It's been a year or so since I started this very pleasant business of food blogging. Happily, I've been asked to some lovely restaurants and food events. When I visit places for the first time, there's always a little trepidation; I'm quite nice, and I don't like to say bad things about a place. Thank goodness for the freedom of blogging - I'm not obliged to be a critic as such. Ideally I would only get invited to places that you just know are going to be brilliant. Before my trip to the Dubai Food Festival, running my eye down the quite amazing itinerary the organisers had planned for us, La Serre was a stand-out.
In a beautifully fresh setting at Vida in Downtown Dubai, La Serre serves up French-Mediterranean food. The venue is beloved of celebrities and is packed every service. It's a homegrown concept rather than a chain/franchise set-up, and they make every effort to source locally, both their ingredients and their talent. La Serre's bistro offerings rely heavily on fresh produce and their team works in partnership with farmers close to home wherever they can. Chef Izu blends regional spices into the predominantly classical menu. And La Serre's pastry chef, Sala, is a young, passionate and determined Emirati woman who realised her dream of working with food just six months ago and has already made it to one of the country's top kitchens.
Delicious and beautiful French food in Dubai doesn't come cheap - but this would have been worth every penny even if I'd paid. To see and to taste such stunning simplicity and balance was a treat and a half. We had a shoulder of beef that had been cooking gently for fifty hours; to eat, simply slice into it with the side of a fork. Vibrant ceviche (Peruvian yes, but it does sound French) was melty and zingy, sprinkled with local micro-herbs and sesame seeds for contrasting crunch. Lightly-spiced duck was another wow, fragrant and pink. The creme brulee had a sugar crust as frangible and thin as any I've tapped a spoon on, and the entire table fought for an extra taste of the salted caramel tart. Salted caramel everything is good. And (despite the sad fact of a disparaging remark about English cheeses that could so easily have caused a diplomatic incident), La Serre's team was friendly, informed and efficient. If you're planning on visiting Dubai for the Food Festival, and you have to select a single wonderful gourmet restaurant, make it this one.