Here's a cool new event that's coming up next week. Wait, how do I know it's cool? It's in the future! It is cool because it has all the ingredients of coolth:

1. LIVE music - with instruments and everything. Did you ever think it would constitute a guilty pleasure? I can already feel that naughty frisson. This band is really good; they were playing when we went for our Valentine's Day dinner.

2. Blue Carpet events are for members only - this being the first one, invites are going out now. And the invites are only going out to the bold and the brilliant people, the movers and shakers, the A-listers, the tops-of-the-trees. People like you. (Although if you haven't got yours yet, click here to request one - it's possible that the organisers don't know that you're awesome.)

3. Ladies, are you ready? Ha! Trust me, you're not. Denzel, the award-winning mixologist who visited Oman from South Africa a few months ago, is back. (You'll notice a disproportionate number of photos of him on my own post on the Hyatt's Sith Ifrican food fest.) A certified cocktail genius, Denzel adds to his talents extreme personal charm and a ravishing beard, plus the ability to make grown women giggle like Geishas. He'll gauge your cocktail style and shake you up a custom one accordingly.

Members can collect their membership cards at the door next Tuesday. There's a welcome drink on the house, and the Hyatt's superduper canapes throughout the evening. See you there!


Well I finished my burger post and ate an enormous, unquestionably gourmet burger cooked on the barbeque at home. It had a fried egg on top and melting gruyere oozing through every layer. Not just in my garden, but all around the world and certainly over the border in Dubai, gourmet burgers are thriving. 

At the Beach Canteen - part of the Dubai Food Festival - I visited the pop-up restaurant of Moylo's, a local start-up and the brainchild of two Emirati brothers. The highlight of their small but perfectly formed menu is wagyu beef burgers - imagine the caramelisation! Moylo's smartly emphasises its homegrown roots, to the delight of locals, who are increasingly supportive of anything with a little soul and originality. They source their ingredients as close to home, insofar as that's possible - sadly even in Dubai there are no bovine massage parlours for those chosen wagyu few - and everything is prepared in-house, fresh and from scratch. There's nothing cut and paste about the dishes or the decor; the concept came into being after one of the founding brothers, Ismail, noticed the high demand among friends for his secret homemade barbeque sauce, and everything about the restaurant has grown organically from there on out. Only open for four months (in Jumeirah), Moylo's is already looking to expand within the UAE and can barely meet the demand for their premium burgers.

Just down the beach from the Canteen venue was another nice burger surprise; Salt. Another homegrown concept, Salt is one of country's very few food trucks. I like food trucks because you get a sense of discovery when you come across one - that stumbled upon moment. Salt capitalises on this beautifully - their hashtag across social media is #findsalt. Incredibly delicious burgers; again, a small, specialised menu, executed really well with great ingredients. And their set-up is fantastic; two vintage Airstream silver bullets, and shaded tables made from wooden palettes, on a little sandy stretch with amazing views: sun, sea, and Salt.

(You've got another weekend to enjoy the Dubai Food Festival. It ends on the 28th.)







"McDonald's profit down 21%: fast food behemoth is struggling to remain relevant"
- Forbes, January 2015. Big news from the world's biggest purveyors of burgers; commentators are hinting that food trends and safety concerns are rocking the chain. Seems that consumers worldwide are becoming more aware of what they eat and turning to competitors who are offering less fast, more food.

Meanwhile, in Muscat, it seems that we are standing alone and bucking the global trend. For those of us who care about our burgers, it's been a rocky few months. First came the sudden closure of Elevation Burger at Muscat Grand Mall due to poor sales (which the ethical, eco-friendly burger chain's team seemed somewhat surprised by, given its popularity in nearby Gulf countries - when I asked one departing staff if they would consider re-opening, the disgusted answer came back, "Yeah: in a different country"). This sparked an online debate on quality vs price. Are we as customers unwilling to pay the extra necessary to get a burger with meaty provenance, whether it's organic or grass-fed or responsibly sourced, a burger that is undeniably better for you than those pumped out in the millions by the world-dominating chains? 

It certainly seemed so when Kiwi Cafe, a beloved local burger restaurant, upped and changed its patty format. If you're on Oman Restaurant Review, you'll probably have seen Kiwi's burgers lauded almost universally; it's been a firm favourite among foodies since its inception as a roadside shack in 2012, with more than 23,000 Facebook followers and a smart new location just outside Dolphin Village in Bausher increasing its exposure even more. A comment you'd often see, though, between the plaudits, was that the prices were too high. The answer would always come back that this is due to the high quality of the meat; but the complaints continued.

A couple of weeks ago, Kiwi lowered the base price of its burgers, and decreased the size of the patty - now, you would be able to get a cheaper (but smaller) burger, or if you still wanted a beast of a thing, you could pay the extra to double up. Price-wise, the idea was to include all sections of the market, says founder and partner of Kiwi Cafe, Saud Al Lamki. "We want Kiwi's to reach all four corners of the burger world, not just the niche. We guarantee the same quality and even better flavour than ever before." Saud concedes that it may be a challenge to get the die-hard following, many of whom see Kiwi Cafe as local treasure (it's a totally homegrown concept, 100% Omani owned), to change their ways. "With skinny patties, the options are endless. With thick patties, they're limited to two: single or double. Borrrrring! As a consumer, don't be backward-looking; have a double, triple or quadruple and look to the future."

Burger lover and food photographer Bader Al Lawati is looking back in anger, though. As Kiwi makes its crowd-pleasing transition, Bader was one of those who vocalised dismay at the new, smaller burgers, and as a long-time Kiwi fan, he was disappointed by the disparity between the juicy beauties shown on the cafe's social media, and the reality of the smaller burger. For Bader, this just wasn't worth the money; "Kiwi are doing awesome things but they're not really listening...especially when it comes to expectations vs delivery." (Over on the Kiwi Facebook page, they've published a promise to update the images to show the new stackables.)

Saud cites a number of non-financial reasons for the introduction of stackable sizes, from extra caramelisation to speed of service, and food hygiene - there's less risk of an undercooked middle with a slim patty. "One should note that the sandwich can be overburdened with the meaty flavour, but the melding of the flavours of onion, cheese, sauce and caramelised beef is on another level with skinny patties." (The man's a poet when it comes to his food.) 

Saud's got confidence that the market will catch up with Kiwi's dedication to quality, and is not satisfied at merely preaching to the converted; those who've been exposed to food standards and trends abroad, he says, likely already have an appreciation for Kiwi's accountability and ingredient provenance, but he and his partners won't rest until the entire market gets it. "Kiwi's goal is that the mass public understand that cheap eats are cheap because the standard of quality is much lower, and why real quality food comes at a price."

But do people care what's in their burgers? Lord I hope so. Some terrible things have happened to food in the last 60 years, and we should all care an awful lot more about what we eat - you all probably do what I do, and scroll quickly past those links on our Facebook feeds showing what really happens in chicken farms, or what, for that matter, goes into a harmless-seeming Fruit Gum. (Google at your own peril. I haven't dared.) 

I really hope that Kiwi manages to please everyone. With more casual eateries entering the market to instant popularity (see Buffalo Wings 'N' Rings, whose food is currently being praised to high heaven over on ORR), it's tough to have a concept that insists on quality but still has to bow to market price sensitivity. If price has been an issue for some market segments, and this slim stackable idea solves it, then it's a brilliant step to embrace the entire market  - and a much more positive one for burger lovers in Muscat than packing up and going home. 

I live a few minutes from Kiwi Cafe, and I'm a consumer that staff in most restaurants dread: I ask what's so special about your food, have your ingredients been frozen, where do they come from. And I have a strong loyalty to any eatery whose team can reply, this is the best stuff you can get - we know where it came from and what it's made of and we stand by it. I asked Saud what makes Kiwi burgers special, and here's what he said: "There is absolutely nothing special about Kiwi burgers. We just make our burgers how burgers are supposed to be made, and that is with care and quality and passion."



Dubai is marketed as a glitzy destination for the cash-laden and is home to some ├╝ber-fancy restaurants. You might imagine then that a month-long celebration of its food offerings would centre on the branded and the bling, but what I like about the Dubai Food Festival is that you can choose to go full-on star quality, or you can seek out and enjoy the smaller, local, more laid-back options.

On Jumeirah's Kite Beach, you can find the Dubai Food Festival's Beach Canteen. Made up of brightly-coloured converted shipping containers, each housing a different food concept, this is the place that puts the second F in DFF. Open mic nights, chilled-out happy people, and plenty of bean bags, all facing the lively, breezy beach. Every few days there's a foodie-themed movie playing in the open air - the chefs will usually offer up something relevant as a special on those days; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's viewers were treated to exploding popcorn and space foam from The Inventing Room.

Beach Canteen is the most vibrant and visible of Dubai Food Festival's venues to spotlight local talent; each of the pop-up restaurants represents a permanent location elsewhere in the city. It's giving a lot of great exposure to independent food concepts, many of them very new, and most of them staffed by the owners, and this fact lends the whole place a friendly, neighbourhood buzz. You could come and sit here for the whole day, people-watching - and the food is really good too: from rotis to rice pudding, gourmet fries and gluten-free cookies. Top of my list for a visit while you're up for the Festival.















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.









I just got back from a brilliantly hectic week at the Dubai Food Festival - my feet are killing me and my jeans are particularly tight. Could FatSu finally be full? I'm writing this with a mug of hot water in one hand and a wafer-thin mint in the other.

The Dubai Food Festival is an annual, month-long celebration of the city's quality and variety of food; and, as with everything Dubai has ever done, they've done this big. The festival is spread out over hundreds of restaurants and venues, covering cuisines originating from the 200+ nationalities living in Dubai. Some of the most luxurious and renowned gourmet destinations in the city are fanfared, and the festival makes sure to give a shout out to a slew of cool new start-up foodie enterprises.

Over the next couple of days I'll show you my must-sees of the Dubai Food Festival - as much as I could cover and consume in five days. Lucky for you, there are new events and venues popping up throughout the month, so when you visit you can expect loads of good eating and that I didn't get, and will hate you for. Here's a few photo highlights from my week, including pop-up restaurants, mystery tours, celebrity chefs and exploding street food.



















Shame on me. I have one of the gourmet capitals of the world a four-hour drive away - not even hard to find, you just go straight and then left - and my food experience with Dubai is sadly limited. I do day trips there for work and eat on the go (because it makes me feel more in sync with the faster pace there, I think). This woeful ignorance is about to change though, because tomorrow I fly up for the Dubai Food Festival for four days of foodie discovery. I'm so excited I almost lost my appetite. 

As well as showcasing some of the more spectacular dining venues in the emirate, the festival features pop-up restaurants by celebrity chefs, a multicultural street food celebration, a gourmet trail including hidden gems and farmers' markets...I'll be posting live on @heyfatsu if you'd care to join me. Now I'm off to pack my most forgiving outfits.

Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home