Is Forty Four Bistro worth a meal?

Forty Four Bistro - Dubai restaurantsA French acquaintance mentions that a Belgian-owned French bistro has opened in the Warwick hotel on the Sheikh Zayed. And it’s not one I have heard of. I do love reviewing restaurants that open quietly without much PR fanfare. She raves about the authenticity of the food, but forewarns me of the lacklustre décor. And she is right – on both counts. Forty Four Bistro on the 44th floor of the Warwick hotel has stunning skyline views of DIFC and beyond, but the thoughtless interior resembles a hotchpotch of tables scattered in a meeting room.

It’s not particularly busy on a Thursday evening so we pick a table by the window, in the non-smoking area. I am not asked on booking whether I would prefer smoking (near the bar), or non, so until the team rectifies this issue, be sure to stipulate.

The menu is largely traditional French, and large in choice, bearing many similarities to Bistro Des Arts, but swopping the latter’s Brittany focus with a smattering of Belgian and broader European dishes, like the boulettes Liegoise that I order for a starter. Strictly speaking these are meatballs the size of tennis balls that originate from the Belgian city of Liège, but here they arrive as four mini balls – the traditional fruity meat gravy, substituted with a chunky tomato sauce. There isn’t enough to mop it up though, making for a rather dry texture. Our second starter is a stronger offering – a Maldivian tuna carpaccio with a dash of olive oil and lemon juice – just a touch of searing brings out the delicate ‘meaty’ flavour of the fish.

Forty Four Bistro - Dubai restaurantsA papillote of sea bream is exquisite – baked to flaky perfection, on a bed of juicy, al dente julienne strips of vegetables. A side dish of spinach has a touch too much cream, whilst the al dente steamed broccoli and the stewed ratatouille are on point. But the star dish of the night is the steak tartare – with the beef hand-cut and the seasoning well balanced – one to rival Bistro des Arts’ concoction. The accompanying chunky chips here are double fried, in a meat fat of some kind, with a crispy coating and are ultra mushy inside. Arguably the Belgians know their fries better than the French 😉

Two out of five desserts are, surprisingly, not available. One waiter tells us that they will be removed from the menu, whilst another explains that it’s because the pastry chef is off duty. And one of them, naturally, is the dessert I crave – a tarte tatin – so sadly they miss out on us trying their desserts.

Forty Four’s wine list is exceptional with a damn good selection of well-priced wines (champagnes included), which rather unusually but welcoming, is divided into grape varietals, rather than by country. Carafe options are also available.

Apart from the dessert glitch and one waiter who can’t answer my menu questions and has to refer to his colleague, service is otherwise authoritative. It’s also good to see the owner working the room, checking in on every table, including a delightful conversation with a child at the neighbouring table over what type of dish he would like prepared. I am also pretty sure it’s the owner that took my telephone booking.

But the drab décor makes for no atmosphere, and this really is what lets Forty Four down. I am not sure if the venue has been refurbished from the previous grill restaurant, but if it has, it does not show. A little investment in sprucing the space up, would go a long way in attracting more diners – especially given the restaurant wraps round the whole floor with 360 degree skyline views. For now, whilst the food is, overall, well executed; the service relatively good; and the price point at AED 235 per person for three courses (excluding alcohol) reasonable, these factors are not enough to encourage me to return in a hurry – unless I happen to be in the vicinity. Looks like my acquaintance is right. Until the interior changes for the better bringing some much-needed ambience, here’s to an average three out of five FooDiva knife rating.

For a licensed restaurant, how important is the décor and atmosphere for you?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
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5 Responses to “Is Forty Four Bistro worth a meal?”

  1. Elena Ledonius February 22, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Ambience is what an establishment makes you feel about yourself and if they fail in that, then there must be at least a dish on the menu that you can not not have again …otherwise returning customers are not to be expected….I do love and appreciate a variety guided wine list it’s just so much easier to choose. ..especially in a bistro where you just need a perfect accompanying wine by the glass for each of your dish. Additionally, I would love to see more options for wines by the glass which I haven’t so far anywhere in dubai.

    • FooDiva February 23, 2016 at 11:37 am

      Very true Elena. But even if one dish wows, it’s not enough to make me return if they don’t plate up atmosphere as well. We spend so much money on a licensed dining experience, I want to have a fun night out – otherwise I may as well eat at home. They do have a number of options by the glass, but needless to say not from the whole wine list! Have you tried Ynot at the InterCon Marina – with over 30 options by the glass?

  2. Dave Reeder February 22, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Very curious about this. Despite the shared language in at least part of Belgium, the two cuisines are quite distinct. If the owners are from Belgium, why not go that route and stand out a bit on the Dubai food skyline? Where are the pan-fried eels, the flamiche, the carbonardes, the waterloo, the stomp and so on?

    • FooDiva February 23, 2016 at 11:40 am

      True Dave, but I expect it’s down to the market. Given the lack of awareness of these dishes internationally, I am not sure there are enough diners here who would flock to a truly authentic Belgian restaurant. A French restaurant is a safer bet, albeit a more competitive one. Even Cafe Belge’s restaurant is not wholly reflective of Belgium’s cuisine.

  3. JayEim February 25, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    They have now a Warwick hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road????? What do ya know!

    Nobody tells me anything……anyway I am too busy trying to suss out the reason for the new Snapchat trend of speeding up video clips and the silly animated overlays…….and trying to find the way to d3 without getting a speeding fine……in between deciding whether I should go to the beach instead to try my new flipflops 😉

    No Tarte Tatin, Ohhh the irony. On a very interesting note. The new Ice Cream flavor is Linzer Torte…..which basically is hazelnut flavour with a raspberry frozen coulis…….looking forward for a Tarte Tatin Ice Cream with Fleur de Sel (for no particular reason except that it sounds posh to say Fleur de Sel).

    P.S. I prefer my Linzer Torte with Almonds and Apricot jam…….Hazelnuts and Raspberry is soooo last century. I just
    thought you should know!

    P.P.S. Tarte Tatin Ice Cream recipe
    Take an apple or as many as you can afford and caramelize with burned sugar and butter. When cooked and still soft, mix a large spoon of Apricot jam or the whole flippin jar if too many apples. Then proceed to mix with milk or cream or anything white and creamy and toss in the IceCream maker.

    P.P.P.S. If you do not have an Ice Cream maker you can bake the darn stuff in the oven……..and freeze later……Sorted!

    This recipe comes to you courtesy of: The Feautox and Stilleto Heavy Food Industries

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