What’s La Cantine du Faubourg trying to be?

La Cantine du Faubourg DubaiLa Cantine du Faubourg is a new French restaurant import now open in Dubai, at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. The name conjures images of a quaint Parisian bistro with tables spilling out on its fashionable street, so I am thrown when over the phone I am told the dress code is smart – even though Dubai has a habit of dressing up (excuse the pun) imported concepts. Anyhow the diva gets all dolled up, but I forget to tell my dining companion who rocks up chez moi in funky trainers (with snazzy jeans and jacket admittedly). A call to the restaurant and after some deliberation I am reassured that his attire is acceptable. But when we arrive, the terrace which I had booked is super casual, and it’s moi in my pretty dress and glitzy high heels who feels utterly over-dressed.

It’s a delightfully pretty garden terrace sandwiched between the Emirates Towers skyscrapers. The retro dining tables on the terrace are dotted around banquettes but are rather low, and not ideal for eating. Indoors, the ‘salon’ restaurant and bar with bundles of modern art, wood, stone and marble, and accents of bright red has a more sexy, upmarket feel. Organza drapes hide many a nook and cranny including a magical chef’s table. It’s one of those restaurant interiors where there’s always something interesting to gaze at, and am not talking eye candy – Q’bara and Coya are similar in that sense. Everyone is dressed casually, so La Cantine seriously needs to manage expectations with its dress code, or even better simply change it.

La Cantine du Faubourg DubaiThe cocktail and wine list is very well priced (cocktails around AED55-60 and a coupe of Moet AED105), but the selection of the latter is extremely limited. Our martinis arrive separately with a good few minutes gap. Odd that they are not served together.

The menu split into appetisers, main courses, grills and side dishes has an ample selection of traditional French fare, with the odd Mediterranean-Italian and South American dish thrown in for good measure. We order a sea bass ceviche to nibble on whilst perusing the menu. The lime dressing is a little too generous, over shadowing the succulent and flavoursome sea bass.

The three textures of foie gras terrine including a slab sprinkled with dark chocolate, some accompanying fresh figs and a quenelle of jam are wonderful, but the brioche toast is a little soggy. A beef tartare au couteau arrives doused in truffle oil which the menu does not mention. Now I am allergic to truffles and can smell them a mile away, so after my friend has a taste we ask the waitress to replace the dish. Even he does not see why a classic tartare dish needs embellishing with truffle oil. When the replacement arrives, it truly is the standout dish of the night. The beef is finely cut as it should be traditionally (au couteau), not minced. Instead of toast, the accompaniment is homemade potato crisps (a take perhaps on the Belgian way of serving with frites), but whilst excellent in their own right to nibble on, they don’t hold the tartare well.

La Cantine du Faubourg dishesOur meal starts to go downhill with our main courses. Firstly, the waitress insists we order additional sides which are wholly unnecessary given both our mains are served on a bed of potatoes and veggies. A shameful and unethical upselling technique. The poulet fermier arrives as slices of bland chicken breast with the texture and flavour of a microwaved dish. We take a bite and leave the rest. And I was expecting a wholesome roast chicken. La Cantine redeems itself slightly with a tender and juicy grilled octopus on a bed of smashed new potatoes. It’s over dressed with a ratatouille-like topping though – a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice would suffice. A side order of pommes frites is far from classic French shoestring fries, but arrives as double-fried chunky chips. As moreishly good as they are, you are doing the French a disservice by calling them frites. A portion of steamed asparagus is a tad over-cooked.

Our dessert which we decide to eat in the lounge with its eclectic 80s sound track (and one lady wearing cut-off denim hotpants I should add), is generous enough to share and goes some way towards a sweet ending with smooth, well-balanced layers of praline, chocolate and cream, topped with hazelnuts. The ending would have been much sweeter though if La Cantine had not attempted to charge us for two portions of steak tartare. At our insistence, the bill is adjusted – but at AED458 per person without alcohol, it’s as sky high as the twin towers – and most definitely not aligned with a casual dining experience.

The staff (with incidentally many waiters sporting beards to the point we wonder whether it’s a dress code) have a sense of bravado which is so welcoming in Dubai’s overwhelmingly submissive service culture – but that’s not enough to cover up the many irregularities throughout the course of our meal. The only boxes our dinner wholeheartedly ticks are location, décor and atmosphere. Overall both service and food are average, with starters outperforming mains, and for that price, does not offer value for money. La Cantine appears to want to break into Dubai’s high-end La Petite Maison and La Serre French-Med segment, but there’s a serious mismatch with the casual ambience, food and service delivery which it needs to resolve first to be able to compete. After dining out at a new restaurant, I always ask myself if I would like to return, and in this case I wouldn’t rush back. Competition is so stiff in Dubai, with plenty of other better restaurants to spend my hard-earned dirhams…and to get all dolled up for. For now, here’s to a 2.5 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.

Have you tried La Cantine du Faubourg? Where do you head to for French food with vino?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 2.5
  • Jumeirah Emirates Towers (entrance through the hotel, next to Mosaico)
  • +971 4 3527105
  • French
  • Yes
  • AED 400 - 500 per person
  • Open daily noon - 2am and weekends until 3am
  • http://lacantine.ae/
  • Posted under
    Dubai, French, Hotels, Licensed, Location, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Sheikh Zayed

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21 Responses to “What’s La Cantine du Faubourg trying to be?”

  1. JayEim April 27, 2015 at 11:42 am

    “cut-off denim hotpants”………….”black beards”…………”double billing”…………what’s there not to like……………..Taxiiiiiiiiiiiiii

    • FooDiva April 28, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      And there’s more that my word count limit wouldn’t allow Jay 😉

  2. The little ferret April 27, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    This restaurant caught my attention a couple of weeks ago when a locally based chef gave it the thumbs up on his instagram account. While your review is by no means a wholly negative one, it doesn’t exactly give the restaurant a glitzy 5-star rating either! The trouble with raving about venues / dishes on social media is that unless you are going to back up your approvals with substantial evidence of why the place / dish is so good, you will end up losing your credibility when these venues / dishes don’t live up to our expectations. I have come across one other chef based in Dubai who continuously provides confusing feedback on blogs – on one blog he insinuates that the local fine dining scene isn’t up to scratch and that, perhaps, the UAE’s diners are not ready for intellectual haute cuisine, and then on another blog, he rates a casual Asian diner in Karama very highly. Perhaps he is able to back up his ratings / views with a really good argument, but is leaving quick blurbs on blogs and social media the best way to do this???

    • FooDiva April 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Interestingly from what I’ve seen on Instagram feeds, any photos of La Cantine all focus on the interior/ ambience with hardly any references to food.

      In response to your question, if these blogs/ SM channels that these chefs are commenting on are influential and have a strong, engaged following, then yes those comments can have impact…but only if they are constructive and backed up with a good rationale as you said.

  3. The Man in the White Hat April 29, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Interesting point on the managing expectations when it comes to the difference between where the restaurant is positioning itself and what customers actually turn up wearing – something we can perhaps return to when (foreshadowing!) you publish my Rib Room review next week…

    It’s clearly not a problem unique to La Cantine, though it’s interesting to see that both sexes were apparently dressing down here (yourself excluded, of course!) – I’ve seen other cases where the women do dress up appropriately, and it’s primarily the men who are guilty of unleashing their inner scruff.

    I wonder how widespread this is?

    • FooDiva April 29, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      This is the first time I have dined somewhere in Dubai where my attire did not match the ambience…but clearly I was the only one to get it wrong. Perhaps the reservations assistant gave me the wrong dress code! As for The Rib Room, we’ll address that one next week Mr White Hat 😉

  4. A honest guest April 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    I was listening to the radio one day and a guy was talking about the La Cantine du Faubourg in a raving way. I was intrigued and checked out their website and it felt rather tempted to visit a new exiting restaurant in Dubai.
    I was looking forward to the dinner and I felt comfortable in the restaurant, the interior was nice well balanced and the lighting did not disappoint and instilled a nice ambiance and feeling. The service was very slow, but when I was able to get the attention of the waiter, he was friendly and knowledgeable. There was a limited amount of wine by the glass and overpriced, but that’s Dubai.
    In general the quality of food and taste was good.
    We had foie gras to start a very small portion but we could not fault the dish; it was very tasty and served with a good quality Brioche. For the main, I opted for grilled Salmon that was well cocked but bland. It was a tiny little piece with a few asparagus and béarnaise sauce on the side. My guest had seared scallops with artichoke puree, a huge portion consisting of 3 scallops!! I was sarcastic, sorry, once more a tiny little dish. To be frank, after the dinner we both felt still hungry, even indulging our self with the bread that was offered to us before the starter arrived.
    My verdict La Cantine du Faubourg does not offer value for money, it is overpriced and you leave hungry. I am sure it will attract a certain clientele for a while. I will not return. I experienced other restaurants in Dubai were ambiance, interior, good quality of food and sleek service fall into place and I am more than happy to spend my money with them, but sadly the are not too many around in Dubai.

    • FooDiva April 29, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks for the detailed feedback. Our foie gras was a decent portion I thought. I can’t really comment on the others as we ordered differently. Overall though it looks like we concur. I think people will flock there once given there’s so much hype surrounding this opening – but they will only return if these issues are addressed. Out of interest what are your favourite restaurants in Dubai that you return to time and time again?

  5. Nelia Saraiva April 30, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    I dont agree at all with this review. La Cantine is a totally different concept.
    i have been in this restaurant when it first opened. Suprisingly the staff in the floor already knew everything about the menu. They sugested dishes with quality and a story in the background. The touch of French and mediterranean cuisine with an unique standard of service. The quality and speed of a Fine Dining with a simplicity of a casual restaurant makes you feel comfortable, not a stranger at all. The Art starts with a special decor ( mostly white with a romantic touch of red to warm it up , and a complete different open view in the terrace ). The attention of the Chef that cares about your experience and the team makes you feel special. We had the beef tartar and scallops to start with and continued with a perfect octupus and angus 105, finishing with an endless desert menu that makes you wanna try all, but we decided to have the chocolate gateau and the creme brulee. One of the best meals i had.
    Great music, ambience, light, decor, beverages, but specially the food and service.
    Recomend to everyone if you really want to impress someone.

    • FooDiva May 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      I am so glad you had a much better experience than ours Nelia. Consistency in food and service is crucial for a restaurant to succeed long term, so I do hope my feedback is taken constructively and the operation addressed so that La Cantine will offer an excellent experience for ALL diners.

  6. Jane Matthews May 2, 2015 at 4:01 am

    “…The staff (with incidentally many waiters sporting beards to the point we wonder whether it’s a dress code) have a sense of bravado which is so welcoming in Dubai’s overwhelmingly submissive service culture…”

    Form over substance, I say…The trend is….lest us forget where we are, and apart from the meek Westerners who dare make it to this corner of the World, the 1st graders stay put where their reputation matches the cities they embellish. (With the exceptional few of course) and that we have become too adept at following without any reason.

    Time for home grown experiences perhaps?

    • FooDiva May 2, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Dubai’s restaurant scene is maturing and the last couple of years has seen so many home-grown concepts blossom here overshadowing imports and celeb chef transplants. Long may it continue Jane.

  7. Andrew Butter June 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    I was invited so I dressed in a suit without a tie, felt fine, my ever-loving tarted up, she felt fine too. It’s one of the best dining experiences I had in Dubai in ten years, the staff made you so welcome – like feel important, OK so what, it’s nice to be made feel important and interesting, they even listened attentively to the ever-loving prattle on in French, as you expect from a high-class joint. The food was sure…small portions, but really interesting and excellently presented, lovely atmosphere, and they had a singer wander around who was great. For me – I’m so used to getting the same deal in restaurants in Dubai, this is original, and fun. I had a great time, so did the ever-loving, I recommend it highly, really classy joint in a town where so many places are just copy-paste.

  8. Blewyn June 28, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Having moved here after a few years down under I’m astounded at the prices ! The price quoted in the article for one person is what I would expect to pay for two at an equivalent restaurant with great service and great food. $500 per couple for a meal not including drinks and $4000/month for a villa – what next ? Seems Dubai is trying to drive people out.

    • FooDiva July 12, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Blewyn. I have just returned from Italy where I dined in many a Michelin starred restaurant with prices per head much less than what we have here. Sadly the food import costs drive prices up here, as does the alcohol of course. When you take into account a waiter’s average salary including housing allowance, visa costs etc, labour is not cheap here either.

  9. Alex July 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I had a similar overall experience with my partner. I really didn’t like it and when the waiter came to ask us if we liked our food, I could only say it was ..ok and to be honest I felt I was generous! It was very disappointing. The only positive thing was that huge ice cream in which we drown our sorrow at the end!!

    • FooDiva August 1, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Doesn’t look like it has improved either Alex. What a shame.

      • Elena March 10, 2016 at 12:45 pm

        We had a very unfortunate experience at La Cantine a couple of weeks ago.

        To start with it was a young lady on the front door who really makes you feel that the restaurant do you a favour letting you in! Surely needs to learn about customer service.

        The food was pretty average, the main course was served nearly cold. One extra glass of wine has been added to the bill. They can’t help themselves! it happened three times with me in this restaurant!

        But the main thing is that three persons out of four got a food poisoning after this dinner. We had fresh oysters as a starter and obviously they have not been that fresh. I’ve called to the restaurant at the same evening and the floor manager has assured me that all food was fresh and she can send me all invoices. She has also suggested it was a coincidence. No refund or some compensation was offered. The only thing she was worried about if we did go to the hospital. Obviously she was curios we can give the case to go further if we have a medical report.

        It was a last time we dined there…

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