Review: GBR at Dukes Dubai
While the word “undersupply” could never be applied to Dubai’s F&B scene, there has been a gap in the market for upscale British venues since the closure of the Ivy and Rivington Grill. So GBR – the Great British Restaurant – arrives at an appropriate moment.
It’s the signature restaurant of the newly opened Dukes, which itself is a curious exercise. Dukes London is described as “a little gem with a country house hotel feel in the heart of St James”. Dukes Dubai, meanwhile, is in a non-descript building on Palm Jumeirah, though the extensive renovation does give it a refreshingly understated, and undeniably British, feel.
But back to GBR, headed by chef Martin Cahill. He plans on developing a new menu every four months, in line with the seasonality of food and ingredients. This means that dishes such as pea soup, smoked salmon from Severn & Wye or poached cod with broad beans and soft herb broth, are not pale imitations but quite literally the real thing.
It’s hard out pick a standout among these dishes – mains include, but are not limited to, Irish beef fillet, calves liver and onion, sage and onion chicken and Dover sole. But for comfort food the Lancashire hot pot takes some beating. It’s as authentic as an episode of Coronation Street, with a rich, thick gravy, chunks of meat and flavourful cabbage and beets. Teamed with a side of wood sorrel and mint butter greens, you’d have to catch a flight back to rural England and visit a country pub to get anything comparable.
The deserts, as expected, are standouts. There’s a warm orange pudding, and the egg custard tart with stewed rhubarb is going to take some beating.
These combinations add up to a restaurant we’ve lacked for a while now, and GBR isn’t just a replacement but arguably an upgrade to those aforementioned venues – at least when it comes to the food. True, we have a few minor gripes. The room is big, with high ceilings, and will need a lot of bodies to make it seem full, while the lighting is overly harsh.
But if Dukes work on a traditional English breakfast for Friday mornings and a Saturday roast – and we did drop enough hints to Cahill that he should do just that - then this could be a venue that demands repeated visits.
A home away from Mayfair? Not really, but, with a few tweaks, it fills a very nice niche here in Dubai.