For a restaurant that takes its name from the icon of British luxury, Alfred Dunhill, it’s unsurprising that Alfie’s wears its Britishness on its sleeve. The cigar lounge immediately on entry is lifted straight from a London gentleman’s club at the height of empire – all brown leather, dark wood and dusty bookshelves.
The slightly incongruous sight of a gentleman passing through the lounge holding a pair of brown leather brogues on our visit only added to the illusion – in my imagination he was headed up to the streets above to have them shined by some young cockney street urchin, despite us being in the decidedly urchin-free environs of The Boulevard at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
The main dining area takes a more modern, and cigar-free, approach. The leather is still very much in evidence, but lighter tones and white marble table tops give an airy feel, while arty black and white prints on the walls pay homage to the Dunhill company’s fashion exploits over the last 120+ years.
The menu has a strong seafood accent, though meats, poultry and vegetarian options are represented too, but on our waiter’s advice we took the seafaring route, and excellent advice it proved. The potted shrimp (Dh80) was given a tangy bite through the addition of shallot confit and served with a selection of fresh breads, while a generous portion of dressed Devonshire crab (Dh90) had just enough mustardy goodness to perk up the flavour without masking the light, flakey meat.
For mains, we went with the special of the day – whole grilled dover sole with truffle butter (Dh275 for two to share, though we struck a deal for a small portion to allow us to sample another dish). The fish was deliciously moist and fresh, while the truffle flavour, which I can sometimes find a little overpowering, was subtle, allowing the fish to be the star.
A second main of roasted sea bass (Dh195) again gave the impression that it had just landed from the boat and came with a crispy, roasted skin atop a tasty tomato and mussel stew. This was definitely some of the freshest, tastiest fish I’ve tasted in a long time, and the portions were more than ample.
The thick chips were a high point among the sides, with soft fluffy potato wrapped in a crispy outside – such a simple accompaniment, but so often prepared badly. If anyone should get thick chips right though, I guess it’s a British restaurant.
We barely had room for dessert, so opted to share another British classic – sticky toffee pudding (40aed). The chef again came up trumps, with light sponge smothered in sweet, sticky sauce while the generous portion meant that even with two appreciative spoons digging in, we didn’t quite finish it off.
Bonus points were awarded for the soundtrack to the evening too. A heavily British-themed score at sensible levels saw the usual Brit classics such as The Beatles, The Stones and The Kinks line up alongside slightly more off-piste tunes from the likes of Adam and The Ants, while the presence of the late, great David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes gave the evening a poignancy you wouldn’t normally expect from a fish supper for two. Full marks all round.
• The National was a guest of the venue. Alfie's is located in The Boulevard, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, next to the Dunhill store on the lower level. For reservations call +97144323232