While the French fine dining landscape of Dubai has largely revolved around La Petite Maison, it’s refreshing to see French cuisine undergoing a resurgence in recent months with new ventures Le Cirque and Pierre’s Bar and Bistro.
Pierre’s is the second new outlet to open at the Intercontinental Festival City in as many months, following hot on the heels of seafood speciality spot The Fish House. This five-star hotel has picked a sensible time to revamp their F&B offerings and with all eyes drawn to the Dubai Creek ahead of Expo 2020, the area is set to become the new heart of the city with the arrival of ‘The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour’ – a structure looking to unsurp the Burj Khalifa for the title of the world’s tallest building.
Previously Reflets, Pierre’s with its ideal waterfront location on the Festival City Promenade may have undergone a name change and extensive refurbishment but the man at the helm remains the same – boundary pushing French Chef Pierre Gagnaire.
Gagnaire is renowned for three Michelin stars in his native France, alongside ownership of the Pierre Gagnaire Restaurant in Paris and his position as head Chef of Sketch in London’s Mayfair. Gagnaire’s style is distinctly fusion and is defined by the contrasting compositions of his plates, in terms of both textures and flavours. In fact it was the artfully plated dishes featured on the restaurants Instagram page that first piqued our interest in Pierre’s.
We’d never visited the restaurant under its previous guise but Pierre’s is certainly a space offering immediate appeal. Verdant foliage, bronze accents and floral prints help to showcase a feeling we can only really describe as ‘Miami Vice-esque.’ This sense of tropicality is accentuated by stuffed cockatiels, a large bronze tortoise and an expansive outside terrace, ideally positioned to provide particularly good views of the sound and light show that takes place in Festival Bay every 30 minutes during the evenings.
Despite the evident appeal of the terrace and dining room, we find ourselves lingering on the high tables in the bar enjoying beautifully crafted cocktails before sitting down to dine. So often restaurant bars feel like an after thought, a place to push guests after dinner when tables need to be turned, but here at Pierre’s the bar is a focal part of the dining experience and a place where diners are encouraged to linger pre or post dinner.
With Gagnaire renowned for fusion, a glance at the menu is an immediate reflection of his style. Laid out in both French and English the ingredients are notably French, as are some of the signature dishes, but there’s also a strong Italian element to the cuisine especially when it comes to desserts.
The bread, freshly baked in house sets us off on a winning start and we’re immediately drawn to the crudo (raw) bar from which we select a mixed tuna and beef tataki. The raw proteins come presented on a crisp rice base that doesn’t reinvent the tataki but represents good flavours that perhaps belies the fine dining setting. Similarly, the white pizza we’re encouraged to order by our keen waiter, is perhaps not the best choice of a signature dish for a chef defined by his boundary-pushing cuisine. The pizza is wonderfully cheesy but the base has caught in the oven, resulting in a burnt dough and is not something we would rush to order again.
Divisive in nature the burrata is not as one might expect. Offering a deconstructed version of the typical burrata cheese with heirloom tomatoes, Gagnaire has turned the cheese into an ice cream floating within a tomato gazpacho soup that makes for an impressive reinterpretation, albeit one that has the potential to upset purists (we enjoyed the playfulness of the dish, our dining companion did not). One thing remains throughout the Pierre’s experience – you can’t fault the sheer ambition on display.
Thhe Gambas de Madagascar represent a spectacular dish of Madagascan prawns served with a crisp black bread, preserved lemon and spinach, smoked inside a glass bell jar. All too often the smoking process overpowers the flavours of the food, especially with more delicate ingredients like shellfish, but here at Pierre’s the smokiness adds a subtle depth to the prawns which we truly appreciated. Although the vast dollop of chilli ketchup placed on top is wholly unnecessary and actually detracts from the subtleties of the dish.
Main courses continue the pattern of mild frustration. The typically French dish of frogs legs are served with a delightful parsley sauce, and although it’s always going to be hard work for little reward when it comes to separating the meat from the minuscule bones, the flavours from the amphibian are good. It’s just a shame the bread crumb coating is so heavy.
With the novelty of a pork license, the lacquered pork belly reads like a dream and represents a dish we’re truly excited for. Served with a cranberry sorbet to counter the heaviness of the meat, the result is overcooked meat with an excellent crackling. The addition of raw duck foie gras and beetroot work to harmonize the plate and we can see real potential should more attention have been given to the meat itself.
Desserts are perhaps the strongest elements of the dining experience with the Apple tart Reflets making it’s way over to the new restaurant. While the lemon cake soaked with yuzu comes across sugary sweet as opposed to the expected tartness, the Guanaja chocolate biscuit soufflé is a real winner. Served with pistachio parfait, caramelized hazelnuts and a bitter chocolate ganache, our waiter informs us it was this particular dessert that helped Gagnaire achieve his first Michelin Star. It’s easy to see why, with the indulgent dessert seemingly designed for chocoholics – gorgeously runny and packed with surprise popping candy – it’s likely to evoke a sense of childhood nostalgia for many.
With a beautiful fit out that makes for an ideal date night venue, Pierre’s shows so much promise. The concept is genuinely exciting and the plating impressive but the execution at times disappoints. Service is the saving grace of the night, attentive, knowledgeable and empathetic and the defining factor in our consideration of a return visit.
Out & About UAE were guests of Pierre’s Bar & Bistro. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.