x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The Butcher Shop & Grill: in the lap of luxury?

Not exactly. In fact, a visit to The Butcher Shop & Grill yielded more spills than thrills.

Although the turf was good, the surf was a disappointment.
Although the turf was good, the surf was a disappointment.

On my recent visit to The Butcher Shop & Grill, I suddenly wondered whether restaurant etiquette had changed since I'd last dined out. As I recalled, the traditional consensus was that one's food should be served from the left, and that the table should be cleared from the right. Yet some firmly believe that food should only be served from the left if it is being transferred to a guest's plate, and strictly from the right if it is already plated. It can all be very confusing. But it appeared that one of the waiters here - a resourceful chap who has clearly wrestled with this knotty conundrum - had come up with an ingenious compromise in the left/right row: sling it in the guest's lap.

I would have applauded his initiative, had he not apologised soon after dispatching the plate of sticky chicken wings onto my dining partner's thighs. At that point it became clear that he wasn't redefining restaurant etiquette at all, he was just being clumsy. Accidents do happen, especially on busy Friday nights like this one, but I was mildly relieved that he had observed the rule which states that females are served first. Otherwise I might have been picking bits of my fried halloumi starter off my nice clean slacks.

It was a good job my companion had positioned her napkin accurately, otherwise the waiter might have returned to the kitchen with a new sticky-chicken-wing hat. So, apologies accepted, the waiter soon brought her a new plate. The wings looked much better on a plate, on a table. They tasted pretty good too, dipped in a mild chilli sauce and a cooling blue cheese concoction. After a few nibbles of my starter, I briefly considered whether it would have been better off in my lap, or on the floor, than on my plate. The greasy nuggets of fried halloumi were served on a hard crust of pastry, and doused in a tart Greek dressing dotted with chopped cucumber and pepper. I suffered a couple of bites, and then returned to the pleasant little boerewors beef sausages in shashlik sauce with tomatoes and spices, which had been brought to the table with the bread and olive oil.

Disappointed but not deterred, we welcomed the careful arrival of the mains. Across the table, the surf and turf was on a huge platter that showcased a juicy, bloody 220g fillet steak next to four giant prawns. The heavy dish would easily have snapped both of my friend's femurs had it been jettisoned into her lap. Although it hailed from the US, the smooth, richly flavoured and plainly cooked steak was a credit to this South African grill house and its in-restaurant retail butchery. But the prawns were overcooked to the point of parched, and the accompanying baked potato was soggy.

There were further woes with my megalithic lamb shank. It came with giant helpings of torpid mashed potato, baked pumpkin, creamed spinach and mixed vegetables - courgette, carrots, French beans and broccoli - that all looked like they'd been scraped off somebody's trousers. And instead of the tender, yielding meat that I'd hoped for, the tough lamb clung onto the bone like a Rhodesian Ridgeback that hadn't been fed for a month. Not only that, but it was riddled with gristly fat and rather unpleasant to behold.

Could the desserts save this meal from almost certain disaster? Frankly, no. My partner's chocolate mousse would capably have fed a small township, but it was about as light and airy as a sunken U-boat. Meanwhile, my strawberry cheesecake consisted of whipped cream on a soggy base. And it had been thoroughly splattered with lurid red sauce, which made it look like it had passed through the on-site butcher's shop before it landed at the table. But at least it landed on the table.

The Butcher Shop & Grill positions itself as a "top-end" meat restaurant aimed at "the discerning diner". I have been to its Mall of the Emirates branch, and while the setting (think screeching children and mountains of shopping bags) is hardly the ideal rendezvous for gourmands and connoisseurs, its food is generally satisfactory. It was hoped that this swanky new branch at Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence would provide the perfect setting and ambience for the restaurant to flourish. But the restaurant business is all about hard work, and in a town that's practically overrun with steakhouses, success won't automatically drop into your lap. Unlike those sticky chicken wings.

The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, 04 428 1375. Average price of a meal for two Dh400-500.