We’ve become really spoilt when it comes to fine dining options in Dubai. A city of five-star hotels specialising in the most luxurious of experiences and cuisines, we can think of no better representation of this ethos than the high-end dining enclave of DIFC.
Call it the Canary Wharf of Dubai, but Dubai International Financial Centre is the place where vast amounts of money are made and spent in the city and with the bar being set so high by brands like Zuma and Gaucho, DIFC has become a very competitive marketplace when it comes to dining, and one where expectations are at an all-time high.
The relatively new Le Cirque in the Ritz Carlton DIFC should require little introduction. As the Middle Eastern outpost of the iconic New York restaurant opened by entrepreneur Sirio Maccioni in 1974. Le Cirque translates as ‘the circus’ in French and although the approach is more sophisticated than their colourful casual sister restaurant Circo in Abu Dhabi, elements of the big top experience still remain.
Situated in the far left corner of the Ritz Carlton DIFC”s mezzanine level, a pair of sleek red curtains mark the entrance to Le Cirque, Stepping inside, we’re immediately taken aback by just how pleasing the space is, for Le Cirque is a relatively small restaurant featuring a colour scheme of brilliant white and subtle grey that reminds us of freshly fallen snow. On first impressions, Le Cirque feels VERY fine dining, with perfectly ironed table linen, immaculate glassware and precisely positioned cutlery. The intricacies of the table set-up are admirably reflected in the proficient and (surprisingly) subtle service style, fronted by head sommelier Gregg Lambert, our ringmaster for the day.
Le Cirque’s cuisine is described as ‘French fare with signature Italian influences’ and it’s this simplicity and a strong focus on the finest seasonal ingredients that make dining at Le Cirque such a pleasure. Opting for the Chef’s selection during our Saturday lunch, we’re able to deter ourselves away from the staple items of burrata, carpaccio and tartare that we would have otherwise knowingly selected.
Things begin with Pois Sucre (AED 65) a relatively simple and altogether moreish sugar snap salad mixed with feta, avocado, puffed quinoa and a mustard dressing. Daintily presented, this healthy starter offers an unexpected ‘bite’ in terms of texture with each individual ingredient complementing each other well.
The Noix De St. Jacques (AED 100) is a dish we’ll never forget and one that immediately jumps to the top of the list of best things we’ve eaten in the UAE this year (no mean feat considering we’ve dined at close to 150 restaurants in 2017). The scorched scallop is beautifully plated upon a black canvas with a striking swathe of orange from the sweet potato puree and pops of colour from a garnish of edible flowers. A meticulously constructed dish, the addition of a warm coconut and ginger creme works to harmonise the flavours of the plate into something altogether remarkable.
We could smell the powerful aroma of garlic prior to the arrival of the Escargots A La Bourguignonne (AED 90) and while confit snails may perturb some diners, we think they are one of the strongest selling points of Le Cirque. With the correct tools (tongs and a snail fork) required to alleviate these gastropods from their shells, the taste is the ideal reward for all the hard work. Dipped in the enticing garlic and herb butter and slathered across a slice of freshly baked bread, there’s a faint peppery aftertaste that may be accentuated further by a subtle white wine and the escargots at Le Cirque represent the epitome of French fine dining.
Our Chef’s menu completely disregards the pasta options available and instead brings us straight into the main courses, where we’re treated to a golden chicken breast served against a backdrop of mashed potato, peas and white asparagus tips. The moist and well-seasoned chicken makes for a pleasing plate but we do wish there was perhaps a little bit more mashed potato. The Veal Risotto is also a highlight, with the tender meat sliding away at the mere touch of a knife. The rich meat works inexplicably well against the al dente risotto where peas once again take dominance.
With the arrival of the desserts, it’s apparent there are no weak links in the dining experience at Le Cirque, and with the atmosphere kept jovial thanks to a pianist playing everything from classical, to Beyonce and Despacito, it would seem this restaurant is one of the few in the city to offer the entire package. We end the meal with Le Cirque’s signature Creme Brulee (AED 50), gloriously eggy and provided the pleasing ‘crack’ as the spoon passes through the vanilla burnt sugar. It’s a strong dessert and for those diners looking to learn the recipe (which originated at the New York location), it’s revealed on the bottom of the serving dish once you’ve finished.
Similarly, the Paris Brest (AED 55) hits a sweet note via a combination of choux pastry, almond praline and an addictive caramel ice cream, allowing the expertise of Le Cirque’s culinary team to shine through one final time.
We were invited to dine at Le Cirque. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Two interior images used courtesy of Le Cirque.