Yet another licensed restaurant has popped up at the bottom of the Armada Bluebay Hotel in Cluster P of JLT. And this time I’m in love. ♥
You know when you just have that feeling? I just knew I’d love Cocktail Kitchen from the first time I heard the name. One look at their drinks sealed the deal. And one taste had me swooning. (Granted I had come straight from cooking with Tom Aikens…)
This place is so on point. From the funky entrance and sleek interiors to the cleverly worded menu and minimalistic logo.
The moment you walk through the door, you feel like you’ve left Dubai and arrived at a slick European cocktail bar, minus the hunky blond barman.
Cocktail Kitchen continues the trend of unique dining concepts that blends gastronomy with experiences – in this case, mixology. The venue comprises several distinct spaces, including an enclosed terrace which is bright and sunlit, interior seating, the second longest bar in Dubai, and a separate room for events and masterclasses.
They also have a “Tasting Table” where you can get a mini, semi-private lesson in mixology. Pull up a chair, pick your poison (they recommend vermouth), choose your ingredients and customise your own stiff drink.
When it comes to drinks, Cocktail Kitchen eschews the common and opts for high-end ingredients, creative combinations and artistic flair. From the range of premium sodas and mixers (such as Fever Tree and Fentimans) to organic juices from James White to the upmarket flavour-enhancing Droplets by Javier de las Muelas to the personal soda siphons. If you want a Coke or Pepsi product, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere!
But when the drinks are this good, it would be an insult to ask for a run-of-the-mill fizzy drink. I visited a week before the arrival of the liquor license, so it was mocktails all the way. Gorgeously hand-crafted mocktails, mind you, made with droplets, essences and ♥. And how I do ♥ these mocktails.
In the fore is the “Someone That I Yuzu Know” – yuzu, grapefruit, wild elderflower, egg white and soda water. In the back is my personal favourite, the “Autumn Reminder” – maple, pumpkin, lapsang souchang tea, citrus and oak smoke infusion. They torched the cinnamon stick and dried apple at the table for extra dramatic effect.
In addition to the mocktails, they offer designer sodas using Thorncroft cordials, which are a bit sweeter than the mocktails. In front is the “He’s a Fun Guy” – Thorncroft kombucha cordial Paoletti Chinotto, dragon fruit, kiwi and yuzu. In the back is the “Pain in the Grass” – Thorncroft wild nettle cordial, Qucumber soda, frash basil, cucumber and lime leaves.
The food is just as creative and beautifully presented. Below is the funkiest grissini I’ve ever seen.
In case you haven’t gathered, the menu writer also has a sense of humour – the bar snacks are called “Nibble before you dribble.” We started with Olive Ascolane, a dish I’ve never come across before. I assumed this was a pun I just didn’t understand, but turns out these fried green olives stuffed with minced meat and spices is a popular snack from the Italian town of Ascoli Piceno.
Our next snack was a simple but delicious fig and blue cheese bruschetta.
For starters, a colourful plate of beef carpaccio with caper berries, parmesan, balsamic emulsion and baby beetroot chips.
The grilled squid with violet potatoes, parsley puree, and lemon bagna cauda sauce was also almost too pretty to eat and mixed a variety of colours, flavours and textures.
One of my favourite dishes was the Ricard salmon with roasted fennel, potatoes, chard onions and anisette sauce which I had as my main, as I was in the mood for something light. This anise-flavoured dish is normally made with Ricard pastis, but on this occasion it was alcohol-free. I love anise and fennel and it worked well with the salmon – subtle and simple, yet different. Plus I love me a good espuma.
Mr. S had the Bloody Mary Beef – a whole short rib, noisette potatoes and vegetables. This looks like a hearty man’s dish – and so it was. Mr. S pretty much inhaled it and I only managed to taste one small bite – which was amazing.
The dessert menu is small, so we ordered a tiramisu. The decorated plate came first, sans tiramisu, and our waiter Elmar almost tricked us into thinking the plate under the tiramisu was the entire (minimalistic) dessert! (Perhaps he’s the man behind the “Nibble before you dribble”?) Thank goodness it wasn’t, as the tiramisu was superb. Wet, liquidy and moreish – and so much tastier than most heavy, dry tiramisu I’ve eaten lately.
I’m a sucker for lavender and couldn’t resist ordering the “You’re the Cream in my Coffee” – coffee, orange blossom, light cream and lavender – to cap off my lovely meal. It was too late in the day for me to have coffee, and turns out I couldn’t sleep that night, but it was totally worth it.
Verdict: Killer mocktails, gorgeous food. And I bet their cocktails aren’t bad either! This is a place for worldly folk with discerning tastebuds. They’re starting an a la carte brunch in March so head over to JLT for your tipple (and a nibble) on a Friday or Saturday afternoon.
Note to self: One of my faves! Time for another trip now that they’ve got their liquor licence. Brunch anyone?
Armada Bluebay Hotel, Cluster P
Jumeirah Lake Towers
Tel: 056 828 0727
Chow for now!