Restaurant review For many people, Friday brunch is a weekly chance to overindulge, but there is a more modest, organic option.
The healthy alternative
Organic Foods & Cafe (Brunch on Fridays and Saturdays from 11am-3.30pm) Sheikh Zayed Road The Greens Dubai Tel: 04 361 7974 Price for one: Dh75 for adults, Dh45 for children By simply crossing the threshold of Organic Foods & Cafe for Friday brunch, you're making a very clear statement. You're saying to the world: "I renounce the grotesque spectacle of opulence, waste and sheer overindulgence that is the typical expatriate brunch. Instead I will enjoy a modest, healthy, ethical and environmentally friendly luncheon in a humble setting, with like-minded, intelligent and sensitive people who will no longer stand idly by while faceless corporations destroy our beloved planet. At least for today, anyway."
Indeed, I did notice one or two non-hybrid, fossil-fuel guzzling SUVs parked outside The Greens branch of Dubai's famous eco-grocery-cum-cafe. But regardless of one's carbon footprint, there are some Fridays when the prospect of being confronted by a mountain of genetically-modified tiger prawns the size of Popeye's anchor-hoisting arm is just too much to stomach. Which is where the organic brunch trundles to the rescue like a horse-drawn tractor steered by a kindly farmer.
Of course, these days, we all know the benefits of eating organic food. It's free of artificial insecticides, chemicals and fertilisers, which is good for us and good for the environment. But if you're one of those people who baulks at the price of organic produce, this reasonably priced affair (Dh75 per person) might just change your mind. And it's not all lentils and chickpeas. Inside it's suitably rustic with a trendy feel. Battered wooden tables and chairs huddle beneath kooky chandeliers fashioned from upturned coffee cups, taps and kettles. Stretching across the far wall - rather like a guesthouse breakfast - is the buffet, where packets of organic cornflakes jostle with bread baskets and jugs of fruit juice. The apple and elderberry was a particularly thirst-quenching place to start, as we perused the cheese and salad selection. I sliced a wedge of sharply flavoured Gouda and plonked it next to some pungent Gorgonzola on a buttery slice of crusty whole grain bread; meanwhile my dining partner loaded up on spicy red cabbage salad, which prickled with hints of cumin.
Soon it was time to investigate the hot buffet chafers. I retrieved two beautifully grilled lamb chops, which were crisp and crackly on the outside but full of moisture and frank meaty flavours. As an accompaniment, I had some mixed seasonal vegetables, which were suitably crunchy but drenched in butter. My hungry companion opted for a bowl of fresh and tangy tomato soup, which was hurriedly spooned up before she treated herself to a plate of conchiglioni pasta shells stuffed with velvety cream cheese and spinach in a rich tomato sauce.
So, did the organic food here taste any better than conventional food? Well, the answer is yes and no. The more successful items, such as the lamb and the pasta shells, were particularly flavoursome, and may well have benefited from a lack of contact with chemicals. The potato ravioli, quite frankly, wasn't such a hit. But the real difference shone through with the selection of fresh fruit. The pineapple slices, orange segments and grapefruit were all radiant with sweet, juicy freshness quite unlike the non-organic fruit we've become accustomed to. To paraphrase this cafe's oft-quoted slogan, it tasted just like fruit used to.
Next week, even if we snub the Organic Foods & Cafe's brunch for the Frankenshrimps at one of Dubai's regular five-star brunches, we'll be making doubly sure we stop by the organic supermarket just for our weekly fix of fruit. It's a start, I suppose. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org