Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Iftar at Baker and Spice
Baker & Spice, Dubai
Shop #16, Level 2, Souk Al Bahar, Old Town, Dubai (opp. Burj Dubai)
Tel: 971 4 425 2240
Open 08.00am to 11.00pm
I don’t ‘get’ vegetables. Or salads, come to that. Green things in general. My wife rails at me and describes me as the antithesis of a vegetarian. Fair enough.
So if I tell you that one of the things that impressed me most at Baker & Spice was the fruit, I’m not sure who was the more surprised, she or I.
But to backtrack. We were fortunate enough to have received an invitation to ‘Preview’ the Ramadan Iftar Menu – “Baker & Spice style” just before the Holy Month actually started, and as the event coincided with the last night of a UK-bound visitor, along we went. The location is certainly impressive, on Level 2 of the Old Town complex, front and centre on the lake and opposite the Burj Dubai. Between us and it is the Dubai Fountain. Sit on the terrace and you’ll have a ringside seat. You won’t eat a thing and conversation is rendered nigh-on impossible by the music and noise of massive quantities of water cascading back onto the surface of the Lake – that display is loud. No gentle relaxing water feature this.
That was outside. But I’m very happy to report that what was on display inside was every bit as spectacular, and a lot more edible. I can’t vouch for the regular offering, but this place presents itself with an engaging unpretentiousness, a refreshing antidote to the massively over-presented ‘international buffet’ found in so many of our 5-star establishments. There was food everywhere – big bowls of fruit so fresh they scented the air, great platters piled with lamb, quail, crab, chicken, salads. Waiters with trays of fruit juices and cups of lentil soup. The original feast for all the senses.
Baker & Spice is an operation with outlets across London, in Europe and now here in Dubai. The company produces what it calls ‘Soul Food’, and adheres to the mantra ‘organic / local / fresh / homemade’. On the evidence of this visit, they certainly achieve something radically different to the usual bland spread. Talking to manager Tim Hocks it is clear that their passion for ingredients runs deep indeed – it is a process that takes time, finding and supporting local suppliers that share the same obsession with quality and flavour. Tim was delighted to have found a chicken producer in Oman who understands ‘free range’ to mean his flock have their own field in which to forage and pens to rest in, a veritable chicken utopia.
There are elements of the Slow Food movement here, shades of locavore, a holistic, hedonistic approach that results in a style of food and presentation that is unashamedly homemade, rustic, substantial, singing with flavour, and above all, honest. It is the sort of food you would be pleased to have made at home on a good day, served up on shared platters and presented family style.
Reservations? I’d be happier if they managed to sort out a license and serve some appropriate oenological accompaniments. The central communal table is a bold statement of intent, but those it doesn’t suit will find plenty of more conventional tables for twos and fours. And this obsession with ingredients doesn’t come cheap. But the food we enjoyed on that night was some of the freshest, most flavoursome and satisfying I have had in this city in several years. Recommended.
This review contributed by Fat Guest Jonathan Castle, AKA EyeOnDubai