Finding a completely original niche is a difficult task on Dubai’s ever-expanding dining scene. Yet Copper Dog has done just this. A gastro pub that brings hearty Scottish food to the beachfront at Jumeriah Beach Residences.
Entering via the car park (a bizarre notion in itself), the entranceway perfectly sets the tone. Potted plants and twinkling fairy lights lead the way across cobblestones towards a sign. Emblazoned across a wooden whisky cask are the words “Copper Dog, Craigellachie, Speyside.” We ponder these words and wonder if we’re in the highlands of bonnie Scotland or the sun-kissed shores of Dubai? In truth it’s an amalgamation of the two, for Copper Dog is a brick-by-brick replication of the original Scottish property.
Copper Dog Dubai is brought to us by London nightlife mogul, Piers Adams. The man behind the tiki inspired Mahiki and futuristic Japanese eatery Ramusake, both of which have been successfully transplanted from London. But why a Scottish boozer we wonder? Apparently there’s nowhere else currently offering Scottish cuisine and premium whiskeys in Dubai and with diners on the lookout for something new and unique – why not?
Having visited Scotland but never the original property that operates out of the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, we were immediately enamoured by Copper Dogs rustic charm. Wooden floors, leather chairs, protruding antlers and a sparing use of tartan all vie for attention upon entering the dimly lit bar. The left wall is flanked by a sleek and lengthy copper bar, while to the right. A collection of premium whiskeys line the walls, proudly illuminated as if they’re sporting trophies. Before the space opens out into a lounge area, complete with mustached hipsters tapping away incessantly on their Apple Macs.
Forming a t-shape, the left section branches out to a small outside terrace with beautiful ocean views (something we’re sure weren’t featured in the original Scottish properly). While to the right, we enter the ramshackle dining room that is quite possibly the most authentic version of a British pub that we’ve experienced in the Middle East.
The reason for this is attention to detail. With much of the building materials being sourced directly from the highlands of Scotland. The granite stonework and pitch pine panelling (made from traditional distillery equipment) complement the authenticity of the dram glasses, which have been specially imported from the North East of Scotland for Copper Dog Dubai.
The beverages are typical pub fare and include a good selection of craft beers, wines and the inevitable whiskeys. We decided to opt for cocktails and despite a menu not being in place yet, the staff dutifully mixed us some interesting Scottish-nspired concoctions. We begin with the Smokey Amaretto Sour, a wonderful blend of whiskey, amaretto, lemon juice, bitters, cherry liquor and frothed egg whites and a drink we likely would’ve ordered had we been given access to a menu. Fortunately we were also presented with the Caberfeidh. A typically British blend of gin, rhubarb liquor, elderflower, dandelion bitters, lemon juice and egg white. Like a meadow of Scottish wildflowers rolled into a mixologists dream, the unique taste of the dandelion and rhubarb really shone through and undercut the subtleties of the elderflower and adorned with a design of stags antlers, this should become Copper Dog’s signature drink.
Showcasing Britain’s North Eastern cuisine, we truly appreciated the concise nature of the menu. The short list of dishes relies heavily on seasonal ingridients and acts as a showcase for some of Scotland’s finest produce, such as Sutherland’s of Portsoy smoked salmon or the Aberdeen Angus beef. The appetizers boast of soup, Scotch eggs and chicken livers pate with pickled cherries. Despite the appeal of the goats cheese, quinoa and beetroot salad, we eventually settle on the more traditional Steak Tartare.
Much like sushi, steak tartare is one of those dishes that is likely to divide people. A dish of raw beef mince combined with herbs and onions and originally served with tartare sauce (hence the name). The steak tartare at Copper Dogg is packed full of flavour and works wonders spread across the accompanying sour dough bread.
Our dining companion opted for the Seared Scallops, intricately plated on a bed of parsnip puree and pickled apple. The scallops were the highlight of the dish, for their delicate nature and the textures of creamy parsnip and a hint of mild acidity from the apple, really helped to balance out this near-perfect dish.
When it comes to main courses, pub grub staples reign supreme. Featuring steak and ale pie, fish and chips, pan seared salmon and the copper burger. These dishes are synonymous with the British pub and it’s nice to have them on the menu, even in their more upmarket form. Though knowing we should order the traditional Scottish staple of Haggis, neeps and tatties, we instead deviate past the variety of steak options and settle on the Braised Angus Beef Cheek.
The beef cheek arrives in a deep bowl, rimmed in blue. The tender cheek sits proud in the centre and the meat easily flakes away with our fork. Nicely seasoned, the texture of the beef may be superb but it’s the rich sauce that really brings this dish together. Full of deep flavour, this sauce is the definition of ‘hearty winter warmer’ and is exactly the kind of dish we would be eating in the UK at this time of the year. The dish reminds us of the festive season and with the Skirlie mash (a traditional Scottish dish of oatmeal fried with onion and potatoes) on hand to mop up all those juices, the crunch from the al dente broccolini really helps to round out an exemplary dish.
The Whole Grilled Sea Bass was another impressive addition to the menu with the fish being of a very good size. The sea bass comes without sides, so ensure to order something from the selection of fries, portobello mushrooms, salads, mash and buttered thumps (a dish of potato, onions and cabbage, similar to the English Bubble and Squeak) to pair with your fish. The fish (despite not being filleted )was easy enough to tackle and the flesh easily slid off the bones.
The desserts at Copper Dog continue the strengths set out by the savory dishes but be aware that many of them contain alcohol and are very boozy. The Cranachan Cheesecake takes the traditional Cranachan (a Scottish trifle) and turns it into something altogether unique. Deconstructing the trifle and reforming it into a cheesecake of oats, cream, whisky and raspberries is a bold move and one that pays of admirably. The cheesecake is another beautiful plate that shows that the art of good presentation can often revolve around simplicity and those yellow drops are in fact made from whiskey and act as the perfect balance to the sweetness of the cheesecake.
Boozier still is the Sticky Toffee Pudding. soaked in alcohol and served with a prune ice cream, it’s another dish that reminded us of cold winter nights in the UK. There’s something altogether homely about this dish and cutting it open to reveal yet more whiskey, this may have been our favourite item on the menu. Sticky toffee pudding can often suffer from being overly stodgy and particularly heavy but this is not the case at Copper Dog in large part due to the moisture provided from the alcohol.
Staff were attentive, though it would’ve been nice to receive an explanation regarding the the concept, especially since there is so much of interest regarding the creation of the space and the history of the brand. Aside from this minor issue, the service style was friendly, unobtrusive and altogether efficient. We also appreciated the jovial nature of proceedings, especially when the bill arrives in a leather wallet embossed with the words ‘the damage.’
Copper Dog is a welcome addition to the repertoire of restaurants at the Double Tree Hilton at Jumeriah Beach Residence. Fitting in well amongst the popular nightlife spot Ramusake, hip bar Stereo Arcade and the Arabic inspired eatery Al Maeda. The advantage of Copper Dog is that it’s bringing something completely unique to the the UAE dining scene and the hearty selection of upscale pub grub has certainly got us in the spirit for the upcoming festive season.
Copper Dogg succeeds in boasting a rustic charm that is far removed from its beachfront location and though there are no lochs or caber tossing to be found for thousands of kilometers, Copper Dogg does manage to evoke the feeling of a Scottish highland hide away. The demographic seems to be aimed a little higher than the Dubai norm, attracting a crowd of thirty-something professionals, that made us feel right at home.
With a number of daily promotions including roast dinners on the weekends, ‘copper ladies’ ladies night on a Tuesday (free-flowing grape from 8pm- 11pm), a Friday Brunch and daily happy hour from 4pm – 8pm (with drinks starting at 30 AED). We wholeheartedly agree with Copper Dog’s marketing team who proudly proclaim “Welcome to your new local!”
We were invited to dine at Copper Dog. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.