Pantry Café and a new Dubai neighbourhood

Pantry CafeDubai; Meandering around the new Al Wasl Square development on a drizzly Saturday (yep it does rain and we do walk on occasion here), we pass so many new eateries, some with the hoarding still up. Smiling BKK‘s seafood concept, Book Munch, a Japanese bakery by the name of Yamanote Atelier, Chez Sushi by Sho Cho, and finally our port of call on the corner facing Safa Park, Pantry Café.

Jam-packed with a buzz reminiscent of Jones The Grocer’s early days…well in fact the near-all-glass exterior and exposed ceiling is also very Jones, with a deli counter showcasing cured meats, artisan cheeses and condiments, plus a row of expensive kitchen goodies.

Pantry signThe pleasant and smiley hostess searches for an empty table. Lucky for us, someone leaves and we grab a coffee-table banquette for our trio. We have to request menus and sadly that’s the first of many service issues. In all fairness, this sign on every table does forewarn us, and one many new restaurants would do well to embrace – it helps with managing expectations after all.

The menu is divided into breakfast available until noon on weekdays and 2pm on weekends, and all-day dining, boasting organic eggs, herbs and veggies from regional suppliers. Would be good to know the exact country of origin. The wood-fired pizzas that appear to grace every table look heavenly. We chase after a waitress to take our order.

My mama’s French onion soup, a daily special arrives first – sadly sans any floating toasted bread.  She tears up the accompanying chunky bread and adds it in. A little bland so she requests some parmesan, which again we have to chase. In the meantime, my dad’s blue cheese buffalo chicken burger rocks up – a slightly toasted brioche bun encasing a chicken breast (pan-fried?), with lettuce, tomato, celery, pickles, blue cheese and a piquant tomato and pepper ‘buffalo’ sauce – accompanied by tad undercooked chunky wedge-like chips with the skin intact, and artisan Sir Kensington ketchup. I nab a bite and the blue cheese complements the spiced chicken without overpowering – a little lukewarm though.

French onion soupBlue cheese buffalo chicken burgerThai beef salad

Whilst all this munching is going on, I polish off my side order of chunky chips…I still await my baked Camembert with rosemary and honey drizzle – only to have the manager tell me that sadly they have ran out of Camembert. In all fairness he apologises on behalf of the waitress who should have relayed this when we placed our order. Bizarrely, despite a huge cheese display, Brie de Meaux included (sharing boards are a key menu item), he is unable to substitute. I knew I should have opted for the shakshouka from the brekkie menu, or one of those pizzas. So I order a quick fix Thai-inspired salad – slithers of grilled Heritage Angus…am pretty sure it’s Canadian, lettuce and kidney beans tossed in a spicy kaffir lime and bird’s eye chilli dressing. So hungry by then I scoff it in minutes. Whilst The Pantry’s menu claims freshly squeezed juices, my pomegranate clearly isn’t and is rather watered down, a Barakat supply I think.

Virginia Woolf foodie quoteThe bill arrives for a reasonable AED 66 per head including a bottle of Voss water, but I am surprised to see a charge for my salad given the mess-up with my initial order. Surely you should waive this off given the serious delay? Despite the lacklustre service and the odd food issue, Pantry has huge potential and a delightful daytime vibe – just give it a good few weeks to settle in. In the meantime, so many eateries in this new little neighbourhood will lure me back – if you’ve been I’d love to hear your feedback. I’ll sign off with a cute quote from Pantry’s menu and my foodie mantra :). What’s yours?

Book MunchYamanote AtelierChez Sushi by Sho Cho

Pantry Café is located in the new Al Wasl Square development on Al Wasl road, opposite Safa Park, Dubai. T; +971 4 3883869, E; Open daily 7am to midnight. AED 66 per head. Free wi-fi too!

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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24 Responses to “Pantry Café and a new Dubai neighbourhood”

  1. Tariq S February 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I completely agree with your comments. I went there a week ago and also suffered the same with regards to service but at least it is done with a smile and an apology in the end! Will go back in a few weeks and hope to see progress because it is a nice place.

    • FooDiva February 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Good to know Tariq. There’s a lot to be said for customer complaint handling…it’s not so much the issue but the way it’s handled. Sadly many places here don’t get it right from day one and do need a good few weeks to settle in.

  2. Celia Potoudis Macpherson February 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Hi FooDiva, I think I was at Food Pantry the same time as you as I wondered why someone would want to photograph their salad! As a fellow Cypriot living in Dubai I thought I’d say hi and invite you for coffee at al Wasl Sq sometime! I live just round the corner.
    I enjoy your blog too, thanks!

    • FooDiva February 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      That’s hilarious Celia – were you sitting next to me with the divine pizza?! Your name sounds very familiar – perhaps we’ve met before…would love to catch up. Will let you know when am next in your area. Thanks for dropping by and liking FooDiva 🙂

  3. Kelly February 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I had the same complaint with my onion soup as I was looking forward to one with the melted toasted bread/cheese on top! I quite liked the atmosphere though. And I also agree about the service which needs fine tuning…

    • FooDiva February 11, 2013 at 7:17 am

      It’s not much fun having onion soup without the toasted bread and gooey cheese, is it?! Oh well hopefully they will take note.

  4. Lesley Cully February 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    mmm, have been to The Pantry twice since it opened and been very disappointed both times. I disagree they need a ‘few weeks to settle’ – the soft opening signs must have been put there recently in response to the many bad reviews and opinions I’ve heard – before that, the owner actually sat and watched me and my family sit down before a flustered waitress was told to advise us they were ‘closed’ as they couldn’t ‘cope’. No other eatery seems to need this time to get it right – BookMunch has opened without any trouble as far as I can tell and serves delicious food. The Pantry seems to have bitten off way more than it can chew and despite having countless staff, still having difficulty. I shan’t return in any hurry

    • FooDiva February 11, 2013 at 7:19 am

      Gosh that’s dreadful Lesley I didn’t know that. Sadly many places here don’t invest enough in staff training and therefore don’t get it right from day one. And that’s not good enough when you’re paying full whack. If they can’t train their staff early enough, they should perhaps only charge 50% until they get it right. On the same day I lunched at Pantry, Book Munch only had one table occupied so it’s unfair to compare I think – anyhow one for when I review! Really appreciate your comment. Thanks.

  5. Swati February 10, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    We had the worst scotch eggs ever – overcooked eggs, flavorless mince. And also when we ordered the bresaola sandwich we were told it was unavailable. The whole thing took an hour – will wait a while before we go back

    • FooDiva February 11, 2013 at 7:22 am

      I nearly ordered the scotch eggs, so am glad you’ve forewarned me Swati. Real shame. I hope they sort out these operational issues pronto before it’s too late.

  6. Johan Z February 11, 2013 at 6:59 am

    What I do not understand is why they are not offering reduced prices so that they can ‘iron out’ all the teething problems without upsetting clients by charging full price.

    • FooDiva February 11, 2013 at 7:24 am

      Quite, but that requires an owner who can see the big picture long term – like Roberto’s at DIFC did when it first opened whilst it awaited its booze license.

  7. Yana February 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Dear FooDiva,

    Thank you for your comments – we have taken into consideration everyone’s feedback. We apologise that your experience at the café has been a little sour but please bear with us, as we are in our initial stages and are also identifying our problems. Saying that, we promise we are trying to fix all the issues, mainly service related, and would love to have you come to the café time and again! Happy eating 🙂

    • FooDiva February 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks Yana, appreciate your response.

      We’ll give you a few weeks to iron out your operational issues before returning.

      All the best.

    • Nadia April 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm


      We live just around the corner from The Pantry, and had been very excited about the opening. I would say we have been about 5 times, and have not had a single visit without issues. The first time was when they first opened so we gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought that these are now teething issues. Since then we have had issues with peoples food arriving at different times, to my husband ordering eggs with a side order of mushrooms – his mushrooms arrived about 10 minutes after he finished his eggs, he then told the waiter, I no longer need the mushrooms as I have finished my food, to which the waiter responds “if you send it back I (the waiter refering to himself) have to pay for it” giving us a guilt trip about sending it back so we took them as we didnt want the waiter to have to pay. Still after all this time they have so many things on the menu which they are not able to provide. The last time I went I got there just before 12 – then by the time I placed my order it was after 12 – but as what I wanted was crepe which was part of the breakfast menu they were not able to provide. To be honest we have never left there feeling happy. The place has a nice set up, and it would be so convenient for us, but the service is really terrible, I doubt the staff have had the necessary training and they dont stock half of the things they offer. We will surely not be back anytime soon, I think we have given the place enough time and enough chances to improve itself.

      • FooDiva April 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

        OMG that’s horrendous Nadia especially the waiter’s claim about returning dishes. I hope the Pantry is still monitoring the feedback on this review as that’s clearly unacceptable. Have you tried Book Worm on the same strip? Appreciate your comment. I hope the Pantry does!

        • Nadia April 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

          Hi FooDiva,

          Thanks for your response – haven’t tried Book Worm yet, but will check it out next time. Really hope Pantry does something to sort out these issues as the location and food is actually very nice – but their service issues are unacceptable.

  8. IshitaUnblogged March 6, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Dropped into the Cafe ultimately – had told you that I had been seen it everyday from the other side of the road. Looks lovely – actually reminding me of Jones the grocer. Had a full tummy but Big Z loved her Wagyu Beef Spaghetti. I found it a bit expensive – DHs 75 for a serving that’s not overtly generous. Wondering is it because it was Wagyu? I think they’ve iron out on the teething problems – looked buzzing with helpful staff. Have to return for my share of meal. There’s a feel-good factor:)

    • FooDiva March 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Yes it’s so similar to Jones Ishita. Wagyu will beef up the prices, excuse the pun! Not sure it’s necessary to go for wagyu if it’s bolognese style or was it not? Glad they have sorted out the service. I would definitely give it another go. Thanks for dropping in with your comment as always 🙂

  9. John Samuels April 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Pls put me on your subscription list for FooDiva. Tks. John

  10. Claire July 3, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Foodiva – headed back to The Pantry Cafe last night, first visit was just before summer kicked in. As it was very quiet, only 1 other table when we arrived we hoped for better and more attentive service, but were we wrong.

    The initial waiter practically sat on our table waiting for us to order. I asked him about the hog dog which states it is Wagyu – and thought that could be good, what turned up could not have been more removed from Wagyu beef, if they tried, so very disappointed. My friend had the spag bol – which went down a treat so that is worth ordering!

    We never saw that waiter again – trying to flag a waiter down to order more drinks, coffee or deserts – was unimpressive. The manager eventually came over in the end, to take our order.

    I am not sure I will go back again – luckily we had the TimeOut 2 4 1 voucher, so my “hot dog” was in essence free, but still how many chances does one place need?

    • FooDiva July 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Claire – with competition so hot here, restaurants only have one chance in my humble opinion to get it right. Aside from my experience, it’s clear from all the comments here and other anecdotal feedback I have heard, The Pantry has still not ironed out its issues, mainly service. There’s really no excuse to not get it right when they’re not even busy! I reckon it’s a team morale issue as a result of bad management. Best to steer clear until you hear a positive comment. Really appreciate you taking the time to write this. I hope they are still monitoring this review.

      • Tyler August 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        If you need any comparative that training, policies/procedures/standards(managment system) are essential to running a restaurant look no further than Cheesecake factory.

        They have some of the best service in Dubai most likely due to have a management system and training the hell out of their employees.

        They probably also have a strong vetting process for hiring.

        Restaurants in Dubai on the whole are embarrassing and just short of robbery considering what you pay.

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  1. Chez Sushi for lunch...BookMunch for tea - March 4, 2013

    […] First port of call for lunch is a home-grown sushi spot, Chez Sushi, a few steps away from The Pantry Café. It’s the same team that brought us Japanese supper club, Sho Cho at Dubai Marine Beach […]

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