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Crab joint ‘Aprons & Hammers’ – a hammering or not?

Aprons & Hammers dhowDubai; I always had fond memories of the Mina Seyahi dhow at DIMC (Dubai International Marine Club) with its freshly caught seafood on display, fishmarket-style and a wonderful selection of sushi and sashimi, but sometime earlier this year Le Meridien ceased operating this little hidden gem at the end of the pier. It now floats by the name of Aprons & Hammers – a so-called upscale crab joint.

Over the phone, the manager was curt and indifferent to my query whether a dry night would be declared due to a recent public holiday; he simply didn’t seem that bothered with my reservation. Anyhow the day before, I received a call confirming my reservation and that in fact booze would be served…so our little group rocks up only to find the indifference continuing, whilst we waited for a waiter to escort us to our table. I realise you may be busy, but why no welcome? So glad I’d reserved al fresco; the smelly, sweaty odour inside would have had us keeling over the dhow in no time. With the speakers blaring right above our table, it took four requests for the music to be lowered.

Deep fried calamariAnyhow, moving swiftly onto the menu. I’d heard mixed reviews of Aprons & Hammers, but the concept really appealed to the FooDiva in me. And do you know of any other dedicated crab joint in Dubai? After much discussion, but with not much guidance from the clueless waiters (don’t blame them – it’s lack of good management and training), here’s what we settled upon.

  • Classic crispy calamari (two portions). Clearly deep fried from frozen in oil that had been reused. Tough and stringy, it’s only saving grace was the rather moreish tartare sauce. Prawn cocktail
  • Fresh shrimp cocktail. This dish was the highlight of our evening. Juicy, plump prawns (not shrimp) steamed, chilled and served with traditional cocktail sauce.
  • Crab cakes. Same over-fried and oily taste to the calamari. At this point, we complained and the manager proceeded to bring us another identical dish, which he even had the audacity to add to the bill!
  • Crab bucket. Now this is Aprons & Hammers speciality, but we had to practically beg for aprons and were initially offered kiddie sizes. Whilst we’re flattered you think we’re teeny, why oh why? Crab bucketThe hammers were placed on our table with zero explanation on how to use them. Once we’d begged the manager for a demo, which he eventually conceded to, the steamed crab’s pulp was soft and succulent. But one word of advice, don’t drown it in your choice of sauce; mine was lemon and butter. Simply use as a dip. For future reference, only order crab if you have plenty of patience to fuss over food. Use the hammer to smash off the head of the crab, and then the pliers to twist the legs. The little fork helps to dig inside and extract the crab meat.
  • Crab cakesMussels bucket. One kilo of steamed mussels with a garlic, lemon and chilli olive oil dip. Quite a few of the mussel shells were firmly closed; certainly not freshly caught. The accompanying french fries were yet once more cooked from frozen.
  • Goan style crab curry. You’d expect the crabs to have already been cleaned when drowned in a spicy masala sauce; clearly hammering away like the manager initially suggested would have resulted in a spray of curry…on FooDiva’s white dress I should add. Shame as this dish has huge potential to mimic a Bu Qtair favourite (the hidden gem that makes up the Keralan fish shack by the beach).
  • Grilled fillet of the day. Simple piece of sea bream that was a little overcooked. The accompanying potato wedges were of similar fare to the fries unfortunately.

Once we’d asked the waiter to remove the second crab dish off the bill, we couldn’t wait to skip dessert and disembark. Despite us pin pointing these issues to the waiters and manager throughout our dinner, at no point was a simple apology extended – in fact indifference prevailed throughout. What a stressful evening. Whilst the setting is simply stunning and the price point reasonable, both the food and service were extremely disappointing to the point of almost emulating a laughable Fawlty Towers experience. Aprons & Hammers, it’s such a shame as your concept is, for want of a much over-used word, truly unique to Dubai. It’s time to go back to operational basics; sort out your front of house management, training and kitchen, otherwise Meridien please take over and bring back your original concept. Here’s to a FooDiva hammering – a one out of five knife rating.

I do hope FooDiva Friends you’ve had a more positive experience – would love your feedback. Any other unusual seafood joints to recommend?

Aprons & Hammers is located on a dhow moored at DIMC (Dubai International Marine Club) – next to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi. Licensed. AED 275 per person including wine. T; +971 4 4547097 E; restaurant@apronsandhammers.com

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 1
  • Posted under
    Dubai, Dubai Marina, Fish, Hotels, Licensed, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Seafood

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27 Responses to “Crab joint ‘Aprons & Hammers’ – a hammering or not?”

  1. kelly November 24, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I remember one good meal we had there, a few years ago…

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      I tell you I certainly missed the original concept that evening!

  2. Keren Bobker November 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

    How disappointing. We’d heard about this place and love the concept (having been to similar great places in the States), but as we feared, it’s clearly not up to scratch. Glad you reviewed it to save us a lousy evening.
    Let’s hope management pulls their finger out and fixes the problems, but I won’t hold my breath.

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      I hope so too Keren. Other reviews have been mixed, but it’s clearly not consistent so they had better address these issues now and before it’s too late.

  3. Gianni November 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Interesting review; as you know I am no great fan of fish and associated fare, however I admit to being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the prawn and fish fillet which I ordered. Good point about the sauce – I drowned my fish in mine which made it very greasy. The feedback from the others at our table were similarly positive on the food I think.

    So I would say full marks ont he location (although they should really prevail on the next door boat to redirect their spot light which shone in my eyes until someone else moved into the table next door) and also the food.

    Service was definitely lacking and I agree with you – under-resourced and possibly not great training. The manager when we went was actually very helpful and efficient but there again I believe we had some wasta there. Could simply be a cutural thing. The waiters were all too busy to really focus, thus my request for a side salad instead of the chips was ignored but I have to admit when their attention was grabbed (usually by the arm) they were quick to respond.

    Having said that, it took us at least an hour to get served and it was a struggle to get things done. If I was really keen on fish I’d probably go back, but I very much doubt it unless you drag me there kicking and screaming.

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks for your detailed feedback Mr G or J! As far as I recall, there was no sign of another boat whilst we were there, so perhaps it’s sailed away :) It’s such a shame as it really has so much potential. I hope they take note of everyone’s comments.

  4. Sally - My Custard Pie November 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    What a shame – there is a gaping hole for a mid-price point, casual dining, fresh seafood or fish restaurant by the sea (and let’s face it there is a lovely big coastline there).
    How ridiculous that you even had to ask for an apron!

  5. tara rogers (@dubaitara) November 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    We’ve been twice – the first time was when it had just opened and it was very quiet. Good service and good food. Second time, busier, bad service, frozen chips and many of the sub-standard elements you covered.
    What a pity – it has such potential.

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks Tara. My experience was on a busy night too, so clearly they are either under-resourced or it’s a lack of good management/ training. Completely agree, has so much potential for this market.

  6. Kavitha November 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I went to Aprons and Hammers for my birthday with a large group of over 15 people and we all agreed that it was a fun and enjoyable experience ! You will have to try it out again as I and a couple of my friends from the same group have been there several times since.

    I do agree with the slow and unknowledgable service staff, however we were greeted very warmly and the manager was personally walking around the restaurant recommending dishes to most of the tables.

    The crab cakes and the calamari were terrible, but I enjoyed the Prawn cocktail (fresh, good portion) and exactly what I wanted it to be. I would recommend the Cioppino (spelling ?) and the buckets of crabs and prawns.

    I liked the venue, its different from all the fancy seafood places in Dubai. I will be back.

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks Kavitha. Looks like you certainly had a better experience than me – even though you still had food and service issues. I would love to go back, but frankly I am steering away until I hear they have made a concerted effort to address their issues. Competition in this town is rife, and whilst there may be no other crab joint like this one, there are plenty of other casual seafood options to keep us entertained. Truly thanks for sharing your experience.

      • Kavitha November 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm

        would love to try out your recommendation for casual seafood ?

        • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

          Try Bu Qtair – literally a shack facing the beach not far from Jumeirah Beach Hotel (behind chalet). Or else there’s Flooka at Dubai Marine Beach Resort for a casual yet licensed Lebanese seafood experience. Sammach at the Beach Centre is also great value. Let me know how you fare!

          • Kavitha November 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm

            Loved Bu Qtair !! will definitely give the others a try.

          • Jp November 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

            Incidentally, has anyone tried the Barracuda on the Beach Road? Looks very tempting despite the garish, massive fish curled up on the facade.

          • FooDiva November 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm

            Thanks to you Mr JP, Barracuda is on my bucket list to try. I’ve heard good reports – let’s go soon :)

  7. Sarah November 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Been looking forward to seeing you give a venue a caning. Why, oh why are the better located restaurants always dissatisfying in other ways? Criminal

  8. Susan November 24, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Nooooo don’t tell too many people about Bu’Qtair!
    Its such a shame and such a common problem here in Dubai, great idea and fab location ruined by staff who couldn’t give a damn – and not totally their fault, they have probably never been properly trained and are probably not paid enough to give a monkeys!
    But seriously… white dress to a crab joint with hammers involved? Have a word with yourself lol!
    Oh bizarrely I have heard a few good reports about Red Lobster in Dubai Mall …. but I’m sticking to the beach shack!

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      Hi Susan. Have you been to Aprons & Hammers? Quite right, I should have known better to wear white, but fashion over food I guess this time round! Yes I have also heard some good reviews about Red Lobster, will add to my bucket list. Thanks for feedback.

  9. melanie November 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I had to remove my nail varnish the day after the Goan Crab. Yummy, messy but nails stained very yellow… not nice.

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      Agh yes Mel I should have mentioned that in my review. Thanks for pointing out!

  10. Simon Clough November 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Another brilliant review. We’ll steer clear until you give the green light. Crap service*, lousy food in what should have been a great concept. It’s such a shame because it’s so obvious that it’s being badly managed. Doesn’t the hotel have a F&B manager???…

    I’m so glad for us and them that we’ve seen your review before going, as I’m not as patient. If that had happened to me then I wouldn’t have even given it a one knife rating nor paid the bill for anything but the shrimp cocktail. Its just not acceptable that I should pay for inedible/crap food.

    *As mentioned before, the people serving there need to have proper training from their management as to the expectation of the diner. They need to fully understand the concept, how it works and what the diner is there for. If they don’t get their heads around that, then the whole thing won’t work as it’s completely alien to them.
    The hotel management need to act quickly to resolve this (get a new chef and some emergency training) as they might be able to turn this around and put this down to teething problems but if they leave then the word is out that the place is awful and should be avoided.

    • FooDiva November 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      Hello Simon. Glad to see you’re still following FooDiva :) Unfortunately Meridien no longer manage this outfit, but that’s not the perception, so they do need to take note. My one knife rating is the lowest I give and equates to ‘poor’, so as good as a zero really. They really should have waived the bill completely, but the fact that we did not even get an apology says it all really. I even suspect the manager knew I was reviewing given all my picture taking. Thanks for your feedback.

  11. WS January 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I am a regular at Aprons and Hammers and have really enjoyed the experience and food every time. It is simply a combination of great food and ambience for a dream price. Most people I know share the same opinion and I think there are many others as well, which is probably why it won the What’s On Magazine’s Best Sea Food Award although it has been open for less than one year!

    I really encourage people to visit and form a first hand opinion.

    Enjoy!

    • FooDiva January 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      That’s reassuring to hear. Lack of consistency is this town’s biggest issue when it comes to dining out. As for the What’s On award, I don’t personally think these awards are very credible given all reviews in the magazine are always positive. If they have a negative experience, they simply don’t write about it in fear of upsetting advertisers. A shame as that is what ultimately drives credibility and readership.

  12. Geordie Armani October 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I did remember reading this!! lol must have forgotten about it, great review. And do try Barracuda it is one of my favourites.

    • FooDiva October 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks :) Barracuda still on my to dine list!

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