x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Restaurant Insider: Alfie's is a sensible option

The dishes are well-executed and the service slick, but there's nothing that makes Alfie's at Jumeirah Emirates Towers stand out as exceptional.

Alfie's at Jumeirah Emirates Towers is a very swish, grown-up restaurant.
Alfie's at Jumeirah Emirates Towers is a very swish, grown-up restaurant.

The atmosphere at Alfie's is unmistakably grown-up. Heels can't help but sink into the thick carpet, squidgy leather banquettes line the walls, gleaming glass screens divide the room and the heavy tablecloths are a spotless white. Aside from the main restaurant area, there's an old-school bar and a lounge complete with armchairs and a book-lined wall. In fact, in terms of look, feel and menu – distinctly British, mostly classic, with a slight modern twist – Alfie's bears more than just a passing resemblance to The Ivy. The logic, then, of housing these two restaurants directly opposite each other in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, no more than 10 paces apart, is lost on me.

A word of warning: with only three suitable options on the entire à la carte menu, Alfie's is not the place for a vegetarian. However, if you like meaty, hearty dishes and gusty flavours, then items such as game terrine, pressed lamb belly, rabbit pie and haggis with clapshot mean that you will have plenty to choose from.

However, we didn't opt for any of the above, instead ordering the langoustine cocktail and the duck rillette to start. The latter was presented simply, in a small jar with two shards of wafer-thin toast, a little dish of faintly spiced, sweet apricot chutney and a line of paprika salt. Shreds of soft duck meat were bound together in a rich, moussey, properly seasoned mass, the relish was tangy, the toast was crisp and we were happy.

Although well executed - properly cooked langoustines, fresh, dressed salad leaves, muslin-wrapped lemon wedge - the seafood cocktail was just a bit too refined for its own good. The Marie Rose sauce could've done with a bit more punch and an extra langoustine wouldn't have gone amiss either.

For our main course, a fillet of crispy-skinned, moist sea bass came perched on a pile of lentils surrounded by a mussel and vegetable broth. The fish was nicely cooked, the lentils were buttery and pleasantly al dente and our only issue here was that the mussels tasted rather too fishy, suggesting they weren't completely fresh.

Calf's liver topped with rashers of crispy veal bacon, a drizzle of meat jus and a swirl of smooth mashed potato gathered a mixed response. When paired with a mouthful of sweet, fatty bacon and a slick of sauce, the liver tasted great, but eaten alone was extremely bitter. Closer inspection revealed that despite us asking for it to be served medium-rare, it had been cooked right through.

A shared dessert of burnt lemon cream was light and lovely, with the thinnest of crunchy, chewy caramelised sugar shells hiding a delicate citrus custard underneath.

The cooking at Alfie's is competent and the service is as slick as the interior. While I enjoyed the food and this review is certainly more positive than many before it, I'm not sure that there is enough going on here to inspire a second visit. The flavours and presentation of the dishes err on the side of tried and tested – rather than tweaked – and the restaurant's shopping mall location strikes a discordant note, both of which could prove to be an issue in the long run.

A lunch for two at Alfie's, lower level, The Boulevard, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai costs Dh586 including service. For reservations, call 04 319 8088. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito