Restaurant review: Weslodge’s cool Canadian vibe reflects on both decor and dishes

While the food is not at all terrible, the interior design is probably the most remarkable factor at work here.

The stylish interior of Weslodge restaurant in Dubai. Courtesy Weslodge
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It might seem like an obvious part of making a restaurant seem “genuine” but how often, when an international brand launches in the UAE, does it fail to actually make the new outpost feel anything like its country of origin?

It goes without saying that this is often not helped by the fact that the staff – usually, you suspect, as a result of lack of training – have little or no prior knowledge of the brand.

So when our server at the Dubai incarnation of Weslodge, a chain that debuted in Toronto in 2012, turned out to be a hip young Canadian woman with the demeanour of a smarter, nicer Miley Cyrus, while rocking a north-of-the-border drawl, it upped the authenticity levels before even ordering.

The decor at the spectacular restaurant, on the 68th floor of the J W Marriott Marquis Hotel, does not do Weslodge any harm, either. Indeed, while the food is not at all terrible, the interior design is probably the most remarkable factor at work here.

Pitching itself as a “casually refined saloon”, the restaurant is full of quirky art (take the sizeable painting of a stag in hunting garb on display outside the bathrooms) and brash curios (a longhorn skull) that combine to make it welcoming and a tad weird at the same time.

But what of the food? If you go to Weslodge and don’t try the lobster poutine, you will be doing everybody involved a huge disservice.

Whether actual cheese curds are involved was hard to determine, and at Dh100 it’s not a cheap bite, but as a starter from the “Small” section of the menu, it kept up the Canadian end of the bargain with filling flair.

My Italian dining partner, meanwhile, was tempted by the burrata options – and her spiced squash variant, with truffle red-onion jam and grilled bread, felt decadent yet somehow wholesome.

The mains were perhaps the least notable selections of the evening. There was no knocking the quantity of my monster-proportioned braised short rib with carrot and horseradish, but the meat proved a mite chewy.

The whole branzino (also known as European sea bass) with jalapeño relish fared slightly more favourably. It was undoubtedly less intimidatingly sized, with decently flaky white flesh. The overall effect, however, was more “not bad” than anything to get you really excited on the level that Canadians might reserve for Tim Hortons and ice hockey.

The frozen Nanaimo bar was a nod to the British Columbian city, but it felt more like straight-up British. Billed as a coconut-and-chocolate crunch with vanilla ice cream, broadly speaking you will know what to expect if you have ever tasted a Feast ice-cream bar from British frozen-food brand Wall’s.

The PB and J, perhaps unsurprisingly given that name, had a much more tangible North American angle, with a molten peanut butter cake and blueberry ice cream atop a similarly flavoured jam (sorry, “jelly”) and dusted with a peanut crumble.

The taste, though, was an amalgam that assaulted the mouth from every angle, and ended up as a melange that was just too much to take in without gagging a little.

I am informed by a Canadian colleague that this Weslodge pushes the chain’s saloon vibe into hyperdrive in comparison with the Toronto location – well, it is in Dubai, after all.

And while it definitely warrants a visit for the imaginative menu, it is the inspiration that has gone into the interior that creates the longest-lasting impression. Visit for the food, then, but stay for the atmosphere.

Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito

• Our meal for two at Weslodge, J W Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, cost Dh708. For more information, call 04 560 1700.