Restaurant review: Bagatelle bistro in Dubai
A French fancy with fine fish
REPLICATING DECENT MOCK-ups of France's cultural contributions abroad is no mean feat. The Gallic stronghold is celebrated for pinnacles in painting, film (not the brow-furrowing theatre), music and above all food. Judging from experience, attempts to approximate an 'authentic' restaurant experience, when the closest petanque terrain is over a thousand kilometres away, seem only to require tacking up Ikea-esque vintage posters on the wall, dressing staff in dippy attire and throwing some Edith Piaf on the stereo while serving up four differently named versions of the same steak and fries. However, this is not so at Dubai's Bagatelle; possibly one of the glitziest joints in town. While the art adorning the dining room isn't for everyone, it is original and presumably cost a few Euros. The exquisitely appointed tables are resplendent in quality white linen and the parquet floors evoke a salon feel, which could easily pass for a bistro just off Cannes' Croisette.
Known for throwing St. Tropez inspired shindigs practically every night of the week, Bagatelle's reputation as a Belle Epoque merry-go-round is firmly cemented, though how does the cuisine compare to the first-class frivolity? We ventured down uncharacteristically early one weekday night, in order to be ahead of the entertainment and zone-in on the kitchen's produce.
What proceeded was a genuinely fine French flurry of fancies. Fantastique. We wouldn't go as far as to say recipes were experimental, though the ingredients' qualities and chef's obvious prowess shone through. Highlights included a delicate yet hearty tuna tartare with avocado and soy lime dressing, a surprising but incredibly welcome cheese plate as a starter and a salmon Carpaccio, which when piled upon the accompanying pickled fennel released such rich aromas it was almost intoxicating.
For the mains, the standout dish comprised an entire loup de mer (sea bass), grilled and topped with a fennel confit, diced roast potatoes, shallots and rocket. The fish was an absolute triumph. Fresh, flaky and providing a gleeful alternative to the more robust meat dishes, we shall be returning for this course alone. A quick mention has to go to the side of distinction - a black truffle pizza - but frankly it was all about the bass.
Where: Bagatelle, Fairmont Dubai
Best dish: Grilled loup de mer
Av. cost pp: Dhs500