Is La Serre the new La Petite Maison?

La SerreA striking illuminated glass boîte juts out from the sexy new Vida boutique hotel in Downtown Dubai. Once inside, an organised frenzy greets us with chefs at play in the open-plan kitchen, a bar buzzing with punters and a near full restaurant on a Thursday evening. Now that’s what I call atmosphere. We’re in French-Mediterranean La Serre, Dubai’s latest hot opening and Izu Ani, the opening chef of La Petite Maison’s new baby.

I ask for a window table on booking, partly for the sparkly view of Dubai by night but mainly to steer away from the smoke engulfing the bar area. And so the hostess guides us to a corner window table à deux. Bag that spot especially if you’re on a romantic date.

The menu categories are all in French so if you’re not au fait with the lingo you may struggle translating. Here’s FooDiva’s guide – pour grignoter (to nibble), pour commencer (to start), brut (cold), chaud (hot), enrichissant (enriching – pasta or risotto in this case), la mer (sea), famille (family – meat) and la terre (earth – veggie sides). Dessert is simply dessert.

A tomato rocks up sliced with a drizzle of olive oil as an amuse bouche. At LPM (the affectionate name for La Petite Maison) the tomato sits ripe on the table for you to chop and garnish as you wish. We opt for an Italian vino from the San Leonardo winery – the Terre Marchese Carlo Guerriri Gonzaga 2010 – with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, as well as Merlot grapes. Smooth and slightly fruity. At AED 470, it’s one of the mid-priced vinos on the list.

Open plan kitchen at La SerreTrio of starters at La SerreLa Serre interior

Our three ‘appetisers’ arrive at the same time with the idea of sharing. An onion tart to nibble on supposedly, but it’s the size of a small pizza – a crisp flat bread crust topped with onions, cherry tomatoes and dotted with crème fraiche. Already sliced, we eat it up with our hands savouring the caramelised sweetness of the onions. The warm green beans are al dente and tossed with small cubes of foie gras, so silky and smooth I yearn for more. Please be a little more generous here. A blanket of mixed green salad leaves arrives hiding baby octopus chargrilled to crispness, yet so tender to the bite, with dollops of zesty gremolata.

Tiger prawnsLamb cutletsPain perdu - French toast

With a decent respite between courses, our twin tiger prawns are served grilled with Peruvian aji Amarillo peppers and topped with herby crumbs – we scoop out the sweet and spicy flesh wishing for more. The trio of plump lamb cutlets are served perfectly rare as requested and spiced with plenty of cumin making for a rather Moroccan flavour. Side orders of baked gratinated potatoes a la Dauphinoise is a moreish meal in itself, whilst the sautéed spinach is a tad too salty for our liking.

For dessert, we can only stomach one to share – the traditional breakfast dish of pain perdu – otherwise known as French toast. An unusual choice for afters, but at La Serre it’s so gooey and eggy with the caramelised goodness of maple syrup oozing out and a scoop of milk ice cream to mop it up. Next time and there will be a next for sure, I’ll be leaving room for the apple tarte tatin…be warned it serves four.

Service under the helm of manager Heather McKnight who hails from Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental in London is slick in every way – knowledgeable, relaxed and friendly – but am pretty sure FooDiva was recognised. I’ll be looking for consistency next time. One qualm though, it took a while to get our waitress’ attention for the bill. On that note, many dishes are identical to LPM, but contrary to opinion, the prices are similar. Check both websites if in doubt. It’s the wine list at La Serre that offers a more affordable choice. The restaurant is still buzzing as we leave approaching Cinderella time and so are we. One thing’s for sure LPM, arguably one of Dubai’s best restaurants, has a new rival. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating.

La Serre entranceLa Serre is located at Vida Downtown Hotel (ex-Qamardeen), Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai. T; +971 4 4286969. E; reservations@laserre.ae Bistro open daily from 12 – 3pm and 7 – 11pm. Licensed. Price per head without vino AED 345. There’s also a boulangerie on the ground floor open daily from 7am – 10.30pm.

So if you’ve dined at both, how do you rate and compare?

A bientôt. FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 4
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27 Responses to “Is La Serre the new La Petite Maison?”

  1. Johann Z September 17, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Sounds like another great option for quality Mediterranean food….. By the way does it have Buratta?

    • FooDiva September 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Yes it does Johann – the exact same dish that LPM also offers, but am not sure if their burrata supplier is the same.

      • Matt September 26, 2013 at 7:27 pm

        I was told that the burrata is local. I can’t prove if they are telling the truth but it was some of the best I’ve had over here.

  2. dave reeder September 17, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Shame you didn’t mention the bread – Chef Izu’s pride and joy there is the bakery capable of turning out 17,000 baguettes a day! Shame they allow smoking near great food…

    • FooDiva September 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      We didn’t eat any bread Dave! But I do want to try the boulangerie at some point for breakfast or lunch. I agree the smoking is a killer…excuse the pun, but unfortunately the Dubai market demands it. Look at the successful restaurants around town, LPM, Zuma etc and they all allow smoking at the bar. Ivy didn’t to begin with and it killed it…

  3. OB September 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I live practically next door, but have not visited yet for dinner. With so many openings these past couple of months, I am spoiled for choice. I have noticed another one of your readers mentioning the bread, and I have already had a rather disappointing experience with a takeaway sandwich at their boulangerie. The rye bread (which tasted remotely of rye) was disproportionately thick for the filling that I would have normally not deemed to be stingy. Otherwise, this is not the first positive review of this restaurant and my gut feeling tells me that I am going to enjoy their food. That pain perdu looks promising. And the tarte tatin maybe for four, but I am sure that I will be able to demolish it along with everything else on their dessert menu without any trouble whatsoever ;-). Will this compete with the tarte tatin currently being served at La Duree (they rolled out their patisserie in late April – only macarons before then) and with the one at Rostang at The Palm (did not excite last I tried it though it used to be exceptional). We shall see what we shall see ;-)!!!

    • FooDiva September 17, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      I will have to try the boulangerie soon and share my verdict. The tarte tatin benchmark for me is Gordon Ramsay’s at what used to be Verre at Hilton Dubai Creek and also his flagship Hospital road restaurant in London. You had to order it on arrival to ensure it was ready to serve later. I’ve yet to come across another one that beats it, but I’ve not tried Laduree’s patisserie. As you said so much going in this town! Thanks so much as always for your frank and comprehensive feedback.

  4. MrsBubbly September 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Can’t wait to visit this one.
    i already know what to order:
    1. burrata and that onion tart (to share of course)
    2. lamb with the dauphonoise all to myself (this i wont share – not even with foodiva)
    3. tarte tatin (which i may share if it is for 4).
    looking forward to it and salivating already!
    Mrs. Bubbly

    • FooDiva September 18, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Love your style Mrs Bubbly. I want to start with the Nicoise salad (hoping it’s like LPM’s) and the crab/ prawn beignets sound interesting. For main, the lightly spiced duck with another portion of dauphinoise. Bit confused with the tarte tatin as the menu in the restaurant said for four peeps, but online for two. Either way it’s on order!

  5. Tariq Sanad September 17, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Highly recommend the circle of life wine if you are there, the sommelier is great and extremely welcoming and knowledgable. I think the best part of this place is that it lacks the arrogance that you may have when at LPM and feels much more relaxed. Been there 4 times, and I guess I feel its cheaper because the drinks constitute a good portion of my bill.

    • FooDiva September 18, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Is this the wine you’re referring to Tariq? http://www.waterkloofwines.co.za/ Am a red kind of girl though 😉 LPM did go through a patch where it suffered from arrogant service, but I think they have rectified that attitude for the better. Interestingly someone commented on FooDiva’s FB post to say they found the service at La Serre very poor and they were sticking with LPM. Anyhow competition is good all round as it helps raise the bar on service…and food standards. And great to have more choice!

      • Tariq September 19, 2013 at 8:44 am

        I didn’t comment much about the service because it hasn’t been consistent after going there a number of times, except for the sommelier. Yes that is the wine, and we have to try out a Meerlust Rubicon sometime soon as that is my favourite red.

  6. Sally - My Custard Pie September 18, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Smoking in a restaurant would be a real issue for me. It’s very disappointing to hear how the smoking ban is being eroded. And nearly 90 quid for a mid-priced wine…shows how expensive Dubai is especially after a couple of months in the UK. However, glad to see that there is a new restaurant launched with character rather than a theme or a chain. One I’d really like to try (at the tucked away table in the corner).

    • FooDiva September 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      I am with you 100% on smoking in restaurants Sally, but I think we’re in the minority. You’re right in converting our dirhams to sterling. I often do that here to put prices into perspective. It’s so easy to spend 100dhs on a simple one-course lunch with drink plus tea/ coffee in a run-of-the mill cafe here without thinking twice, but that’s 17 quid which is bloody expensive! But wine has always been prohibitively expensive here due to the high taxation and licensing laws. Having said all this, you should definitely add La Serre to your dining out list – home-grown concepts need all the support they can get 🙂

  7. Kelly September 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Everything seems to be so good!!! But I must say that I do not like the ‘smoking’ environment…By the way, what is it supposed to mean La Serre? According to the dictionary, the name is not an attractive one for a restaurant. ….(the greenhouse gases).

    • FooDiva September 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      The smoking is only in the bar area Kelly. The restaurant is so vast you don’t feel it when sitting on the other side. Translates to ‘greenhouse’ http://translate.google.com/?sl=fr#fr/en/la%20serre – for growing veg, fruit, plants etc…so says the PR!

  8. Matt September 26, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    The onion tart is one of the best things I’ve eaten anywhere in the country.

    And this place is much nicer that the vastly overrated Petit Maison. For a start, the service is friendly and efficient.

    • FooDiva September 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      If the burrata is local it’s from Italian Dairy Products and it would be made from local milk not buffalo. Will try it next time. I’ll have to disagree with you on LPM. I still rate it as one of Dubai’s best restaurants if not the best for consistency on all levels – food, service and atmosphere. Just my humble opinion 😉

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