Deliveroo, Talabat, Uber Eats and Zomato are but four of the plethora of options for ordering meals and snacks online in the UAE. The number of fruit and vegetable delivery-box services, too, continues to grow and the majority of big-brand supermarkets now have an e-commerce section, meaning that we need not worry about running out of milk / nappies / chocolate biscuits / insert your own essential item here, ever again.
What you might not be as aware of, however, is the growing selection of businesses that cover the gourmet, more bespoke side of the digital food market. These tend to be smaller-scale passion projects created by aficionados who are keen for others to sample their carefully sourced ingredients. As a result, if you want to introduce a little luxury into your home cooking, there has never been an easier time to do so. Here are three of our tried-and-tested favourites to get you started.
Maison Duffour for French food lovers
Plump escargot gleaming with parsley butter; confit duck legs that yield crisp skin and tender meat; proper puff pastry made the traditional way; and some of the finest mushrooms around (think cepes, morels and chanterelles): for anyone with Francophile eating tendencies, online food store Maison Duffour is an absolute dream.
The concept belongs to husband and wife team Rodolphe and Alix Duffour. The two life-long foodies moved from their native France to the UAE (via a stint in Bangkok), due to Rodolphe’s job working for a company importing and distributing French food products to restaurants and hotels throughout the region. Rodolphe says the idea for the website began to emerge soon after that. “It quickly became clear that the majority of high-quality products were only available to restaurants and professional food services. We think that everyone should have the chance to enjoy an affordable gourmet cooking and eating experience in the comfort of their own home, so we decided to bring these items in ourselves and make them available,” he explains.
He adds that setting up as their “precious little food empire” online made perfect sense as it allows the company to control their costs to a far greater extent than if they went through a third-party retailer, meaning that prices remain as a low as possible for you, the customer.
Maison Duffour delivers all over the UAE at no minimum charge. Orders placed before 3pm will be delivered the next working day in Dubai from Sunday to Thursday, while the other emirates have specific delivery days. As well as the specialist products mentioned previously, and not forgetting the likes of fresh oysters, duck, quail and guinea fowl, Maison Duffour’s cheese range deserves a shout-out; it has clearly been put together with a connoisseur’s eye and showcases a sterling mix of classic and lesser-known options. If you’re a cheese fiend, the monthly one-kilogram Cheese Selection box turns the spotlight on five different French farm cheeses each time and is delivered to between the 20th and 25th of each month.
Browse the website and you’ll also find what might be considered more everyday ingredients, but of the highest quality. For example, the chicken breasts and legs are corn-fed, while the whole chicken is a free-range Label Rouge number priced at a competitive Dh62. The baguettes, artisan breads and pastries are made by hand according to traditional French recipes; and the locally sourced fruit and vegetable section offers the pick of the season.
BBQ Box to up your burger game the easy way
If the trend for gourmet burgers and sliders seen everywhere from high-end haunts to street-food trucks has taught us anything, it’s that there are burgers and there are burgers. Think questionable meat, limp lettuce and the cursory squirt of ketchup versus juicy, properly made patties layered with extras so fresh and tasty they make you wonder why you bother eating anything else.
Should you be keen to recreate the latter experience at home, then let us introduce the meat-eaters among you to BBQ Box, the UAE's first delivery service for not just organic beef patties, but everything else you need for a bona fide burger feast.
Much like the food itself, the premise behind BBQ Box is refreshingly simple and the key is in the details. Those all-important patties are made from grass-fed, free-range beef carefully sourced from family-run farms in Australia, and the organic meat is ground fresh in the UAE. When it comes to delivery, the raw burgers are safely packed into reusable and fully insulated cooler bags alongside all the accompaniments one could wish for: fluffy potato buns, generous slices of aged Cheddar cheese, crisp pickles and onions, crunchy lettuce, juicy tomatoes and an array of condiments (the Messy Sauce is our go-to).
The BBQ Boxes come in three sizes with six, 12 and 18 burgers, and orders can be placed online, by phone or via What’s App for same-day delivery throughout the UAE.
Les Gastronomes for the inquisitive eater
The idea for Les Gastronomes came about, as the best plans often do, almost by chance. After hosting a barbecue for friends and family, Stephanie Tavitian and Michel Karkour were inundated with questions from their guests regarding where they sourced the fantastic meat from and how others could get their hands on it. These enquiries set the couple off on a mission to find the highest quality meat available in the UAE and they quickly began to suspect that there was an appetite for this to become a viable business venture.
The Les Gastronomes website launched in 2016 and now has more than 500 active customers. The platform itself is a digital Aladdin’s cave of high-end fresh produce, luxury groceries and pantry items, from the finest French chocolate, select cold cuts, fantastic cheeses, and artisan olive oils, vinegars and mustards, to the option to order ready-to-cook beef Wellington, salmon en croute, and premium fresh fish that includes wild seabass, Dover sole, turbot, John Dory and more.
Les Gastronomes was born out of an appreciation for great meat, though, and this remains at the core of its offering. The Butcher’s section of the website, and the beef range in particular, reads (and tastes) like a who’s who of great producers and high-quality cuts, thanks to gorgeously marbled cote de boeuf, majestic-looking bone-in tomahawk steak, award-winning Wagyu and Black Angus tenderloin, striploin, and rib-eye and hanger steaks.
For the ultimate in at-home gourmet-meat-eating, Les Gastronomes has a steak tasting pack that will make your next dinner party - or indeed Tuesday night – memorable.
The Striploin Experience features four or five types of the same cut, from grass-fed Argentinean beef to Australian Wagyu, the idea being that this gives the customer the chance to sample a range of products all at once, while also widening their knowledge and appreciation. The experts at Les Gastronomes recommend conducting a blind tasting, with everyone scoring the meat on colour, texture, marbling, flavour and tenderness. Not only should this lead to a fun, interactive and tasty meal, but also the next time you’re in a steak house, you’ll know exactly what to order and why.
Les Gastronomes delivers daily across Dubai, on Mondays and Wednesdays in Abu Dhabi, and on Sundays in Sharjah.