Does The Lighthouse show the way to casual, comfort dining?

The Lighthouse Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaFinding my way to Dubai Design District, or D3 as it’s lovingly called, is a challenge in itself and not being able to see The Lighthouse is ironical. I lay the blame on bad signage in a new free-zone district.

I peep in and ask the engrossed bartender whether I am at the right place which he confirms. Continuing the ‘no-reservations’ theme (check out Cocktail Kitchen), The Lighthouse looks like a charming library bar and design shop. It takes a while to appreciate that this space is indeed a restaurant. Opposite the long bar and bakery (the latter reminiscent of La Serre’s boulangerie display) are exhibits on sale ranging from cookbooks and trinkets to art pieces and cushions. I think that these may be requirements for a restaurant to fit into D3! The dining area in the far-left corner, along with a terraced ‘corridor’ appear to be an afterthought. Consultant chef Izu Ani (ex-La Serre and La Petite Maison) is behind The Lighthouse, his chef de cuisine hails from Greece, and the sous chef is Turkish – so a strong Mediterranean influence is only natural.

Teething problems are abundant and it takes about fifteen minutes for the staff to prepare our table. I see nervous waitresses at the cash register struggling with the bills. At least we can kill time browsing the shop. When I called the restaurant to enquire about bookings, I was warned that the cocktail menu was not yet in place, but I decide to give the bar a try. My whiskey sour (no ice on my request) is served. I take a swig – the barman has produced a balanced drink. Wines by the glass are ordered as is a bottle of cider, a welcome addition to a Dubai drinks menu. The atmosphere is young and arty. Given the D3 ‘work’ location, dinner finishes early with last orders at 10pm, and the restaurant closing at 11pm.

The Lighthouse Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaThe short simple menu fills a modest void in Dubai’s restaurant scene. The waiter suggests the mezze selection (three or six small plates) as a good sampling of the kitchen’s offerings. The burrata is delicious – melting amidst the rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, pomegranates, sliced raisins and a honey balsamic dressing. The tzatziki tastes authentic. Baked feta oozes an exotic texture with nuts and garnishes. Mini koftas are delicious. Fried prawns are salty and crunchy. A chicken dish has a delectable sauce that makes us crave more.

roasted red beet salad has a crisp presentation – red succulent beet surrounded by tangerine slices and crusty fried chevre, with a garnish of basil leaves is simple yet powerfully flavoured. The lentil salad with split green lentils offers a good balance of sweet, sour and savoury, whilst a hint of coriander adds freshness. A side of ratatouille is a robust and heartwarming dish.

The waiter says his favourite main course is the sliced beef. This arrives as a huge, sharing portion in a large deep-skillet. We request it cooked to a medium temperature, but it is served medium-well done. My steak-loving friend whose ideal cut is a medium-rare marbled rib-eye, finds the beef overcooked. I love the richness of the dish with a mild mustard sauce, mushrooms and root vegetables in the base, and poached cherry tomatoes on top.

The lamb cutlets are succulent and cooked well done (my friend doesn’t seem to mind this though). The pitta bread with tzatziki provides a good accompaniment. The truffle rigatoni is beautifully al dente, whilst the truffle and mushroom sauce, and dill garnish is only delicately overpowering. For a small menu I am very impressed at the selection and quality of the vegetarian dishes.

The exquisite passion fruit and yuzu cheesecake is an adaptation from a La Serre signature dessert. The apple and olive oil cake is an unusual but excellent offering – essentially a muffin laced with olive oil, accompanied by malt ice creamfruit slices and a drizzle of, quite possibly, maple syrup.

At AED225 per person for food only, The Lighthouse is priced at the right level for an overall delicious meal. Décor and ambience inside is pleasing, however, the outdoor dining area appears like a backyard spread. After the initial hiccup, the service catches up with our South African waiter doing a great job explaining the concept and the chefs, whilst recommending dishes. Once D3 becomes more mainstream with its access, and shop and restaurant openings, The Lighthouse is somewhere I would like to return to. Here’s to 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knives.

Do you enjoy comfort food presented artfully in what I would describe as a ‘yuppie’ set up?

Until next time,

AK.

Who is FooDiva’s guest reviewer? AK works as an investment banker in Dubai and is an avid gastronaut who thinks that a day without a good meal is a day wasted. He has travelled the world exploring culinary delights including a treasured dinner at El Bulli.

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3.5
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4 Responses to “Does The Lighthouse show the way to casual, comfort dining?”

  1. Layla Aldabbagh March 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Hello AK,

    Thanks so much for your review, there’s a lot of interesting insight that you’ve picked up on.

    I work as the Creative Director at The Lighthouse, and it was actually conceived as a concept store + kitchen (restaurant) not the other way around. We really see it as a hybrid space that merges food and design since we believe they speak the same language. That’s the reason we decided to have the restaurant placed in the back.

    We are working on constantly rotating things around – so if you pop by in couple of weeks you may find that things have changed both the dining area and the retail displays. Having said that, it’s imperative to us that the concept store and design products remain central and not peripheral – that’s our value proposition and what we believe differentiates us from others.

    Also, Chef Izu is a partner at The Lighthouse not a consultant so the owners and him are fully aligned.

    Hope to see you back again soon!

    Layla

    • AK March 7, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Dear Layla,
      Thanks for your detailed reply. The concept is indeed unique and different from any other in town. I liked the food very much and I am sure diners will love it. You will be able to test the success of the non f&b offering as time passes by. And depending on the commercial success of the non f&b offering you may want to fine tune the overall setup of the restaurant or alter the f&b vs non f&b offering.
      Thanks for pointing out Chef Izu’s partnership.
      My best wishes for the success of your concept.
      Best Regards
      AK

  2. JayEim March 8, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for the review which was clear and concise until the Creative Director muddle it in.

    OK. So let’s get this straight.

    The Lighthouse is a restaurant which is not exactly a restaurant but which claims to be a restaurant while denying that it is trying to be a restaurant or indeed is a restaurant!

    I was confused at first but now I am not too sure!

  3. AK March 12, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Dear Jay,

    I will let Layla add further, but simply put Lighthouse is a modern restaurant and a concept store. The food offering is good and the concept store is being tested. Time will tell whether it is more of a restaurant or a concept store. You should go try an early dinner there to see for yourself .

    Cheers

I’d love to receive your feedback, so feel free to comment any time.