La Résidence: French haute cuisine or posh brasserie?

La Residence - Raffles Dubai - Dubai restaurantsIn a previously vacant space at Raffles Dubai, a new French restaurant has emerged on the ground floor, adding another fine dining venue to this old-school side of town. La Résidence Restaurant & Lounge is a home-grown concept developed by the team behind China Grill and Reform, with consultant chef Frederic Vardon whose credentials include a Michelin restaurant in Paris.

The entrance is slightly to the side of the hotel with direct street access, often considered a strategic advantage for third-party concepts who are still tied to hotels in Dubai more for need than desire. Upon entering, two hostesses greet us and as we are early, we happily agree to be seated in the lounge to absorb the ambiance prior to dining in the restaurant. The lounge is large with a well-stocked bar along one side; banquette seating and multiple tables in the centre; and one high long table with bar stools near the restaurant. The latter is where we choose to sip our cocktails as there are no bar stools at the actual bar. A little odd considering their bar is a highlight of their Instagram account. At the time of dining, the restaurant is already a month into opening, but perhaps they have not yet arrived. Dark wood, banquettes, chandeliers and a grand piano in the corner give it that traditional English feel, which is unusual for a French brasserie, but somehow it still works. A DJ box rests casually next to the piano suggesting that the tempo picks up on other nights.

Moving to the restaurant, and the lounge fades into a distant memory as this side of the room oozes a warm personality. Walls are brimming with contemporary art, giving the room an eclectic, interesting vibe, and an open kitchen is tucked in the corner. I start drooling over funkily-designed cover plates placed as table settings, each depicting a different vegetable. It’s a simplistic and lovely touch.

The service overall is not a highlight of our night. Our waitress is helpful and attentive, but lacks product knowledge, and does not build enough rapport with us to make her memorable. She is not at ease with the English language which given it is Dubai’s business language should be an important criteria for hiring. At one point we explain that we’re not a fan of mushrooms, to which she then recommends two dishes containing this exact ingredient. Why is it restaurants don’t consider mushrooms an item worthy of highlighting on a menu as an important ingredient? I know many people who don’t like the slimy critters but they seem to appear everywhere. Anyway I digress…

La Residence - Dubai restaurantsThe menu offers a selection of seasonal French favourites you’d expect from this type of restaurant. The Landes duck foie gras may not be a politically correct dish, but this delightful pâté is served as small perfect rounds accompanied by two slices of toasted, country-style bread. Smooth as silk, the pâté’s elegant buttery flavour is robust enough to match the accompanying fig jam, making it a tasty, traditional combo. More bread though next time please. My companion is wowed by the Parisienne-style king crab, beautifully presented two ways. Plump, juicy chunks of crabmeat look like pieces of the leg extracted from the shell to form parcels of sweet flesh, with one rolled in a moorish, green (avocado perhaps?) sauce, complemented with tiny diced vegetables and herbs.

One of my favourite dishes to order anywhere is steak tartare. I have very fond memories of my dad and I judging French restaurants in Hong Kong (where I grew up), by the quality of their tartare. L’Atelier de Joel Robouchon at the Landmark Oriental in HK has thus far won the prize for best in the world as per me, and so this remains my benchmark for tonight’s beef tartare ‘tailleau couteau’. The generous portion of hand-cut beef arrives ready to eat in a large round topped neatly with finely chopped accompaniments (parsley, cooked egg, capers). Once I gleefully blend all the ingredients together, the mix becomes too dry. I guess the proportion of parsley is too high relative to the beef’s natural juices. It is still enjoyable, but lacks the juicy zing I normally relish in my tartare. The accompanying frites are long, chunky fingers of piping hot, crispy and delicious potato. My companion chooses the fillet of veal with a ‘Comté’ macaroni cheese and vegetable stew, stylishly presented but overcrowded with root vegetables. The waitress does not ask how we would like the veal cooked, and it is therefore served medium, which we both feel is overdone for such a delicate flavour. However, the superb mac and cheese makes up for it, with a piquant Comté blaring loudly.

Rounding off dinner we order the Grand Marnier soufflé. This classic ticks all the right boxes; feather light, slightly crisp on top, gooey, hot and delicious down under. May I recommend that the chef adds a cheese soufflé to the appetisers as it’s sure to be a best-seller. For a non-traditional second choice, we select French brioche toast with salted caramel. Gosh it is divine – hot, spongy, juicy brioche topped with a drizzle of caramel and vanilla ice cream. Yes traditionally this is a breakfast dish, but it is outstanding as a dessert.

At AED 365 per person for three courses, without alcohol, the price of La Résidence makes it less brasserie and more haute cuisine. Bar the odd cooking method, our meal is very pleasant. However the service needs addressing, and with only a handful of tables occupied in such a large space, the restaurant lacks atmosphere despite the intriguing interior. I hope all this will improve over time. So for now, it’s an average three out of five FooDiva knives for La Résidence.

Do you have a favourite food that you always judge a restaurant by, perhaps one linked to fond childhood memories? I’d love to hear your food stories.


So who’s FooDiva’s new anon guest reviewer? DhabiDiva is an Abu Dhabi-based expat brat with a passion for food, service and engaging chefs and restaurateurs. A hotelier by trade, she has been dining in uber five-star luxury since she was knee high to a grasshopper, and has worked and eaten her way across five continents before settling in Dubai and more recently Abu Dhabi. Fine dining may be in her blood, but she still enjoys a good deal which she shares daily on her Instagram account DhabiDiva.

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
  • Raffles hotel, Wafi (separate entrance on the ground level)
  • +971 4 3962211
  • French
  • Yes
  • AED 350 - 400 per person
  • Open daily 7pm - 2am
Reserve with RoundMenu
  • Posted under
    Dubai, French, Hotels, Licensed, Location, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Wafi
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7 Responses to “La Résidence: French haute cuisine or posh brasserie?”

  1. Dave Reeder June 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Interesting menu. When I interviewed Chef Vardon pre-opening – an interview he insisted in conducting in French – he spoke equally highly of the Michelin restaurants he’s worked in as well as the simple but quality driven meals of his childhood in Northern France. What he appears to have delivered is something halfway between the two! How refreshing it would have been to have a Normandy themed restaurant – great shellfish, butter and cider in abundance, amazing cheeses… However, given the potential market of ladies who like to shop in Wafi and the lack of decent outlets nearby – though a Spanish PR did tell me recently that Seville’s has the best Spanish food in town! – I suspect La Résidence will do well.

    • DhabiDiva June 18, 2015 at 12:51 am

      I agree Dave, if he’d picked a specific region of France it would have given a clearer identity to the direction of the menu. As it is, La Residence offers a broad crowd pleasing menu, which will be acceptable to all whether they be Wafi Mall Crawlers or Raffles VIP guests. It does also add another reason to go to that end of town, which I personally love being an ‘old school’ Dubai ex-resident.

  2. Is Dubai's French dining scene getting too haute to handle? June 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    The title of your article poses an interesting question that could just as easily be a relevant one for at least 2 (if not even 3) other French restaurants in Dubai (I am not including the newly opened JGV restaurants at the Four Seasons as I have not dined at either yet – both fully booked on the first weekend!!!). Is it just me or is Gagnaire’s Reflets the only French restaurant in Dubai deserving of the “haute cuisine” classification? Are all Michelin “stars” not created equal? Makes it very confusing for a simpleton like myself to make the right choices ;-).

    • DhabiDiva June 18, 2015 at 1:00 am

      I had the pleasure of dining with FooDiva last night at JGV’s Kitchen, and in a way the title applies to them as well!!! That really was a posh brasserie, even more so than La Residence. I believe the fine dining side of the restaurant will touch on Reflet’s tail, but whether or not it gains the same Haute reputation remains to be seen. La Residence however, sits firmly in the Posh brasserie category, with a menu mix of traditional French comfort food with a splattering of nouvelle cuisine for good measure. Michelin stars these days can be granted to cheap and cheerful street corner restaurants, so if & when they make it to Dubai it will be interesting to see who gets what. Until then, follow @FooDiva’s knife ratings and you you’ll be fine ????

      • or too cold to hold? June 18, 2015 at 10:27 pm

        Well then, if Foodiva’s knives are as sharp as some people’s wit, then choosing the right table should be plain sailing from hereon after, one can only hope…

  3. JayEim June 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Uhmmm. coughing discreetly, I got stuck in the middle of the review wiht an Académie Goncourt slap in the face!

    beef tartare ‘tailleau couteau’……I could not make out what the ‘tailleau’ part of ‘tailleau couteau’ could possibly mean?

    A new word in French which I have missed? Tailleau, What is Tailleau? A verb. A name, An adjective. Que neni chers amis.

    OK. Let’s Google it…….Zilch – Nada – Black Hole – AlKhail road.

    OK. Maybe La Diva misstyped the word, Let’s go to to La Residence website and check it out!

    Ooops, Same spelling, La Diva copied correctly…..well she missed un accent, but let’s not be anal about it.

    And then I had an Epiphany……Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleeeeeeeeeeeluia!

    It is not ‘tailleau couteau ‘. It is ‘taillé au couteau’.

    Oh, I can now sleep better as only a space is missing between ‘taillé’ and the ‘au’.

    So much for wannabie French Haute Cuisine who cannot even spell properly…..dunno about cooking it?

    Morality of the story, I am going now to a bookshop to get a simple French Dictionary toofferto consultant chef Frederic Vardon….what is a consultant chef anyway??????

    Stay tuned for another rant as to what is French Haute Cuisine…….same as Haute Couture but for the masses….

    Oh no, the nightmare is not over yet. :La Residence are offering a ‘Sacristan’ for the Ramadan menu.
    ‘A sacristan is an officer charged with care of the sacristy, the church, and their contents. In ancient times, many duties of the sacristan were performed by the doorkeepers (ostiarii), and later by the treasurers and mansionarii.’

    Why would a Sacristan be offered on a Ramadan menu.

    It Is SACRISTAIN, for crying out loud and not SACRISTAN. It is a Viennoiserie.

    On second thoughts, forget the dictionay…..send them to the gallows!

    I am having a pizza!

    • DhabiDiva June 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Hahahaha…. You caught me! Honestly I went through the same conundrum about the ‘tailleau’ as you, but alas was unable to decifer the mystery and therefore copied the menu…. Thank you for solving the mystery, and also for forgiving me for missing un accent!

      I guess a good next move for La Residence to make would be to hire a native French speaker who can read and spell properly!

      Enjoy the Pizza 😉

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