Restaurant Review The Ivy at Jumeirah Emirates Towers serves well-made, if not hugely exciting, dishes at surprisingly reasonable prices.
British institution The Ivy keeps to its high standard in Dubai
A couple of minutes into our evening at The Ivy and something feels right. Not just right, but properly familiar. Yes, the dark wooden panelling gleams, the lighting is suitably muted and the stained-glass windows glint, but it's also the gentle hum of conversation that gradually fills the room and the assured welcome that we receive as we're shown to our table, that prevents the Jumeirah Emirates Towers incarnation of the London institution from feeling like a hollow imitation. While it lacks the history, the celebrity following and the enviable theatreland location, they certainly haven't done a bad job here.
The food at The Ivy is designed to please: there is a strong focus on simple, straightforward dishes, many of them British, with a few Asian-inspired options and some Mediterranean classics. It is also keenly priced. In a city where prices often border on the laughable, it is pleasing to see main course options in a high-end restaurant for around and just over the Dh100 mark.
On the night we visited the service, much like the heavy white linen tablecloths and gleaming silver cutlery, was immaculate and highly polished. We were very well looked after, but were also left alone so that we could actually enjoy the meal.
To start with, little curls of calamari were lightly battered, crisp, crunchy and pleasantly chewy with not a hint of grease. The accompanying tartare sauce was thick and creamy, with chopped gherkins providing a little bite. My shellfish cocktail was excellent: old fashioned, understated and elegant. Tangles of fresh, finely shredded iceberg lettuce hid succulent pieces of prawn, white crabmeat and lobster (one morsel of which was overcooked), all lightly coated in a piquant marie-rose sauce.
The main courses were similarly good. The chargrilled halibut was served on the bone and it was meaty and flavoursome enough not to require any other adornments, bar the smooth mousseline sauce and muslin-wrapped lemon half that it was served with.
Steak tartare was properly made - by that I mean nicely seasoned and spiced - and the good-quality meat was chopped, rather than minced, so it still had texture. Diced shallots and gherkins provided crunch and every so often, a piece of caper added a pop of saltiness. Bottles of Worcestershire sauce and tabasco were also placed on the table, in case I wanted to ramp up the flavour myself. Skinny fries were crunchy and a light, golden brown and a side order of creamed spinach was rich and luxurious tasting, although it cooled rapidly at the table and could have done with being a bit hotter when it left the kitchen.
For dessert, we shared the baked Alaska for two: an old-school pudding, done really well. The sweetness of the glossy, sugary meringue was offset by the aromatic sour cherries served alongside it, which were further complemented by the addition of almonds to the traditional sponge casing.
The food at The Ivy is not hugely exciting nor is it offering anything new, but that was never the intention. Here, it is all about maintaining a standard and happily that is exactly what they are doing.
A meal for two at The Ivy, Jumeirah Emirates Towers costs Dh550, including service charges. For reservations, call 04 3198767. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito