Turkish has become the new food trend that may unsurp Peruvian as the cuisine of the moment and when a new restaurant opens from the team behind Coya, Nusr-Et and Zuma, it’s inevitably the hottest ticket in town.
Rüya situated in tower one at Dubai Marina’s Grosvenor House hotel has a lot to live up to. Not only in terms of brand recognition but the fact that the food comes to us from head Chef Colin Clague (Burj Al Arab, Jean Georges Dubai and Zuma).
The name of the restaurant translates as ‘dream’ in Turkish but our initial experience is more of a nightmare. We call to make a reservation for Saturday brunch which is eagerly confirmed by the staff and re-confirmed on the day via a phone call. Having heard overwhelmingly positive things about the restaurant we settled on Rüya as a place to meet guests from the UK who were in town for the weekend and keen to brunch.
Driving up from Abu Dhabi we arrive at Rüya only to be informed that Saturday brunch was cancelled a number of weeks ago! We explain our confirmation call that very morning, only to be shown a piece of paper with our reservation on and the words “does this customer know we don’t do Saturday brunch?” Obviously NOT! Despite numerous points of contact with the team at Rüya the message has not been conveyed to the customer who has driven 130km to dine at your establishment. The hostess tried her best to appease our unhappy party but with little support from management, we left and ended up at the Anantara instead.
A complaint email to Rüya seemed appropriate and we find ourselves back again two weeks later (this time on a Friday) to sample the much-hyped Kahvalti Brunch. Not wanting to cloud our judgement, we try to keep an open mind, but a severe lack of customer service prevails and detracts from the Rüya experience a second time around.
The service from the team of keen young waiters dressed in oversized tunics and baggy fisherman’s pants is not the problem here, it’s a lack of information. For an established brunch, we’re given no menus, no explanations and no idea of what is (and isn’t included). Plates soon begin to descend on the table with little room for maneuvering and with it being a rare windy day in Dubai, all diners are enclosed within the lounge area. A space which certainly looks the part but isn’t really designed for comfortable eating, with the tables too low and the seats reclined a little bit too far.
When we finally get hold of the menu, we’re still none the wiser. Plates from all over the menu arrive in no particular order and with no signs of pacing. It’s not until much later in the meal that we stumble upon a buffet counter stacked full of salads, raw fish dishes, cured meats and an abundance of cheese. It’s a real shame that guests are not directed towards these items by the staff and due to the unclear pacing of the meal we end up stuffed and don’t even order any of the main courses. A real shame, as we’ve heard wonderful things regarding the Keskek barley risotto with pulled lamb and the Rib-eye steak certainly looked the part.
The problem at Rüya comes from a lack of order, which is strange coming from the team behind Zuma, a restaurant known for providing an exemplary customer experience. It’s a real shame as the enormous restaurant space is an appealing one and continues the high quality aesthetics recently displayed by the likes of Aji, BU and Carnival. The restaurant is divided into a number of dining areas, each housing a distinctly different decor in a bid to recreate Istanbul’s Çiçek Pasajı, a historic passage of cafes and restaurants where people have gathered to eat and socilaise for hundreds of years. A central show kitchen adds an elements of interactivity and a terrace offers spectacular views over the waterways of Dubai Marina. It should also be noted that the food is very good and the team at Rüya have done an admirable job of turning kebabs, grills and breads into a fine dining approach, complete with immaculate presentation.
The food is a hybrid of East meets West, where age-old traditions blend with modernity and in turn, offer diners some spectacular creations. On a menu offering three kinds of eggs, slow cooked, poached or as a traditional Menemen. The latter (a traditional Turkish scrambled egg) excels, served within the shell you’ll find a light mixture of vegetables topped with a crumbling of feta cheese.
Moving away from the eggs, our highlights were the Cig Kofta, a beef tartare with bulgar and radish wrapped up in baby gem lettuce leaves, the Turkish Mussels stuffed with herbs and breadcrumbs and the Two Cheese Pide. A Turkish flatbread doused in melted butter, cheese and topped with a slow cooked egg, where the yolk is pierced and spread over this baked delight.
The ‘fried’ section of the menu is where you’ll find the weaker dishes, a crispy whitebait and Simit coasted calamari failed to hit the mark, though the Feta Borek with walnut and zucchini was fantastic. The grills are succulent in nature and indicative of Anatolian cuisine, offering plump chicken wings marinated in spices and served on skewers and our favourite Iskender Kebab, coated a rich tomato sauce and yogurt.
Desserts can all be found on a small buffet that features Turkish Delight (the rose is likely the best we’ve had in Dubai) and a varierty of small plated sweets treats. A sorbet served inside a hollowed-out orange with whisps of candy floss was certainly striking but looked more like president Donald Trump than something we wanted to eat.
The brunch at Ruya is ideal for sharing with a group of friends and the sheer amount of food will cause even the most seasoned of brunchers to struggle. The Kahvalti Brunch takes the concept of brunching back to its roots by catering to the breakfast crowd with a good selection of egg based dishes, apple tea and the traditional Turkish Coffee.
Would we return to Ruya? There’s little doubt that the food is good, as are the beautifully designed interiors, but until the customer experience is refined, we’re in no hurry to rush back. With so many exciting dining prospects popping up almost daily in Dubai, it’s difficult to forgive such a frustrating customer experience.
We were invited to dine at Ruya. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, with the exception of two images used courtesy of Ruya.