Maine is a venue that keeps you guessing right up until you step through its doors. The restaurant breaks every promotional rule with a concealed entrance in the Hilton’s loading bay that doesn’t shout about the chic brasserie with beach views that lies beyond. The understated, urban-cool facade would seem to capture the essence of the place which is successfully carving out an alternative niche for itself in Dubai.
Maine’s Friday offering is brunch, but not as we know it. In fact, it’s the smartest idea a restaurant has had in a long time. The concept is simple; everything is à la carte, meaning you only pay for what you eat. While unlimited drink packages range from Dh250 to Dh350.
As you might expect, Maine takes its oysters very seriously. From the raw bar, my guest and I started with half a dozen of the Fine de Claire, which were beautifully plump and juicy with a hint of saltiness. We promptly polished them off with a selection of mignonettes, fresh horseradish, lemon and Tabasco. For connoisseurs, the array of oysters on the menu was prodigious with Jersey’s, Princess de Kermancy’s and Umami’s also available.
We sampled some house speciality appetisers too, including a fish taco of crisp battered cod, covered in a Mexican pico de gallo wrapped in a soft tortilla. Equally pleasing, a traditional Maine lobster roll with homemade potato crisps. The far-and-away standout for me, however, was the chargrilled octopus. Tenderised and succulent, it was drizzled with a herb-infused butter, dotted with capers and sweet cherry tomatoes.
For mains, my companion loved the ‘Catch of the Day’ sea bass which flaked off the bone and retained a sweet smokiness from the grill. While my steaming bowl of Spanish mussels in a gorgeously garlicky marinière sauce was first-rate.
On the pud front, it was quickly apparent why Maine’s Rocky Road Brownie -served in a pot with a warm gooey centre — was a best-seller. And keeping things light and zesty, the Key Lime Pie with its silky meringue and Chantilly cream, left us wanting seconds.
Who is it best for?
Pretty much all sorts, apart for those looking for an all-you-can-eat party brunch where the emphasis is on the drinks and not the food.
The crowd, in general, is a trendy one, with the relaxed locale lending itself to both dressing up and dressing down. Families seemed at ease too, due in great part, to the attentive, good-humoured staff. And while seafood fans will be spoilt for choice at Maine, there are also steaks, chops and pot roast catering for other tastes.
A big thumbs up. Maine is an unpretentious, gimmick-free restaurant with great food at affordable prices. Time to make molluscs Monday’s, Tilapia Thursday’s and seafood Saturday’s part of my new routine.
• The weekend brunch is on Friday and Saturdays from 12pm-4pm. Packages are priced from Dh250-350. Ground floor, The DoubleTree by Hilton JBR, Dubai. Call 044576719. www.themaine.ae
The National was a guest of the venue.