Will luck strike for La Môme?
Remember Forty Four Bistro in the Warwick hotel? Well, the Belgian owner closed it down and has opened a French restaurant, La Môme, just across the Sheikh Zayed, on the 49th floor of the Nassima Royal hotel, replacing Tre and previously Icho. Will it be third time lucky for this location, and second time lucky for the owner? Let’s see.
Named after the French singer, Edith Piaf, La Môme successfully captures the essence of 1950’s France with a Parisian street map adorning the ceiling and vintage light bulbs casting a soft glow across the cosy dining room and bar. Window tables overlook the Sheikh Zayed skyline, perfect for romantic dates, whilst circular leather banquettes in the centre of the room make for convivial dining. There’s something for everyone.
House wines bottled for La Môme add a differentiating factor to the wine list – pick a choice of five grapes (in our case Shiraz) and you have a very palatable bottle for an affordable AED175. Bravo!
The menu promises authentic French dishes and, interestingly for a licensed restaurant, highlights those that are lighter on the tummy. We start off with one such dish – a starter of red mullet fillets ‘Nicoise’ style. A couple of fillets arrive pan-fried which gives the skin a delicate crispy golden texture. The Nicoise influence comes through in a mound of well-seasoned and finely diced veggies – but the core ingredient, the potato, is undercooked.
Our second starter is a dozen snails, and like those I tasted in Burgundy recently, are juicy and tender. We eat them like popcorn. A generous dousing of moreishly decadent garlic butter has me polishing it off with baguette.
Next up for mains is another ‘light’ plate – skate wings. An unusual dish I have yet to spot elsewhere on a Dubai menu. A hugely generous portion that on arrival appears far from light – but in essence actually is. A member of the shark family, the grilled flesh from these fins flakes off easily, whilst a brown butter and caper sauce provides lip-smacking umami flavours. A side order of French fries, always a good test of a French kitchen, sadly disappoint and would benefit from a second deep fry. The green beans, however, are on point and al dente.
From the signature dish section of the menu, I choose the roasted pigeon – something I am unlikely to cook chez moi. Served on the bone, it’s naturally a little fiddly to eat, but the meat is succulent and earthy in flavour. Unusually, it sits on a bed of roasted sucrine lettuce (a smaller variety of Romaine) whose slight sweetness and buttery texture cuts through the fat of my bird.
For dessert we pick a caramel and salted butter fondant to share, which, whilst excellent in its own right, really needs a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complement the flavours. Oddly for a French restaurant, the menu lacks a cheese selection – and with a little red vino left to polish off – we ask if the kitchen can serve some. Our waitress is very obliging and returns with a few slices of Comte – another fond memory from my cheese tour around France floats by. If that wasn’t enough, all guests are served scoops of chocolate mousse straight out of a copper serving pan – as an alternative to petit fours I guess. A lovely, complimentary touch.
The knowledgeable front-of-house team is mostly French. In most parts, the service excels, but in some cases is a little too keen. For instance, different waiters within the space of a couple of minutes refill our wine glasses. On a Friday evening, the restaurant is a third full at a push, but despite the lack of diners, the atmosphere is charming and cosy. The playlist is in keeping with the theme and echoes Edith Piaf tunes.
But what lets La Môme down is the price point – expect to easily pay AED355 per person for three courses (without vino). That’s a hefty ask for what is essentially a casual bistro-cum-brasserie serving rustic French dishes. The likes of La Petite Maison and La Serre command a similar cheque per head (if not higher), but the overall experience and the food are of an upscale fine dining level, unlike La Môme’s traditional dishes and more relaxed affair. Whilst the owner has clearly learnt from his lacklustre décor mistake at Forty Four Bistro, he has decided to increase his prices (up from an AED235 per person charge), whilst the cooking style has not changed. I do want to return to La Môme, but at that price point, sadly, it won’t be frequently. There are other more affordable French bistros in town competing for my wallet. With that in mind, the knife rating has to remain the same – an average three out of five FooDiva knives. Lower the price point, address glitches with some of the dishes, and luck may just strike.
Have you visited La Môme? What’s your go-to French restaurant?
— FooDiva (@FooDivaWorld) December 7, 2016