Feb 7, 2013

Wheeler's of St. James presents British seafood to DIFC

The collection of fine dining restaurants in DIFC keeps growing with one outdoing the next.  Marco Pierre White's famed Wheeler's of St. James has graced Dubai with it's first venture outside the UK. Owned and operated by RMAL Hospitality this is actually the 4th Marco Pierre White restaurant in the region.  After the success of Frankie's and MPW Steakhouse, Wheeler's was a natural evolution.  Known as one of the oldest and most famous seafood restaurants in the world, traditional British cuisine is brought  to the forefront of the culinary scene in Dubai.  
 With a menu reminiscent of another popular British venue in Dubai called the Ivy, the seafood specialties at Wheeler's vary from signature dishes that include prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, and scottish oysters to the ever so lovely Dover sole.  We decided to begin with a selection of oysters on the half shell, the picture perfect presentation consisted of a Scottish, Irish, and French variety.  All of the freshly shucked oysters were tasty in their own right, with the Irish variety being the saltiest, the Scottish being the meatiest, and the French with a delicate hint of sweetness. 
 Fully prepared to indulge in only seafood, I noticed there was a seared foie gras on the menu with the magically enticing words "peach compote"a and "ginger brioche" following it, this item I had to have!  Seasoned to perfection and beautifully plated, garnished by a pink peppercorn syrup and all, this dish was well balanced. As the server brought the plate to the table my guest and I exchanged a big smile, since we are both foie fanatics, we were especially pleased with the hearty portion size on the plate.  
  Pictured below are the scallops which came highly recommended by the waitstaff. The popular bivalve mollusks were paired with sauteed mushrooms, diced apple, and beef bacon.  The plating was simple and scallops were seared well.     The only ingredient which didn't seem to sync for me was the apple, in fact omitting the apple could have balanced this dish a lot better.  Nonethless, we did manage to lick our plates clean. 
 Perhaps it was my upbringing in Massachusetts, Cod capital of America, but when I see Cod on any menu, it makes me feel a little closer to home.  In fact I consider it my comfort food with the meaty texture and buttery taste it brings back fond memories of my childhood.    Seared and placed on top of a bed of stewed black lentils, surrounded by a creamy tartar like sauce, this dish was an unusual take on the cod I grew up with.  Unfortunately the fish was a bit overcooked and too dry, for my liking.  In fact if the cod had been cooked better and paired with just the lentils (omitting the creamy tartar sauce) it could prove to be a lighter, more wholesome dish, and one I would order more frequently. 
 Our other main dish was the Dover sole with a brown butter sauce.  The fish was roasted whole with the bone in, it was presented to us table side, then brought back into the kitchen for plating.  It was slightly overcooked, but still on the flaky side and covered in the buttery accompaniment, with sweet and salty undertones it was exactly what the Dover sole needed. The selection of fish was extensive on the Wheeler's menu, and to top it all off the "Fish of the Day" features a local sustainable fish option, and varies on the catch that morning!
Pictured below is a very cheesy potato gratin!  This actually felt a bit too heavy, but the ooey and gooey side dish gave me a sense of comfort.  It would have paired nicely with the steak or perhaps a chicken option, but my guest lit up when she saw the item on the menu, I just couldn't deny her of this guilty little pleasure. 
 After such an extensive meal, dessert didn't seem like an option.  However, with the help of the waitstaff and persuasive sommelier, we couldn't resist the temptation.  We took the house favorites and thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate fondant.  A dessert that is all too common, but somehow simply irresistible! This one in particular was the perfect harmony of chocolatey sweetness and the liquid center consistency was spot on. The cheesecake, also a very popular  menu option, although the perfect portion was a bit dry and needs a little work if it's going to compete with the neighboring restaurant's popular dessert. 

Wheeler's of St. James in DIFC overall is a lovely evening out.  The live pianist belting out familiar tunes in an elegant ambiance along with top notch quality of food make it a great restaurant choice in this uber trendy part of town.  The well trained waiters and knowledgeable sommelier were as professional as they come in the F&B industry.  They have a lot to look forward to in 2013 and have made their mark in Dubai!

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