How does The Atlantic Dubai compare to Melbourne?

The Atlantic DubaiThe Atlantic’s home location of Melbourne boasted three species of Australian oysters when I dined there last month – Coffin Bay, Smoky Bay, and Tasmanian Pipeclay Lagoon. On the website of its new Dubai restaurant sibling, Korean Pacific oysters, as well as French Belon and Gillardeau were listed – however, in actual fact, upon dining, they only offered three French species – Belon, Gillardeau and the prolific-in-Dubai, Fine de Claire.

“Agh so you only have French oysters?” I ask our waiter.

“Yes we only have fresh oysters,” he responds.

Oh dear. Lost in translation perhaps? However, that sets the tone for the service during our meal on a Thursday evening. Whilst the waiting staff were friendly, they were not well versed on the menu, stumbling or guessing answers. They lacked authority, in stark contrast to Melbourne where the waiters had clearly tried the dishes on the menu. Service was a little slack with items like the restaurant’s olive oil pourer left on our table. I made a website reservation the day prior (with a pseudonym), but when I hadn’t received a confirmation by the following morning, I called up to enquire. The hostess had no record of my attempt at a reservation, but anyhow booked my table in.

The Atlantic Dubai has replaced Mango Tree at Souk Al Bahar with that prime location overlooking the fountains. In Melbourne, it sits on the Southbank in the Crown casino complex – again with an al fresco element. However the décor is dissimilar. Dubai lacks a cohesive identity with none of the charm and cosyness of its Melbourne sibling. The lighting is too bright made even worse by giant white bauble ‘chandeliers’. The white metal door frames (leading to the terrace) are imposing and sterile. The colour scheme is white with accents of duck egg blue, which would work well for a daytime venue, but at night, appears too austere. On the plus side, there are banquettes, and white tablecloths for those who like the finer, traditional aspect of dining.

The menu is hugely different which is understandable, welcoming and not entirely unexpected given the distance between the two locations. But it’s a shame it doesn’t boast much Australian and Middle Eastern produce, relying on more mainstream European ingredients. Barramundi, where are you? Interestingly, in Melbourne, the menu highlighted the dishes available on the Dubai menu, which I thought was a good marketing touch. But oddly, it does not do the same here. From an expansive menu, only eight dishes are identical, three of which are sides – with, surprisingly, five slightly cheaper. Despite this, a price per head here in Dubai based on three courses each is AED389 versus Melbourne’s at AED268 (without booze) – that’s a 31% increase here. I can appreciate produce is being flown in, but given The Atlantic’s “ocean to plate” philosophy perhaps they should focus on building a menu around local and regional seafood – which would help bring the cost down.

Needless to say, alcohol is much more expensive here (the Souk Al Bahar restaurants have to buy their booze through the Address Palace hotel which therefore involves two mark-ups). A bottle of Innocent Bystander’s Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley sets us back AED489 (not on the Melbourne wine list), and that’s one of the cheaper tipples on the wine list.

Anyhow, I had better get started on the food. From what I ate in Melbourne, only one dish matched the Dubai menu – spaghetti with Moreton Bay bugs. A twist on the classic Vongole recipe from Naples with small Tasmanian slipper lobsters replacing the clams. And it was identical. The kitchen didn’t skimp on the ‘bugs’ and the garlic, parsley, chilli and olive oil sauce was enough to moisten and ‘dress’ the beautifully al dente spaghetti without drowning it.

Moreton Bay bugs spaghetti - The Atlantic Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaCrab bisque - The Atlantic Dubai - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

However, a crab bisque poured at the table with a sole raviolo stuffed with crab disappointed – the soup was so watered down; you couldn’t taste any crème fraiche. Under-seasoned too.

My Dover sole, which I opted for filleted, was over-grilled and therefore was far from flaky and tender – and at AED299 it should be well executed – slightly redeemed by a sublime brown butter, caper, lemon and parsley sauce, which I used as a dip for the indulgent thrice-cooked potatoes. The online menu explained that two sides were included with the grilled dishes, but our waiter knew nothing of this, to which I complained. The manager did pop over later in our meal to apologise and waive the cost of two sides. Good customer service recovery. Still, for AED299 you would expect The Atlantic to throw in some accompaniments. Incidentally, the online menu has since been updated.

Dover sole - The Atlantic Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaRack of lamb - The Atlantic Dubai - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

A roasted rack of Australian lamb was beautifully pink and tender, with a curry leaf jus adding moisture – but the smoked eggplant puree was so intense it felt like I was swallowing smoke. A couple of other side dishes were on point. Al dente grilled zucchini worked wonders topped with a salty goat’s curd and pine nuts. I am not a fan of kale, finding it overrated and bland, but The Atlantic managed to pull it off deliciously when sautéed with chilli, garlic and olive oil.

Desserts - The Atlantic Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaOur first dessert, a winter berry soup, arrived with blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cranberries in a mixed berry coulis – but what really elevated a simple ‘fruit salad’ was a scoop of Petit Suisse sorbet. Despite the name it’s a cow’s milk fromage frais from Normandy (I visited one of the producers last year), adding slight savoury notes.

Our second sweet ending was not so sweet – a yoghurt panacotta layered with spiced fig, honeycomb and red wine ice cream. All mixed together it tasted like a mouthful of Christmas pudding and mulled wine gone wrong – so tangy and acidic, I had a hard time tasting it let alone digesting. Some glorious honeycomb with vanilla ice cream would have sufficed.

The price per head (AED389) is on the high side, but in keeping with other top-end Dubai restaurants in the vicinity. The Atlantic Dubai does not fare as well as its sibling, with half of its dishes disappointing, lacklustre service and a sterile dining room short on atmosphere – but it does share a prime location. As we know from a recent review though, that’s just not enough. I left The Atlantic Melbourne itching to return for dinner, but sadly not so in Dubai – perhaps I’ll try the brunch instead someday. Here’s to a 2.5 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.

Have you eaten in either restaurant for dinner or lunch (not brunch)? How did it fare?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 2.5
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8 Responses to “How does The Atlantic Dubai compare to Melbourne?”

  1. Kerie Receveur February 20, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Having not been to Melbourne, I’m not qualified to compare. Perhaps it would have been better to have 2 articles on The Atlantic – the first being a review of this restaurant as it is, and the second this comparison? Maybe that would have been more fair …

    • FooDiva February 20, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Kerie. That’s interesting feedback. Even without a comparison to Melbourne, my comments on the food, service, location, decor and atmosphere still stand – and therefore the rating remains the same. The only commentary that would differ is that despite it being more expensive here, the price point is on a par with other neighbouring high-end restaurants, which I have highlighted. I think restaurants that transplant their brands here should expect us to compare it to their home turf. It’s only natural; especially as we live in an expat society. Another example would be a guest writer’s review of Burger & Lobster where she compared it to London. Out of interest have you tried The Atlantic here in Dubai?

  2. GA February 20, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I was really looking forward to visiting The Atlantic, it has GA written all over it!! I will still go though but I will leave it a few months.

    • FooDiva February 20, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      It certainly does GA! Quite right, hopefully they will address these issues soon. I did give it over a month to settle in before going, but looks like they’re not ready yet.

  3. Keren Bobker February 23, 2017 at 10:13 am

    I have only been to brunch which was good, so much so that we are going again tomorrow. To be fair there are Entertainer vouchers for the brunch at the moment which makes it excellent value, considering it includes decent quality alcohol and the location.
    The brunch is a la carte, a seafood platter for the table to start with and then three selections off the menu.
    Although mainly seafood, as you would expect, there was a meat option for the main course, and my second and third courses were good. I wasn’t excited by the desserts but my companions seemed to like them.
    This is a lighter brunch, quieter and no annoying DJ which gives it a big tick for me. It’s not a party place but the service was pretty good and it’s one for a friendly catch up or to take (seafood loving) parents.

    • Kerie Receveur February 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      I liked the brunch too – civilised!

    • FooDiva February 23, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      I think from what I’ve seen online and clearly your comments too Keren, they seem to do a much better job at brunch. I also think the decor and terrace setting is more conducive to daytime dining. Enjoy tomorrow 🙂

      • Keren Bobker February 23, 2017 at 6:52 pm

        Thanks. Oysters, huge prawns, other yummy fishy things and prosecco. I expect I’ll manage! 😉

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