The Spanish invasion
The Spanish restaurant scene in Dubai has been hugely under-represented for a while now with the rather jaded Seville’s but more authentic Al Hambra. Am talking licensed establishments by the way serving booze. Well luckily that’s now changing with El Sur at the Westin and Salero at Kempinski Mall of the Emirates…or at least I hope so. Here’s FooDiva’s take on El Sur.
Replacing the bar haven renowned for its post-Bubbalicious shenanigans, El Sur which translates to ‘south’ has a rather austere art gallery feel, the restaurant in particular, along with a bizarre wire sculpture of a bull-headed matador greeting us on arrival. Concrete walls, a living wall, high communal oak log dining tables and a terrace for al fresco munchies make up the rest. Even though we have a table booking for the restaurant, it’s not as buzzy as the bar area despite plenty of diners, so we perch ourselves at the high tables…well on the posh stools that is. Strictly speaking only bites are served here but the waitress obliges with the main menu which marries traditional Spanish tapas and some rather cutting-edge fare.
Friend and moi opt to share four appetisers to get us going (yes we should have restrained ourselves given the large portions). The four croquette balls ooze creamy goodness and specks of Iberian ham, with a smearing of a paprika-infused dip. Slithers of crusty bread brushed with tomato and grazed garlic, along with generous slices of delectable Iberico Guijuelo ham make for our second traditional platter. It’s then onto the clever stuff – seabass ceviche on a tartare of guacamole with lashings of citrus, perhaps a little too tart for my liking. And the star starter of the night goes to the sticky and crispy caramelised spider web of a tart topped with finely grated Mahon (a white medium hard cow’s cheese from Menorca) and orange zest. So sublime, I ram one in swiftly before it falls apart like confetti.
I order a pricey Grade 6 Wagyu rib-eye main for the accompanying Padrón green peppers alone. If you’ve never tried this perky plump gem I urge you to visit El Sur – here they are chargrilled, mild and sweet – just pick them up with your fingers and munch away. I’d love to see a platter of these alone. The steak is served sliced with a sprinkling of rock salt and a small portion of coarsely potato mash. My friend assures me the mushroom-filled ravioli with manchego cheese foam impresses.
For dessert I can only stomach a bite of torrija, Spain’s version of pain perdu – a caramelised brioche served here with lemon ice cream. Not quite a match to La Serre’s…needs a little more crust…and a big appetite .
The beauty of El Sur is the affordable wine list by the glass which will give the likes of the Agency and even neighbouring Oeno a run for its money especially as the impressive food sets it apart. On the flip side, at AED285 per head (if you stick to three courses), the fare is expensive given the casual ambience, but you’re also paying for mostly Spanish staff whose genuine, sweet-natured service comes at a price.
El Sur makes for an innovative, home-grown addition to Dubai’s dining scene and whilst the team may shy away from tapas references, the highlight are those communal bar tables for a few bites and a glass or two of vino. The terrace is also an option but sadly the high balcony blocks any view. Here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating.
Any peeps out there tried and tasted El Sur or even Salero? How do they compare?
The two for one main course offer via the new Entertainer app has just expired, but perhaps given one of the El Sur partners is the co-owner of Entertainer we’ll see it featured in the 2014 edition. Otherwise Lime & Tonic has a tapas and Sangria deal on Monday evenings for AED 145 – if you’ve not yet registered click here for an AED 50 credit exclusive to FooDiva readers. Note the new information box below.