A total of 11 venues received one star, three received two and 17 were listed under the Bib Gourmand category.
With the culinary and entertainment season well under way, The National continues its Star-grazing series and visits the latest Michelin-starred restaurants in Dubai to understand the ethos behind their celebrated menus.
Located in Atlantis The Royal, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is our latest stop.
Inside Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Food has the power to evoke the most vivid of memories, particularly from childhood. And it’s a truly extraordinary meal that can be recalled as a second-hand memory. Yet that is exactly the power of chef Heston Blumenthal.
When I was about 16, I remember my parents coming home and recounting tales of their meal at The Fat Duck. The restaurant, located in the small English village of Bray, already had its second Michelin star, and was gearing up for a third in 2004.
At that time, I didn’t have a grasp of the significance of the Michelin Guide. I was, however, shocked that my parents had eaten snail porridge. I also remember their descriptions of bacon ice cream and a liquorice and salmon dish.
In the years since, the British celebrity chef has held a special significance for me; dining in one of his restaurants became part of my culinary bucket list. While I am yet to eat at The Fat Duck, I do buy Blumenthal's mince pies at Waitrose every Christmas. And this month, I finally enjoyed a taste of the chef’s culinary creations in a Michelin-starred setting, at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Dubai’s Atlantis The Royal.
Did the meal live up to more than 20 years of self-created hype? Of course, it did.
The drama of Dinner begins the moment I set foot inside the Atlantis The Royal. I make my way over to the left, where a contraption – part lift, part water display – whisks me up to the second floor to the entrance of the restaurant.
Dark, moody interiors bring some drama, but the warmth of the staff, who welcome my dining partner and me like family, ensures it’s a far-from-stuffy experience.
For the best seat in the house, try to reserve a booth near the window overlooking Palm Jumeirah, the Dubai skyline and the hotel’s fire and water fountains. We arrive at 7pm, close to sunset, and watch as the sky progresses from pink and orange to inky indigo.
The booths back onto the restaurant, so they have the feel of a cosy space reserved just for us.
What's on the Michelin-starred menu?
The meal at Dinner is part feast, part history lesson.
Each dish has been served at significant tables in British history, dating back to the Tudors and, more recently, the mid-20th century. The menu is marked with the dates the dishes were first served, and the team proudly offer the historical background for each.
We start with a white chocolate and caviar pearl – a “nod to the history of the UAE served in a chef Heston way”, the maitre d’ explains. The pop of contrasting flavours and textures – the sweetness of the chocolate clashing with the saltiness of the caviar – shouldn’t work, but it does, and it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of our meal.
Sherried scallops (circa 1965, Dh220) follow, perfectly seared and served with a scallop tartare and cauliflower cream. Roast halibut and green sauce (circa 1440, Dh285) come next, a dish described by the waiting staff as Dinner’s take on fish and chips, without a batter or mushy pea in sight. It is a succulent, if small, piece of fish with braised chicory in a fresh parsley and pepper sauce.
The dish comes with triple-cooked chips, which – and this is not hyperbole – are easily the best chips I have had in the UAE. If anyone wants to refute that claim, I will be a willing taste-test participant.
I am not entirely sure where the powdered element in the so-named duck breast (circa 1946, Dh375) comes from – there is a crumble on the duck, so maybe there – but the dish is an actual piece of meat, not dehydrated astronaut powder, which I was preparing for. The smell transports me to Christmas, thanks to the red cabbage, its rich sauce spiced with cinnamon and cloves, and the garnish of pickled cherries. Served pink, this ends up as my second favourite dish of the evening – surprising, as duck is not my meat of choice.
The best, though, has to be the meat fruit (circa 1500, Dh155). Images of the small mandarin-shaped dish are used in all of the Dinner advertising I have seen so far, and I now understand why.
It is smaller than I expected but perfectly formed. Cut open, it reveals chicken liver parfait. Generously spread on a piece of well-toasted bread, encased in orange jelly, the parfait is rich, velvety and creamy, with a hint of citrus. It is a dish to order for yourself, you’ll regret ordering one to share.
We take a break to visit the wine cellar with Arturo Scamardella, the sommelier who was honoured with the Michelin Guide Dubai’s Sommelier Award this year, before readying for dessert.
The Tipsy Cake (Dh130) is another dish Blumenthal is famous for serving. Dating back to 1858 and The English Cookery Book by JH Walsh, pineapples were a sign of the utmost wealth and extravagance in Europe in the 19th century. Inside the restaurant, there's a pineapple sculpture when you walk in – and it becomes something of a recurring motif. The dish itself is a piece of rotisserie pineapple, served with a vanilla-soaked brioche in a cast iron mini-Dutch oven. It’s a punch of sweetness cut through with the tart fruit, and well worth ordering.
Then comes the nitrogen ice cream trolley (circa 1901, Dh100). Our waiter jokes that when one is ordered, 40 end up being served on a night, as everyone wants some of the dining theatre created at their table. A rich Madagascan vanilla custard is transformed into ice cream before my eyes, garnished with a choice of toppings – I opt for dark chocolate, candied hazelnuts and popping candy, a light-hearted way to top off the meal.
As we wait for our bill, two home-made Jammy Dodgers appear on the table. Do I need a biscuit at this stage? No. Am I going to pass up a nostalgic recreation of a childhood British favourite? Absolutely not.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Dubai’s Atlantis The Royal is open daily for dinner from 6pm to 11pm; www.atlantis.com