A Fraiche New Bistro
Dubai; I am back at JLT which appears to have become a little bit of a second home for me. Yes there’s another new café on the block and in fact, in the same tower as Nofara. This time it’s a French-Canadian bistro by the name of Fraiche - the brainchild of Yousef Barqawi, a banker-turned-restaurateur who was inspired by Montreal’s café culture. Incase you’re wondering, I know this because I was privy to a menu tasting for a small group of foodies earlier this year.
A corner spot with wraparound glass windows sporting the distinct white Fraiche branding looks rather magical when all lit up on a Thursday evening. Sadly it’s eerily quiet, but to be expected given this district is more of a daytime dining spot.
The menu comprises starters, salads, sandwiches, mains and sides, with the waitress quickly pointing out the non-availability of three dishes which were gobbled up during the lunchtime rush she explains. As soon as I spot poutine, the Canadian greasy spoon dish of choice, there’s no question that’s what am ordering for starters. Watch how you pronounce this dish by the way . French fries with a wonderful, almost caramelised texture…am sure they are twice-fried, slathered in a generous dose of gravy and dotted with cheese curd. Pure soul food which I polish off in minutes – worth returning just for this dish alone. My friend is on a healthy diet, infact so am I, but those good intentions go out of the window when I skim the menu. She orders the beetroot carpaccio – thinly sliced but not too skinny, enough to feel you’re tasting juicy beetroot – sprinkled with candied walnuts, dollops of a lush creamy goats cheese, shallots and lambs lettuce. Pretty presentation and she enjoys it.
Next up for mains is my ox cheek cottage pie. I guess this dish is French-Brit inspired? By the way the chef is British. I clearly am making up for my fellow diner’s healthy choices with my carb fest, but it was another dish with FooDiva written all over it. Plunging into a cast iron pie dish, the crust of the mashed potato hits me first and then its all buttery and fluffy. Just beneath are shreds and shreds of piping hot braised ox cheek – so lean, tender and succulent. A side order of sautéed broccoli arrives steamed, perhaps a confusion given my friend’s request of no oil. Her rib-eye steak (grain-fed for 150 days) is grilled and cooked rare as requested, but is presented in a frying pan atop a wooden chopping board. Left to our own devices, we assume the slab of meat is to be tipped onto the board. A little guidance here may help. We are pretty sure the accompanying grilled vegetables are roasted – or the fact they are tossed together in a small bowl makes them soft and limp losing what should be a crispy texture.
For once on a menu, all six desserts hold high appeal – the crepes suzette, apple crumble and lemon meringue in particular – but with our bellies bursting, I’ll have to return for tea and cake. The waitress is friendly, chatty and knows her menu – my only qualm is the ongoing Dubai service issue of whisking plates away before both diners have finished munching. The café-cum-bistro may mimic a French-Canadian interior, but bar the poutine, the food is far more European. At AED 117 per head for two courses including water and tea, Fraiche offers good value for money and interesting, nourishing, home-cooked fare brimming with flavour – but if you’re after a bit of a buzz, opt for lunch or brekkie instead.
Fraiche Café & Bistro is located at Swiss Tower, Cluster Y, Jumeirah Lake Towers, ground level. T; +971 50 8805467. E; firstname.lastname@example.org Open daily 8am to 10pm. Price per head including local water and tea AED 117.
So any more JLT hangouts I should be checking out?