Is La Serre the new La Petite Maison?
A 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.
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.
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 is located at Vida Downtown Hotel (ex-Qamardeen), Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai. T; +971 4 4286969. E; firstname.lastname@example.org 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