Does The Lighthouse show the way to casual, comfort dining?
Finding 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 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.
A 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 cream, fruit 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,
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.