After many years wasting lunch hours on mean order-in meals from local malls and over-greased noodles from the sole, sit-down restaurant within walking distance of my office, respite was delivered in the form of Jones the Grocer.
Let me be plain: despite the friendly demeanor of the staff, the swank deli and grocery is overpriced, over hyped and over harried.
The last time I ordered a take-away sandwich, the staff took twenty minutes to pick the sandwich, cut the sandwich, put the sandwich in the box and charge me Dh32 for it. There was only one other person in line.
During another unfortunate lunch venture, I took my box lunch back to the office to find they had given me a beef and guyere on mustard instead of the mozzarella and tomato baguette. I hate mustard. I ate it anyway.
Oh, and don't be fooled by the artisan breads and fine quality ingredients. As my investigation of the chevre and sun-dried tomato has proven: Jones side-loads the sandwich.
That's right. From the outside it appears to be generous and plentiful. It promises a messy expanse of creamy cheese and tart tomato. But take a peek inside. It's all rocket.
I spent Dh32 for a slice of bread and arugula.
And then I did it again.
Why? Why do I do this?
Because it's this, or the Lebanese bakery where I once found a hair in my Lebneh. Because it's this or the Chinese food restaurant where I'm sure I detected the faint hint of ketchup on the sweet and sour balls.
Afghanistan restaurant is always a cheap and plentiful option, just as long as you don't mind waiting for your roast chicken while staring at the floor to avoid the gaze of a very angry looking Pashto man who seems deeply unimpressed by your sartorial choice of a knee-length skirt. And I just can't face another meal in the "family section" of the tasty curry joint where the cab drivers take their lunch, cowering behind the laminated room dividers in the back of the windowless upper floor.
Oh, for the first year, I tried it all. They were all tiles in the beautiful cultural mosaic of my expatriate experience.
Now, I say: save it for the tourists. I want a baguette. And I'll pay three times its worth to get it from somebody who will look me in the eye.