Our first visit to Bluewaters Dubai and we could easily be mistaken for thinking we are in La Mer or CityWalk were it not for the Ain Dubai (the world’s largest ferris wheel) looming overhead. The latest venture in Meraas Holdings portfolio of lifestyle destinations is beautifully conceptualized but we cannot help but experience a slight sense of déjà vu on the offshore island which is now home to Caesars Palace’s first non-gaming resort and a slew of new dining destinations.
Our recent weekend visit reveals an area in transition with much of the development still shuttered up and very few of the retail units currently operational. This makes locating The London Project an easy task, for the split level venue is situated on a prominent corner plot directly underneath the aforementioned wheel (now rumored to begin spinning in 2020). Lush green vegetation marks the entrance into a multi-functional space that has an immediate likeability.
The London Projects ground floor is dedicated to cafe culture, with a podium already in place for a soon to be installed coffee roaster affectionally referred to as Queenie which will be adorned with a huge crown which currents hangs from the ceiling. The social space also features a chiseled portrait of Margaret Busby, Britain’s first black female book publisher, and a living tree that leads upstairs. Where in the canopy you’ll discover the gin garden…
It’s this distinct quirkiness that adds character to the space and the upstairs reveals a number of additional surprises including a podcast room and a private dining terrace which holds the best vantage point in the entire restaurant. With al fresco terraces on both levels, we slide into the only remaining outside table offering pleasant views over the beach at JBR and skydivers with their coloured parachutes drifting back down to earth.
The first thing we note as we peruse the menu is the pleasing Brit Pop soundtrack and the aroma of fish and chips that provide us with immediate nostalgic pangs for home. The concept is sharing style and the dishes, though not stereotypically British (you won’t find any toad in the hole or shepherds pie here) are said to draw inspiration from the flavours of London’s 32 boroughs.
The hodgepodge of dishes are akin to a trip to London’s Borough Market, a foodies paradise renowned for quality cuisine and the championing of locally sourced ingredients. This is why you’ll find dishes like a South Pacific-inspired Ika Mata Ceviche (AED 65) sitting beside Nordic Cured Salmon (AED 70) and Slow Cooked Lamb Bao (AED 75). We however begin with the Strawberry and Avocado Salad (AED 90), an artistic plate of spiralized cucumber, toasted macadamia nuts and avocado puree. Texturally the plate is impressive and the strawberries are undeniably sweet (we really should’ve asked where they’re sourced from as they are an absolute delight) but the salad is not sufficiently dressed and lacks depth.
By contrast the Pulled Beef Soft Shell Tacos (AED 70) are wonderful. Served in a purple potato tortilla and generously topped with black garlic mayonnaise, the braised beef has a slight saltiness that works to bring the plate together. The Heirloom Tomato Burrata (AED 75) is a dish we find it hard to resist on any menu, but the team at the London Project have managed to really elevate the Italian cheese via a smoked raspberry sorbet, a sprinkling of basil oil and an abundance of locally grown heirloom tomatoes. It’s a winning dish in terms of both flavour and presentation and the sweetness from the sorbet masterfully offsets the acidity of the tomatoes and works in conjunction with the creamy burrata to create dish of such precise balance that we’d rank it up there with the top burrata dishes in the city.
With no main courses to speak of aside from a small selection of chargrilled steaks, we continue with additional sharing plates. The Buttermilk Chicken (AED 55) with a chipotle sauce is succulent and well-seasoned with a crisp batter that is often hard to perfect and works as showcase of how fried chicken should be prepared. The London Project also offers a choice of four flatbreads and we find it difficult to resist the Wagyu Panchia (AED 110) , generously layering cold cuts and arugula upon a crisp base slathered in tomato sauce. Sticking with the Italian theme we also select the Wild Mushroom and Truffle Gnocchi (AED 120) offers up a comforting plate of homed-made potato gnocchi served with a velvety sous-vide egg that brings the dish together while keeping things on just the right side of richness.
The simplicity of many of the dishes and their focus on quality ingredients is what makes the dining experience at The London Project so enamouring, though the final dessert course is a story of two halves. The Pistachio & Coconut (AED 50) is a texturally impressive choice bringing together pistachio sponge, coconut mousse, burnt lime marshmallow and crystallised rose. As individual elements the flavours impress, but for us when taken as a whole, there is just far too much going on. The Gin Garden (AED 55) though is fantastic in its utilization of a butterfly shaped vanilla yogurt parfait, with strawberry sorbet a yogurt crisp and a potent gin granita.
As one of first licensed premises in Bluewaters The London Project already has quite a crowd and the dining experience feels innovative. Bringing something so different into Dubai’s over-saturated dining scene is no easy task and even though the restaurant recently opened, we believe the concept has the potential to be HUGE. With an impressive food and beverage list that delivers on flavours and price point, The London Project is a pleasant surprise, though service is a little too laid back at times!
The venue is undeniably trendy put at no point does this verge into pretention and the team have down a stirling job in capitalising on popular trends from the UK capital. From botanical juniper concoctions, to craft hops and ethically sourced coffee, The London Project has done a wonderful job in injecting the vibrant heartbeat of London onto a manmade island in Dubai while encapsulating the bohemian feeling of places like Dalston, Hoxton and Shoreditch. Trust two East Londoners when we say you’re going to enjoy this place.
Out & About UAE were guests of The London Project. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.