given an extra punch with a tomato-rich clam risotto and delicious farci baby squid bathed in a lip-smackingly good crayfish vinaigrette.
The rack of lamb was wolfed down with equal gusto, with words such as "delicious" and "succulent" mumbled in between mouthfuls. The mashed potato deserved an ovation on its own: silky-smooth potatoes whipped to a mousse-like consistency which dissolved on the tongue. The asparagus was crisp but drowning in lemon butter, which was a tad too tart. For desert, my companion tried the sablé breton aux framboises, a short crust smothered in a light passion fruit mousse with fresh raspberries and a side of real vanilla ice cream. The pastry was crumbly and buttery, balanced out by the creamy mousse with its fruity tang.
My fondant au chocolat et noisettes came in a muffin-like casing, which fell apart to reveal an iridescent, fudgey gloss. I was a little disappointed it did not have the laval flow of some chocolate fondants but the kick of the ginger ice-cream on the side made up for it. Indeed, the only let-down to the entire evening was a particularly surly waiter. But don't let that put you off. Overall, the food at Rive Gauche was of a consistently high standard. It may not be the Left Bank, but the marina serves just as well.
Rive Gauche, Address Dubai Marina, 04 436 7777. Our reviewer's meal cost Dh455 for a three-course meal for two. Restaurants are reviewed incognito and the meals are paid for by The National.