Hidden in the midst of the Dubai International Finance Centre lies Laluz, a fine-dining restaurant dedicated to introducing traditional Catalan flavours to hungry diners of the Emirate. It’s admittedly rather difficult to find, nestled amongst the imposing figure of the Four Seasons hotel, but Laluz has slowly been building up a reputation for itself since its opening earlier this May, and it’s not hard to see why.
Spearheaded by Barcelona-born chef Alain Devahive Tolosa, who has over a decade’s worth of experience working at the innovative 3-Michelin starred elBulli, Laluz is the chef’s first venture into the Middle East, providing his signature combination of molecular gastronomy and exceptional Spanish flavours to a region desperately devoid of quality Catalan cuisine.
This isn’t your typical tapas, sangria, and paella sort of joint either, as chef Devahive’s menu is truly inimitable. Heavily inspired by regional classics and definitive Mediterranean meals, an elaborate range of options are available spanning from spherical olives and deconstructed Spanish omelettes to sensational Beef carpaccio. Laluz’s signature spherical olives – small olive-shaped pouches of flavour that explode in your mouth and leaves your taste buds revelling in an intense olive experience – are a gastronomic achievement in of themselves.
Initially walking into the site you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d entered the wrong restaurant. As the tasteful décor, minimalist interior, and sultry jazz that usher you to the lounge area are far more reminiscent of a high-end cocktail bar as opposed to a bustling Barcelona restaurant. Laluz is all about toying with these sort of expectations however, as after only a few minutes inside the Spanish chatter of the waiting staff all but confirms the restaurant’s authenticity.
After a drink at the bar (which hosts an impressive selection of cocktails), we find ourselves seated directly opposite Laluz’s impressive open kitchen. The concept has been done to death, but we’d be lying if we said Laluz doesn’t do it as well as any. Although initially quiet, business begins to pick up after we’re seated, with a genuine buzz of excitement being palpable throughout Laluz as couples crane their necks to get a better view of what delights other customers have already ordered.
Our food arrives in simple fashion, as a slew of multiple starters and mains are presented to us on wooden Spanish sharing platters. The deconstructed Spanish omelette is the capital starter, as beautifully presented in a cocktail glass and topped with a decadent potato foam, it delivers all the flavours you’d expect of a Spanish omelette in an arrangement we can guarantee you’ve never seen before. A meagre ceviche is another stand-out (‘meagre’ being the species of fish and not the size of the portion) that balances delicate citrus flavours with the meaty mouthfeel of the unfortunately named fish.
The excellent mains are delivered with a similar lack of unnecessary pomp, as a rustic bowl of flaky sea bass and perfectly plump clams are presented swimming in an emerald sea of salsa verde. Unsure how exactly to dive in, the waiting staff implore that we use our hands in traditional Catalan fashion, soaking up the remnants of the dish with a generous hunk of freshly baked bread. It’s this lack of pretension that marks Laluz out as a wholly different dining experience.
Fans of meat are also in luck, as Laluz makes a mean Australian Wagyu striploin served with truffle mashed potatoes and caramelised baby onions. The tender strips of meat are perfectly cooked with just enough char to belie the almost over-whelming softness of the steak. Surprisingly, the real star of this dish are the truffle mashed potatoes. They’re not pretty and look worryingly grey, but the subtle hint of truffle and the creamy texture more than makes for what it lacks in the looks department.
Those with enough room left for dessert are also spoilt for choice. Although I had my own reservations regarding the dense cheesecake flan, it turned out to be pleasantly sweet and creamy and far from the cloying mass I anticipated. Laluz translates to “the light” in Spanish, and while this dish wasn’t exactly light, I can imagine it going down well after a more conservative selection of starters and mains.
In a better location we’d have no reservations in confidently saying that Laluz will become a definitive mainstay in Dubai’s food scene in next-to-no-time, however, DIFC seems to be a place where restaurants either seem to thrive or fail in spectacular fashion. We sincerely hope it’s the former for chef Alain Devahive and Laluz, whose innovative and honest approach to food truly provides a refreshing breeze of Barcelona-infused air to Dubai’s stuffy fine dining line-up.