Can Bistrot Bagatelle compete with the French-Med restaurant set in Dubai?

Bistrot Bagatelle Dubai - Dubai restaurantsWe have an 8pm booking on a Friday for new French-Mediterranean import Bistrot Bagatelle at the Fairmont Dubai and arrive a little earlier for an aperitif but surprisingly the restaurant is closed. So we resort to a cocktail at Catch next door. I find it most odd that a restaurant only opens its doors until 8pm every day of the week, or is this a strategy to drive more business into its sibling (same operator) Catch? In case you are confused like I am, this new opening is completely unrelated to Maison Bagatelle café in Downtown – but a transplant with outposts in New York, LA, Miami, Sao Paolo, St Barth and St Tropez. And whilst I am having a moan, why is Bistrot spelt with a t?

Anyhow onto positive thoughts. The welcoming décor is very much a cross between La Serre and La Petite Maison, its two core competitors. Gorgeous Art Deco-inspired dining room with open-plan kitchen aside, Bagatelle has two bar areas which make the 8pm opening time even more bizarre. The restaurant is busy and by the time we leave completely packed and buzzing.

The menu has plenty of choice succinctly presented into cold and hot starters; sharing dishes with a ridiculously high price range from AED420 to 950; seafood, meat and vegetarian main courses; and side dishes. The appetisers seem more inspiring so we settle on three, with one main course.

Bistrot Bagatelle Dubai - Dubai restaurantsA baby kale salad may not be a traditional French-Med dish but tossed here with pumpkin, parmesan, pecan nuts, dried cranberries and a maple vinaigrette, it’s a delicious concoction with all ingredients complementing each other. An octopus carpaccio is unusually served warm yet works well with a flavoursome chicken chorizo vinaigrette (no pork licence here). What captures my attention with the descriptor of foie gras sliders is a ‘potato bun’ but I incorrectly assume they would be sandwiched between potato mash, similar to Gary Rhodes’ version, but instead it’s potato bread where some of the wheat flour is replaced with starch. The consistency is similar to brioche and coupled with delicately, pan-seared foie gras and a veal bacon marmalade is utterly sublime (we ask for the truffle mayo to be served on the side) – a dish I would highly recommend you order.

Our main course is a delightfully flaky and generous serving of pan-seared sea bass. It arrives drizzled with a Provencal artichoke-based ‘barigoule’ sauce in a light leek ‘fondue’, and is topped with crispy julienne strips of pickled vegetables. Excellent, as is a side order of green beans. The only disappointment of the meal are the frites, which are undercooked. Now that’s one simple classic that a French restaurant should get right given it’s something that every diner will pass judgment on. We are too full to even sample desserts, but a baked Alaska and profiteroles are two that I would leave room for next time. Oddly for a French restaurant there’s no cheese selection. The wine list is impressive across all price points, and our Rigal Original Malbec 2014 from Lot in the south-west of France is a good choice at AED315.

Bagatelle has a high ratio of service staff versus diners, so much so that it intimidates with many simply chatting to themselves. I recognise our French waiter from Cantine du Faubourg, a knowledgeable and friendly gent who offers the right dose of attentiveness. As I indicate earlier, the price point is very high – expect a bill for three courses without alcohol to START at AED375 per person making Bagatelle an expensive, special occasion night out – but on a par with its French-Med competitor set. On that note provided Bagatelle sorts out its fries (crucial) and opening hours I do think it will make a mark on Dubai’s glamorous dining scene. Here’s to a 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.

How do you feel about an 8pm restaurant opening time? What time do you prefer to dine out?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3.5
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7 Responses to “Can Bistrot Bagatelle compete with the French-Med restaurant set in Dubai?”

  1. Johann Z December 23, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    It seems ‘crazy’ that drinks cannot be served before the Restaurant opens for diners at 8pm – especially at an upmarket restaurant – they will surely lose revenue as a result and also inconvenience ‘early’ diners. Not a great way to start….. As a French Restaurant they obviously need to get their ‘frites’ right and also have a decent selection of French cheese – if not they could be in for a nasty shock.

    • FooDiva January 3, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      The 8pm opening baffles me…but perhaps they only want to target the Arab expat community who prefer to eat late Johann…

  2. RB December 27, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    found you on the Dubai expats blog list. Now I’ll know where to find good food in Dubai. I agree, why not serve drinks b4 8? Here is a column of how i found Dubai entitled — Dubai- Big Money, No Soul – Oil, High Priced Shopping + a Premium on Women
    Anyways thanks for your blog 🙂

    • FooDiva January 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks RB I’ll add to my weekend reading list 🙂

  3. Lara January 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    I’ve been there about 5 times now super cool place to hang out just for drinks and even better for food.
    Great dishes I haven’t seen before as Dubai’s “French” restaurant scene seems to be copy paste. But from what i understand Bagatelle is a franchise from NYC so I geuss you would call it American-French, so that’s why they don’t have a cheese plate as a dessert, but neither do other French places in Dubai I would love to know where I could find one Other than the usual wine bars.
    Also being French, bistro can be spelled either way with or without the T.
    But great restaurant, great food and if you don’t mind waiting till 8 then definitely try it out!

    • FooDiva January 3, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Blimey five visits sounds excessive (and very expensive) given it’s only just open Lara 😉 It baffles me that French-Med restaurants here don’t serve cheese as an option given it’s integral to French cuisine. So many people don’t have a sweet tooth, and would love to end the meal with cheese. Thanks for the heads up on the spelling; I had no idea.

  4. Dave Reeder September 7, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    The French ‘bistro’ derives from the Russian ‘bistrot’ meaning ‘quickly’ – it’s what Russian soldiers in Paris used to demand of waiters… The origin of fast food?

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