Styled as an homage to an older Dubai, Al Seef is fast becoming a favourite with 21st century gastronomes because of its impressive array of restaurants.
Behind carefully carved wooden doors and deliberately dusty cracked wind towers you’ll find some fine places to dine. The latest to open on the south bank of Dubai Creek is Doors Freestyle Grill.
Among the casual quick-bite coffee shops, Doors is a grand pantheon to high-end eating. Floors in the huge 400-seater restaurant glitter with real gold and sumptuous geometric decorations frame traditional wooden dhows pottering up and down the historic Creek.
There are six ‘zones’ to choose from – including a VVIP majlis. We’re served dinner on the terrace, overlooking Al Seef’s 1.8-kilometre promenade and possibly the most romantic spot of them all.
Staff give us a passionate run through of how our culinary experience will unfold in a place where we’re encouraged to eat first with our eyes. Dishes rotate, depending on stocks and what’s in season. They’re very serious about what makes it on to the menu – acclaimed Chef Kemal Çéylan selects the meats from top butcheries around the world. The restaurant even owns a farm to make sure of a supply of the finest quality lamb.
On Kemal’s recommendation, we test the melt-in-your-mouth butterfall steak (AED 320) – a vertical hunk of Australian beef tenderloin cooked so theatrically with flames, boiled butter and beef broth that’s sure to become Dubai Insta-famous. We also try two different kinds of lamb – tender smoky ribs (AED 135), cooked asado style over a charcoal fire for 34 hours, and a leaner cut of shish kebab (AED 195). Less attention-seeking, but definitely as satisfying.
Appropriately enough, as it overlooks Dubai’s vast waterway, Doors also excels at seafood. Seabass makes a dramatic entrance to our table, stuffed with onions, garlic and vegetables and cooked under a salt crust that’s set alight (AED 295). This is one of the most tender and delicious pieces of fish we’ve ever tried. Gigantic prawns marinated in orange juice and grilled are also very much recommended (AED 126), as are the hearty salads, with eggplant being our favourite (AED 89).
If Doors’ dessert was a mild and subtle affair then we’d be mightily disappointed, but a hefty gold-dusted chocolate sphere ablaze with nitrogen fondue (AED 79), trembling Spanish natillas and milk-soaked Peruvian tres leches cake are a flamboyant treat for the eyes and tastebuds (AED 55).
Doors is not licensed, however, the restaurant’s mocktail bar blends up giddy concoctions for soft sundowners – try the Blurred Habitea, Cucumber Lychee Cooler and Mango Cardamom, with its mango caviar as good as any we’ve tried in a city that prides itself on a well-made fruit beverage (from AED 35).
We toast the darkening waters of the Creek, the glowing boats that line it and stunning food served with a theatrical flair that tastes even better than it looks.
Expect to spend AED 500-AED 1,000 for two. Doors Freestyle Grill. Al Seef, Al Seef Street, Umm Hurair. 4pm-midnight weekdays, 1pm-1am Thursday and Friday. Underground parking is free. 04 526 0858. www.doorsdubai.com
Dubai Week dined as a guest of the venue. All details correct at the time of writing.