Yet another Friday brunch, and this one - at the popular Reform Social & Grill - is hearty, but not quite satisfying
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say Reform Social & Grill is something of a popular establishment in Dubai. The London gourmet label, which opened up at the Lakes a couple of years ago, has been quite talked about from the start, and is quite the favourite haunt among residents of the serene, spread out gated communities not far from Sheikh Zayed road, as well as other diners from elsewhere in the emirate.
Quintessentially British in all ways, not only is Reform one of the earlier names to start the trend of international brands setting up shop in the UAE, it also has a very "community" look and feel, which you see right upon arrival. The restaurant is right alongside the Lakes's clubhouse and gym, almost a part of the community's recreational set-up.
The gastropub is a rapidly spreading concept in the emirate, its 'claim to fame' being facilitating a quick bite or short meal with your favourite beverages, in comfortable, not-necessarily-posh surroundings. Suits us fine, but there's no imminent danger of the food running low on quality or going the cheap, pub-grub way here at the Lakes. British pedigree is obvious from the start, with all the moneyed expats letting their hair down for some Friday afternoon revelry. As we make our way to a cosy corner table by the glass wall, the swimming pool view looks more inviting than the prospect of sitting down to a heavy meal, in the summer heat.
But sit down to The Great British Brunch experience (as it is named) we did, and the handy one-page menu - no table-spilling buffets here - was something of a relief. No one wants to plod around the room piling their plate and having to make tough meal decisions when they're nursing, well. the effects of a night out.
The brunch is divided into three sections - Posh Ploughman's Larder, the Best of British Main Courses, and the British Sweet Shop Dessert Stand To Share. Despite not walking in with a big appetite, it's whetted at the sight of my Ploughman's Larder platter, with sample portions of smoked beef, chicken liver pate, a sliver of smoked salmon, battered scallops, a portion of Tipperary brie cheese, homemade pickled beetroot, Rosemary crackers, and a little haggis fritter. While nothing is particularly standout - not even my favourite smoked salmon - I can't gobble it up fast enough and my first ever taste of haggis isn't bad at all. With its slightly salty underlying taste, it's hardly like the animal innards we're expecting, and more like a homemade cutlet.
For the mains, I go for the Stockyard 'Angus' Rump Steak, with Roast Field Mushroom, which wasn't a bad choice at all, with the medium rare steak and its accompanying gravy being supremely satisfying, and the roast mushroom almost divine. But I also wish I'd had enough space for the signature Full English Breakfast or the vegetarian pearl barley risotto with root garlic, courgette, snow peas and toasted almonds (doesn't that just read great?).
Reform really won us over with what they came up for my strictly vegan - not vegetarian - friend. For starters, he has asparagus sautéed in oil, roasted baby potatoes, quinoa salad and a special vegan bake entrée, with a side of beans. The bake looks as good as it tasted (according to him) with its mix of pumpkin, eggplant and other vegetables topped with breadcrumbs. And most of it isn't on the menu; it was specially made on request.
There's nary any space for dessert, but after a short break I opt for the Strawberry Sherbet Sorbet, but it's too syrupy sweet for my choice. The other choices are Butterscotch Toffee Pudding, Rhubarb & Custard Crumble, Strawberry & Cream Mess, Chocolate Crunchie Bites and Lemon Sherbet Sorbet and British Artisanal Cheeses.
Overall, the Reform Friday brunch is very filling, but not completely satisfying, for some reason. My 'mainland' European acquaintances frequently scoff that British cuisine is a misnomer really, that they have no particular culinary tradition or notable tastes to speak of. We won't go so far as to say that here, but at Reform, it's probably wiser to go for their much better (looking) main menu than the Friday brunch.
Not that the latter doesn't have its place, especially after some hard partying on Thursday nights.