Restaurant review: 'Hipster hangout' Distillery dishes up hearty gastropub fare

Good atmosphere, great food and sensible prices – this Downtown Dubai hangout ticks a lot of boxes

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Distillery is a speakeasy-style hangout with a focus on hearty food, which opened in June.

Where to sit and what to expect  

The restaurant ­caters both to those who want to have a nibble over a drink, and can chill at the bar or on one of the barrel tables with high stools, and to those who want to sit down to a wholesome dinner. It's not a massive space, which is a relief. So many sprawling restaurants open in the UAE that are unable to fill up, offering a subpar atmosphere as a result, but you won't go wrong with any of the tables in Distillery's main restaurant area.

Who's eating there 

The restaurant bills itself as a “hipster hangout”, but don’t let that put you off. We dined on a Sunday night, and were pleasantly surprised by how busy Distillery was and how varied the crowd. Located off Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, this is a convenient haunt for Downtown residents, so expect plenty of them to make this their new laid-back local. That said, it’s worth travelling for – so Dubai Marina dwellers and suburb residents should make the journey.

Distillery is now open in Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai. Courtesy Distillery 
Distillery is now open in Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai. Courtesy Distillery 

The menu  

The culinary offering at Distillery is pretty concentrated, but what it does, it does well. Under the small plates section of the menu are a range of hot and cold starters. The roasted bone marrow, sriracha baby octopus and peri-peri meatballs all pique my fancy, but my dining partner and I opt for a vegetarian option from the cold counter. We get the beetroot tartare – that is, if you can call a veg dish that’s not raw a tartare. Debates on the potential misnomer aside, the dish is delicious. Slow roasted cubes of beetroot comes served on avocado, golden beetroot caviar and crushed toasted cashew. It’s flavourful yet light and refreshing – an ideal appetiser for balmy evenings.

We have the beetroot with deep-fried potato skins, which arrive crunchy and seasoned with chimichurri salt and a Bloody Mary ketchup to dunk them in. A second bowl would not have gone amiss.

The mains menu is split into three sections: butcher’s block, sandwiches and simply mains. The first offers a range of Wagyu cuts and veal baby back spare ribs, while the sandwiches range from a tiger prawn roll and crab baos to toasted cheese with short rib. My companion opts for the bao buns, which are loaded with homemade kimchi, soft shell crab and spicy Sriracha mayo. I have to have to admit, I had severe food envy.

Luckily, I make a solid choice for my main with the roast chicken, which is juicy with an indulgent crispy skin, mashed potato, onions, spinach, wild mushrooms and beef bacon. If you’re looking for an alternative to a heavy Sunday roast, you will find it here.

There are three desserts to choose from: stout chocolate, pecan maple bacon cheesecake and citrus tart. The chocolate isn't available on the night we dine, so I take myself down the untravelled maple bacon culinary road – that particular sweet-savoury blend has just never appealed. But I eat my words along with every last piece of the maple-syrup-doused bacon. The cheesecake is made up of a crumbly biscuit base with a salted caramel sauce, topped with pecan crumble and bacon crisps – a well-executed sweet and salty flavour combination. My guest prefers the tart, a kalamansi (Philippine lime) tart, topped with yamamono berries and wild strawberries. It is has a sharp yet sweet kick, and is polished to the last crumb.

A chat with the chef  

Distillery's Chef Duayne de Waal. Courtesy Distillery 
Distillery's Chef Duayne de Waal. Courtesy Distillery 

The kitchen at Distillery is headed up by chef Duayne de Waal, who has previously worked as executive chef at the now-closed Atmosfire Barbeque Pit. “Prior to this, I was with the Grand Grill Steakhouse Group, operating seven outlets across different cuisines, nightclubs and cocktail bars,” he says. “I started my career in Dubai with Times and Sushi Times before moving on to The Meat Co in Madinat Jumeirah to open it, and then the Grand Grill.” When asked what makes Distillery stand out, he tells us it’s down to the “hand-picked beverages, artisanal blends and gastropub fare”.

Food-wise, chef Waal says the slow-braised beef short rib with quinoa madrouba is a highlight, because it’s “classic yet contemporary, the flavours have been inspired by a traditional Yemeni dish”. The restaurant also prides itself on the roasted marrow, which is served ­on ­­­the bone.

Price point and contact information 

The food menu is reasonably priced: starters range from Dh35 for potato skins to Dh70 for the roasted bone marrow. Mains start at Dh55 for the dual crab baos and go up to Dh180 for the Wagyu chuck flap. All the deserts cost Dh40.

Distillery is located in Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai and is open from 4pm to 2am, Sunday to Friday; and noon to 2am on Saturdays. Bookings can be made by calling 054 998 2003. Visit

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant.