Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera
For his first foray into the UAE, Chef Sean Connolly hasn’t done anything by halves.
Occupying the dramatic top floor halo of Dubai’s latest landmark, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera the ideal place to dine and imbibe pre- or post-show, but this is a restaurant that’s more than just a venue of convenience.
An expansive and elegant space, the latest establishment from the British chef with the Antipodean empire offers everything from bubbles and oysters to an evening of excellent food. Add to this an outdoor terrace affords spectacular views of the Burj Khalifa and you have the perfect venue for date night, the winter visitor invasion or some festive cheer(s).
Having dined at Connolly’s establishments down under, I’m eager to see if he’s managed to execute his ethos of simple food done exceptionally well as successfully here in the Middle East.
This mandate can be tough to execute in Dubai, but Sean Connolly’s team are delivering dishes as memorable as those on the menus of his already well-known eateries right off the bat.
Connolly has a knack for serving up dishes that bring you back time and time again, something not often seen in Dubai, and with the first dish, I think I’ve already found my reason to return for round two.
The Watermelon, strawberry, tomato, torn mint, whipped feta and chilli salad is so much more than just the sum of its parts, leaving me wondering how they crafted a dish that, while sounding like one I’ve had many times before, stands head and shoulders above the competition.
Connolly’s love for all things from the sea is as evident in the venue’s design, with its mother of pearl ceiling, deep-sea blue carpet and nautical brass, as its menu. Seafood is served in every form — sashimi, crudo, ceviche, chowder and of course, on the grill.
Speaking of the grill, don’t miss the mammoth sharing steaks served on the bone and the spectacular sauces and sides on offer to accompany them. Connolly’s miso hollandaise sauce is a knockout and his excellent duck fat chips, ‘Grandma’s carrots’ and wedge salad will have you hard pressed to pick a favourite.
Hearty pastas come in large servings perfect for sharing, with the interestingly named Orgy of mushrooms with buffalo ricotta gnocchi delivering a mouthwatering melange of umami-packed mushrooms amongst soft and fluffy gnocchi. Just ensure you leave room for dessert, because the Hazelnut semifreddo with popped corn, salted caramel is a must order.
Don’t wait until you’re being dragged along to musical theatre with the mother-in-law to sample Sean Connolly’s cuisine — yes, they offer a great pre-theatre menu, but we recommend you allocate a little more time to explore the menu and enjoy the space (and get to that great terrace before summer arrives).