As Abu Dhabi residents we don’t often make it across the Creek to Dubai’s Festival City. Yet the opening of The Fish House at the five-star Intercontinental Festival City brought us to a part of town usually only reserved for desperate trips to Ikea.
Perched at the waters edge the Intercontinental seems to be the perfect fit for a seafood themed restaurant and with the property having undergone an extensive period of resurgence in the recent months, The Fish House is the first new outlet to open, taking over the space previously occupied by Bistro Madeleine.
Situated on the festival promenade and accessed via an escalator from the hotel lobby, The Fish House’s interiors represent everything we want from a restaurant. A bright and open space revolving around a central fresh fish market, where a selection of locally sourced seafood is presented on glistening beds of ice. The interiors contain many elements we could easily see making it into our future dream home — turquoise leather chairs, tiled table-tops and flooring resembling fish scales — all adding to the seafood thematics without crossing over into overly nautical territory. Shoals of bronze fish traverse the back walls, while an overhead grating gives the impression of fishing nets.
Blackboards indicate the catch sourced daily from the fish market in Deira and the price point (which is more than reasonable), and like our recent review of The Copper Lobster in Fujairah, it’s pleasing to see the restaurant taking responsibility for a sustainable approach in sourcing its fish.
Our meal begins with whitebait and tahini remoulade, with tahini the apparent theme of the day (with the Middle Eastern sesame paste popping up in a variety of dishes throughout the menu). The whitebait arrives lightly battered and nicely seasoned and as a complimentary dish, it’s greatly appreciated as we peruse the menu. The presentation reminds us of one of the final scenes from Finding Nemo, with the whitebait upended as if swimming against the current. Appetisers comprise of oysters, seafood soups and a variety of mezze (the fish kibbeh looks especially interesting) and we ALMOST order the duck rillette which sounds very appealing, served with fig and walnut bread and a habanero mustard.
For the very fact The Fish House is a seafood concept draws us towards the signature Hot & Cold Tower (AED 595). A show-stopping three-tiered centrepiece containing some of the very best The Fish House has to offer. The tomato and pomegranate oysters make a welcome surprise to a product we usually have an aversion to. The salinity of the oyster offset by the acidity from the tomato and sweetness of the pomegranate provides us with a slight change of heart towards these particular mollusks. The scallops are unfortunately overcooked and there’s a disappointing denseness and elasticity to the usually delicate flesh, though a tropical mango salsa helps to redeem the dish somewhat.
Poached lobster, grilled king crab legs and the chickpea battered shrimp all impress with the latter being a particular highlight, incorporating Middle Eastern flavours into the mix. The pinnacle of the tower is a jumbo shrimp cocktail and while other reviews have resulted in divisive reactions towards the dish, we thoroughly enjoyed the Fish House’s modern take on the 1980s classic, slathered in a spicier than expected sauce that brings a robust flavour to the shrimp.
Of everything we indulged in The Charcoal Grilled Octopus (AED 70) would represent our ‘must order’ dish from this particular venue. The octopus is beautifully prepared and boasts the expected charred taste without overpowering the dish and presented on a bed of carrot hummus it’s a fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean that works exceptionally well.
Our main course is the restaurant’s signature Organic Salt Baked Sea Bass (AED 245) and the portion offered is easily enough for two people to share. Cooked upright, the salt baking allows the fish to retain its juices and seal in the flavour. Filleted table-side with precision by restaurant manager Ben Nicholas, the dish brings a theatrical element to the meal but the final result turn out to be a touch overcooked and unfortunately, comes nowhere close to the wonderful version of the dish we’d had a few weeks earlier at the Bulgari Hotel.
For a restaurant focusing on locally sourced ingredients and sustainability, we were a little surprised to see hammour listed on the menu, especially after so many seafood restaurants in the region have stopped selling the product. The grilled Royal Hammour Sayadieh (AED 105) lacked a little flavour but the spiced tomato sauce and sayadieh rice that are so prevalent in the region, really helped to elevate an otherwise average dish.
The small dessert selection makes for some of The Fish House’s strongest dishes and we adored the Double Fudge Brownie (AED 45) served with a peanut butter ice cream, caramel sauce and candied walnuts. Yet it was the Caramelized Pineapple Ravioli (AED 45) that won the day, impeccably plated, the pineapple forms the shell of a ravioli stuffed with date brulee and served alongside a sharp and zesty lime sorbet. It may sound like a dish with a lot going on but the flavours complement rather than compete and the invention is bound to impress.
A trip to The Fish House reminded us of The Atlantic and much like that popular seafood venue, the outside terrace offers dinner and a show in the from of the record-breaking light, water and fire show that graces the waters of Festival City each evening. Based on the seafood tower alone, we would be intrigued to return to The Fish House for their Fish & Chips. As British expats we’re still yet to find a good iteration of this quintessentially British dish and it certainly seemed to be a popular choice with other diners.
With the Intercontinental Festival City having undergone extensive F&B redevelopment, The Fish House marks the first of the properties new openings (Pierre’s Bistro & Bar has also recently opened) and judging by a very busy restaurant during our Thursday lunchtime visit, it would appear the word is well and truly out regarding The Fish House.
Location: Festival Bay Promenade, Intercontinental Festival City, Dubai Festival City
Social: Instagram / Facebook
Hours: 12pm – 3pm / 7pm – 11pm
Phone: +971 4 701 1127
Out & About UAE were guests of The Fish House. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.