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How does the new Table 9 by Darren Velvick compare?

Crispy hen's egg - Table 9 by Darren VelvickDubai; I can’t work out whether I am a fan of menus with dishes listed by ingredient only and with zero indication of cooking style. On one hand, I welcome the simplicity and the element of surprise, but on the flip side, I have to ask the waiter 101 questions to help decide. Perhaps I don’t like surprises after all. Anyhow, that’s one aspect of Table 9 at Hilton Dubai Creek that has not changed with Chef Darren Velvick taking over from Scott Price and Nick Alvis earlier this year. More in my interview here.

The à la carte menu is compact with five choices for each course – AED275 gets you three courses or AED225 for two. Alternatively, there’s a four-course tasting menu with up to three choices for each at AED325, or a set six-course tasting menu for AED400 – plus optional wine pairing. The restaurant manager explains that we can mix and match, but I am presuming that’s only because of who I am dining with – luckily it’s not FooDiva who’s been recognised for a change. In principle that makes for a brilliant selection, but only serves to confuse our party of five even more. And to top it all off, the menu design sports one font, one typeface, one colour. Not easy on the eye. Sorry I am being pedantic here I know, but I am a stickler for good branding and this one doesn’t fall in that category.

Anyhow, after much deliberation over so many tempting dishes we settle on the four-course tasting menu and make our choices. That’s 14 different dishes, given we dovetail on a few. Now don’t expect an explanation of each one, otherwise this post will be as long as the drive to Deira, which for a Thursday evening actually isn’t too bad – half an hour door to door from New Dubai for an 8.30pm booking. So what do I pick?

My first starter is a scallop dish marinated in lime, Peruvian ceviche-style, but here we have generous, sublime slices with just the right amount of zest – dotted with teeny dollops of avocado purée. Diced apple and slivers of cucumber make for a refreshing garnish.

Scallops cevicheCrispy hen's eggPlaice and risottoLemon meringue

My second starter and the star dish of the night – an opinion shared by my fellow diners – a locally sourced crispy hen’s egg and a bloody huge one at that, but not a scotch egg – simply coated in curried breadcrumbs and fried. Isn’t it a beauty? It oozes with wholesome runny egg which a bed of miso leaves sprinkled with apple and raisins help mop up – delightful.

For main, I nab a dish from the six-course menu – a fillet of plaice, so perfectly seared it gently falls off the fork, perched on a bed of exquisite, al dente parsley risotto. A clam sauce is poured at the table. What a wonderful medley of textures.

As for my companions’ dishes, the three other starters all impress – a fresh crab, a foie gras coated in ginger bread and snails with bone marrow. For mains, the sweetcorn pasta with parmesan and truffle gets the thumbs up, but sadly a pretty salmon dish smeared with tahini and sumac is overcooked – as is a short beef rib with three textures of broccoli.

Desserts are the weaker link though. We select five to share. This dainty, pretty-as-a-picture lemon meringue and some teeny cinnamon beignets work well, but the carrot cake is uninspiring and far from moist, whilst the deconstructed cornflakes with milk and honey disappoint. As for the mini chocolate fondant, take it or leave it I say, but others enjoy it.

Clearly some dishes work better than others. Portions are very generous so you definitely get good bang for your buck here. Chef Darren’s cuisine is less creative and playful than his predecessors, but bar desserts, he balances wholesome goodness with the odd twist, and in most cases, excellent execution. There’s also a decent selection of wines by the glass which rather unusually for Dubai is showcased on the Table 9 website.

The style of the service appears to be relaxed, but in reality it’s over-friendly and a little nervous. One example – I am wrapping my arms round my shoulders as I sit down because of the intense air conditioning and I am asked if I am scared…no just reduce the A/C pretty please. Furthermore, knowledge of all the dishes has not been mastered, which is even more essential for this kind of menu.

Now I am not gonna talk about the décor because no surprise it’s still the same old Gordon Ramsay look. In a town, where snazzy interiors are the norm, the owners of Hilton Dubai Creek seriously need to invest in a redesign to match the change in concept before another chef leaves. Surprisingly there is a gentle buzz and only the odd unoccupied table, so perhaps location is not as big an issue as it has been. Mind you, I would still prefer if Table 9 was at the Conrad or even the Waldorf Astoria. Until then, here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating.

How do you feel the new Table 9 compares? Does the décor and location deter you?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
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21 Responses to “How does the new Table 9 by Darren Velvick compare?”

  1. Dave Reeder May 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Interesting that when I interviewed him he said he wasn’t a fan at all of tasting menus, but now seems to be getting locked into it…

    • FooDiva May 19, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Indeed Dave! Funny Darren didn’t mention the tasting menus when I interviewed him. I think it’s a wise commercial move as it forces people to have a minimum of two courses. Having said that, you’re unlikely to cross the creek just for one! Interestingly the ‘signature’ roast chicken dish is now only available for brunch, so he’s fine tuning the menu which isn’t a bad thing.

  2. nikhil May 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Interesting read and some good insight into what they do… Thank you sam

    • FooDiva May 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Pleasure Nikhil, thanks for stopping by with a comment :)

  3. marta May 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I have to say I really liked it! We went about 6 weeks ago and I was pleasantly surprised.
    I founs the dishes were really balanced.
    I agree with the commwnt on the staff but I understand them being a bit nervous as they know the team before thwm won every award possible! !
    I don’t go more often because of the location…

    • marta May 18, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Argh….typing from phone….sorry for all the w w w etc….

    • FooDiva May 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      So glad you had a great experience Marta. I am not sure if you ordered some of the same dishes, but perhaps it’s an inconsistency issue. How do you think it compared to Scott and Nick? The current manager was part of their team so he should be used to the service, and frankly it’s been five months so there’s no excuse! As always, thanks for commenting :)

  4. Sally - My Custard Pie May 19, 2014 at 8:09 am

    “Are you scared?”!! We should start a book of strange things waiting staff have uttered.

    • Reem Al Shamsi May 19, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Oooh- great idea !
      The counter waiter rant ;)

    • FooDiva May 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      Unbelievable! That quote was very nearly my lead for the post…and then I reconsidered or perhaps I got scared ;)

  5. Mrs Dubai May 19, 2014 at 8:23 am

    A very interesting read, thank you. I can’t imagine why they thought you would have been scared, though I must say the thought of that menu makes me a little nervous.

    • FooDiva May 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      You do make me chuckle Mrs Dubai. Perhaps I need to work on a less scary disguise ;) Thanks so much for commenting.

  6. GA May 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Great review, I have never been to Table9 the trek at night puts me off with the traffic situation but I have to admit I have been tempted with their current Friday brunch option.

    • FooDiva May 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks GA. I am also tempted by the Friday brunch…I just wish I was more into the brunch scene here. The perception is that it’s too far but in reality 30 minutes door to door on a Thursday night is pretty good. And no traffic on a Friday!

  7. GA May 19, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    The brunch scene doesn’t interest me much either to be honest with you, one day :)

  8. Susan May 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Table 9 was my all time favourite restaurant so I was a bit nervous about the change, but we’ve been well impressed so far. We’re off for our second brunch this Friday to celebrate a birthday, the last brunch was absolutely superb. I’m not a fan of brunches either but for Table 9 I can happily make an exception!

    • FooDiva May 23, 2014 at 8:30 am

      So glad to hear Susan. I think overall Darren’s execution is much better than Scott and Nick’s, albeit less playful. Perhaps I will try the brunch then :)

  9. The Man in the White Hat May 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    It looks like I had a much better experience at Table 9 – with the caveat that they knew it was my birthday (no, I’m not telling what birthday), and pulled out stops accordingly. Three random thoughts / questions….

    1) I rather liked the deconstructed cornflakes with milk and honey; I won’t claim it was my favourite dessert of all time (a chocolate mousse with salt and olive oil I had in Lisbon this past week has moved near the top of that list), but I thought it was a good light, playful end to an otherwise fairly heavy meal. Was there anything specific about it that disappointed?

    2) It’s my feeling that the staff know the decor is a problem. We were given the impression that a refit would be forthcoming ‘soon’; obviously that hasn’t happened between January and May, though!

    3) The knotty issue of service… with us, it stayed just the right side of attentive, but it was a fine line at times, and I can see how it could easily move over the line in the wrong circumstances. Was the now-notorious “are you scared?” comment perhaps a joke that fell badly flat?

    4) On the issue of wine… Table 9 does offer a very good wine list; but one of my pet bugbears on Dubai wine lists has become ‘testosterone pricing’. You see it almost everywhere at licenced restaurants here…. the “manly” red wine list is almost always more expensive than the “girly” white wine list. Look at the organic and biodynamic wines on page 2 of the Table 9 wine menu, for example. The seven whites average at AED 466 a bottle; one is under AED 300, and none are over AED 600. The eight reds average AED 532 a bottle, none are under AED 300, and the most expensive is AED 1250. The phenomenon is not unique to Table 9 (or even to the UAE), and I appreciate that to some extent it sometimes reflects market realities at the high end of wine prices; but am I the only person to think it’s a particularly noticeable phenomenon here in Dubai?

    • The Man in the White Hat May 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      That was four comments/questions, wasn’t it? They don’t necessarily teach PhDs to count, you know….

    • FooDiva May 25, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      Well you would have thought given the profile of two of my fellow diners they would have pulled out all stops and I don’t think all dishes impressed…as for service it was nervous. So that makes me question what it’s like for the average diner, sans birthday ;)

      As for the dessert, I would have expected some kind of sweet or pastry using cornflakes, milk and honey as core ingredients rather than separately…that to me would have been a creative spin on a rather boring breakfast dish IMHO.

      Perhaps a refit is still on the cards – let’s live in hope.

      No he was definitely being serious, luckily I have a sense of humour and laughed it off – but it’s immature behaviour.

      As for wine you may be right. I’ll be honest I am a red wine drinker unless it’s champagne so I very rarely look at the white wine prices unless I am ordering for someone else.

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