The Esquire Review: Toro + Ko Dubai
Hidden between the CityWalk’s faux London facades and near endless numbers of Turkish ice cream stands, lies The Square.
It’s a collection of licensed restaurants all helmed in some way by celebrity chefs.
There’s Galvin, which serves upmarket Mediterranean food with a British twist. And Lima, whose London location pretty much singlehandedly kicked off the posh Peruvian foodie trend that still won’t go away.
Sat alongside is Toro + Ko, probably the lesser-known the three. The famed Galvin Brothers head up the restaurant that bears their name, while Michelin-starred Virgilio Martinez Veliz looks after Lima (albeit from London).
But Toro + Ko isn’t without its own connection to culinary celebrities. The food comes courtesy of Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, both of which have won a slew of awards in the US, and are now spreading their brand of Barcelona-styled food around the world. This is the fourth location from the duo, after the originals in Boston, New York and Bangkok.
The idea is pretty simple, it’s supposedly a simple tapas-style restaurant but with an upmarket twist, courtesy of the many ingredients they source from the Catalan region of Spain.
Toro + Ko Dubai: What’s the vibe?
Like most Dubai restaurants that were pre-supposed to be manically busy, the space is rather huge.
There’s outdoor seating that spreads out into the square in the colder months, large French doors that open up to a downstairs cocktail area, and then a large dining room set aside the open kitchen. Oh, and an upstairs, too. Home to another bar, a DJ booth (no fine dining establishment should be without a DJ) and yet more seating – both indoors and out.
It really is enormous, which has lots to do with the fact that Toro + Ko never feels busy. We visited on a Friday night, and while there was indeed a buzz in the room, we wouldn’t call it energetic. Maybe barely half-full? Was everyone upstairs with the DJ?
It’s a symptom not reserved solely for Toro + Ko. Each of the restaurants at the square are both massive and seemingly overlooked by Dubai’s foodie masses. And that’s a bit of a shame, really, given the calibre of these establishments.
Toro + Ko Dubai: How’s the food?
While the names on the door fly around the world looking pretty, the real work in the kitchen is done by Chef Oscar Poquet Bigorda.
Yes, dish ideas will no doubt be sent via carrier pigeon across the Atlantic by the restaurant’s celebrity chef duo, but let’s be honest here, he’s the guy in the kitchen cooking the food nine times out of ten.
Fortunately, Bigorda is more than up for the job.
Food here does what it says on the tin. Expect traditional tapas done to incredibly high standards. Some dishes have been re-invented (Toro’s take on traditional Patatas Bravas is a joy), and others are plated with enough whimsy to actually warrant the odd Instagram picture of them.
Dishes taste good, they come quickly and are made using both ingredients and know-how straight from Barcelona. Staff are well-versed in what they’re doing, and the bar has just launched a tasty new drinks menu. So why aren’t people clamouring to get in this place on a Friday night?
We’ll put it down to CityWalk’s general newness, as well as the fact that The Square will certainly benefit those who enjoy sitting outside in the cooler months.
Until then, Toro + Ko is worth a visit on food merit alone.
Toro + Ko Dubai: Where is it?
Toro + Ko is located inside CityWalk Dubai’s fine-dining and licensed square. For more information, head to torodubai.com