Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Land of Fire & Ice

Raffles Hotel

Tel: 04 324 8888

Fire & Ice in the newly opened Raffles Hotel seems to be one of the hottest dinner dates in Dubai at the moment so I thought I better check it out. I had a pretty important group of business associates coming to town giving me a great excuse to book a table. The chef Cedric Darthial comes to Raffles via ‘La Baie’ in the Ritz Carlton Hotel and brings with him a very good reputation.

I find the hotel a bit soul-less, the lobby is not very inspiring and is a bit cold but walking into Fire&Ice is a dramatic change from the rest of the hotel. Exposed brickwork, lofty ceilings, huge mirrors, dancing flames, low lighting, little nooks and corners with great huge armchairs, it is fantastic. The restaurant creates a great clubby steakhouse sort of feel but any closer association with your common-or-garden chop shop ends when you start to read the menu and see how avant-garde the food is.

Before we sat down at the table the maitre’d tried to push our group quite hard towards the set menu, warning us that if we ordered ‘a la carte’ the food might take quite a long time. I was quite pissed off with this, I certainly don’t expect to be pushed towards something I don’t want and as we were quite a large group I wanted everyone to be able to choose what they wanted. He was quite insistent and it irked me. Anyway, I have to say from a service point of view it was the only poor point of the evening.

I found the menu quite confusing, and judging by the number of questions being asked around the table so did my guests. It wasn’t the easiest thing to work your way around. The food I suppose falls into the half-life world of ‘fusion’ and is a very curious mix of east and west and also of a mix between different eastern foods themselves. My starter of tempura prawns with three different ‘powders’ (curry, green tea and a third I forget) to dip into was interesting but nothing really startling. The portion was a pretty good size and the prawns very tasty, it’s just that curry powder with tempura prawns, hmmm, I’m not totally convinced.

I ordered a rib-eye steak but all the accompanying sauces (found on a different page in the menu) were all Asian-flavoured and didn’t take my fancy. However, it was pretty good and very tasty. Vegetables you order separately and there is a pretty good and wide range of choices.

The wine list is incredible and gives a great representation from all parts of the globe, nothing cheap mind you, but there is something in there to suit all tastes.

I must say that I didn’t really feel that I did this restaurant justice, it was a very complicated evening for reasons you will see below and I wonder if I should have tried a tasting menu or perhaps even the set menu that I was being pushed towards. I think because the menu is so confusing it was hard to make the most of it. A return visit is required and I am looking forward to it. Next time a little intimate dinner with lovely wife and myself I think.

The one thing that really stood out about the evening was the service. All the staff seemed to be South African and they were outstanding. We were that night the guests from hell. The table was originally booked for four persons. Earlier in the day I increased it to eight, then on arriving I told the staff that we would only be seven, then after a few phone calls we were nine, then two people after sitting down talked on their phones and left. Just when I thought we had settled it and got the numbers finally agreed a further two turned up. It was complete and utter bedlam and the original four, all Europeans, stared slack-jawed at the unbelievable chaos unfurling around us. However, the staff handled it extremely well, with incredible good grace and politeness and took it in the stride. Perhaps this sort of thing happens in Dubai all the time?!

One final word to end on, this place ain’t cheap. It is unlikely that you will escape with paying less that AED500 a head but I just happen to think that it is probably worth it.

1 comment:

Seabee said...

This and the previous two posts are the reason we hardly ever eat in hotel resaurants - overall the outside independents are much better!

By the way, whatever happened to chefs thinking about the whole meal, where the textures & flavours of the various components complement each other?

And related to that, don't get me started on 'fusion' which most of them don't even begin to understand. Take a western dish, whack on an Asian spice, relevant or not, and call it fusion!