The Scene by Simon Rimmer – just British pub grub or more?
The Scene is British celebrity chef Simon Rimmer’s first restaurant outside the UK, and along with Asia Asia, the two latest additions to open at Dubai Marina’s Pier 7. Perched on the building’s fourth floor, the licensed restaurant claims to offer British pub classics and comfort food in a quirky, cheerful setting.
Red brick walls along with rustic yet retro wooden tables and chairs give The Scene a homely, warm feel. The space is huge, as are all the restaurants in Pier 7, but the dim lights and the furniture’s earthy colours make it a welcoming place. As Jimi Hendrix played in the background, we made our way to our table by the terrace with mesmerising Marina views.
The dinner menu boasts a wide variety of nibbles, starters, mains, side dishes, and a generous selection of kids’ meals. We opt for the Caesar salad and the glazed beef rib for starters. Dubbed ‘the best Caesar on the Marina’, the salad arrived within three minutes after placing our order. Cos lettuce, shredded chicken, and a couple of toasted but stale bread crisps are all shrouded in too much parmesan and tossed in a homemade Caesar dressing. Tasty yes, but certainly not the best Caesar I’ve eaten.
While the salad arrived swiftly, the glazed beef rib arrived 20 minutes after our first appetiser. We were not warned that this particular dish needed time to cook nor was this mentioned on the menu. The Scene does not follow the trendy sharing concept that many restaurants in Dubai seem to be adopting lately so we expected our dishes to arrive simultaneously. Our waiter did not apologise for the long wait and failed to explain why it took so much time for our second appetiser to be served. Our disappointment soon dissipated though after biting into the succulent beef. The meat on a rib bone, was meltingly tender, juicy and flavourful. A delicious tomato-based ragout with white broad beans accompanied the beef and made it even softer to bite into. The appetisers portions were generous yet not filling enough, leaving us craving more.
Our mains arrived soon after – the quintessential battered fish and proper chips and a white beans cassoulet with beef sausage. White beans and onions cooked in a fragrant tomato jus were served with a couple of spiced beef sausages. This dish defined comfort food – warm and wholesome, and velvety without being mushy. As a British classic, I imagined fish and chips to be the most perfected item on The Scene’s menu, but it disappointed. Heavy, oily and lacking in flavour and proportion. The fish, a well-cooked cod fillet covered with Simon Rimmer’s so-called secret batter recipe, was completely under-seasoned. The batter, while crispy, was oily when eaten on its own. The two sides of tartare sauce and mushy green peas were delicious but not enough for the generous serving of cod. The one redeeming quality – the chips – crispy, well seasoned, and thickly cut. But again with only six semi-chunky chips, there’s an issue with proportion.
Both our desserts, a chocolate and peanut butter fondant and homemade ice cream trio were velvety, luscious and down right delicious. The fondant was warm and gooey, and the dark chocolate and peanut butter sauce, while dense, was not heavy or intensely sweet. The salted caramel, and white chocolate and espresso scoops combined creaminess with the crunchiness of the caramel, and the white chocolate chips that popped once the ice cream melted. The cinnamon in the toffee scoop was too overpowering and the texture oddly very dry, like biting into a frozen, stale cake.
Service was friendly yet somewhat inconsistent. In addition to the long wait at the beginning of our meal and despite the fact that the restaurant was not busy on a Wednesday night, our waiter, while knowledgeable about ingredients and cooking techniques, was absent towards the end attending other customers on the terrace.
For a licensed yet casual restaurant, AED200 per person for a three-course meal without alcohol is fair and good value for money. But does the restaurant stay true to its British gastro pub concept? On one hand, the dishes that work are wholesome, straightforward and uncomplicated, the atmosphere is warm and friendly, the terrace is inviting and cheerful with a wonderful view, and the price point is reasonable. Yet the hints of French and broader Mediterranean influences that creep into the menu and the elegant and careful presentation of the dishes make The Scene an upscale and somewhat multi-cultural pub experience that elevates traditional British food to a more sophisticated level – something that Rhodes W1 also appears to have captured.
For the most part, the food is tasty, wholesome and fresh, and the ambiance matches the restaurant’s theme. However, due to the glitches in service and mediocre execution of one of our mains, I am giving The Scene an average 3 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.
Tell me, what is your favourite restaurant in Dubai for British classics?
Until next time.