Restaurant Review: Cave
French dining with impeccable finnesse
It’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the city as you walk through a wonderfully crafted stone-resembling cave and enter a dusky dining area evoking aesthetic mastery, tucked away in the Mezzanine level of the Conrad Dubai. The immersion into a warm and intimate setting is immediate, with dimmed lights, cosy couches by the bar, secluded seating pods and slow soothing music adding to the chic, yet relaxed ambience. Enthusiasts of bottles of red and white will quite literally be in their element, with the dedicated cellar section of the restaurant housing a variety of premium grape from across the world including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and, of course, France. Lounge tables are filled with wine corks beneath the glass surface as part of the outlet’s prevalent theme.
The restaurant serves both classical and conventional French cuisine, while certain preparations are a fascinating fusion of French concepts and other European recipes. To begin, we opt for both soups on the menu; the lobster bisque and French onion, to whet the appetite. They don’t disappoint – the juicy succulence of the lobster gently prepared in a buttery, tomato base is luxurious and smooth. In comparison, the onion version, bursting with sweetness from the caramelised onions and a bold peppery tones, comes complete with mozzarella on toasted bread and the cheese melts in the mouth with every spoonful of the hot soup. The stark contrast between the comfort factor of the latter and the decadence of the lobster makes it difficult to decipher which is the better one, but we guess it depends on your mood. Both shine in equal measure.
Between the soup and the main course, we are presented with a selection of international cheeses, consisting of authentic Italian Taleggio and the French Morbier. While the Taleggio is strongly aromatic, the Morbier with its trademark grey marbling, is a richly indulgent, semi-soft rich cheese that you could quite easily forego the main course for.
Upon our host’s recommendation, the confit lamb was chosen as the main. Slow-cooked beautifully in its own fat, with heavy tones of herbs and garlic, the meat is so tender, it literally falls apart with a merest prod of our forks. It’s a must for meat lovers, accompanied with perfectly crisp roast potatoes that reveal the fluffiest texture within, for a hearty plate that will chase away any winter blues.
For dessert, the crème brûlée with mixed berries seems the perfect way to end the meal in a light, yet satisfying way. It’s created to perfection here, with its glassy caramel topping satisfyingly cracking to reveal a rich sweet cream, which is perfectly balanced by the sharpness of the fruit.
A visit to Cave is a well-rounded experience, which caters to the fine-food loving gourmand, without possessing a stuffy vibe. Its balanced approach to turning out fine French cuisine through meticulous plates with flavours that please, without intimidating the palate, makes this a good choice for a laid-back catch up with friends Dubai-style, in glamorous surroundings minus the pretensions.
INFO: 5pm-2am daily, Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, 04 444 7111, www.conraddubai.com
CAVE DUBAI’S LOUP DE MER PROVENCAL
140g seabass fillet
1 tsp corn oil
2 knobs of butter
Salt, to taste
FOR THE RATATOUILLE
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ courgette, chopped
½ tomato, chopped
A handful of mixed peppers, chopped
¼ aubergine, chopped
The juice or zest of ½ lemon
FOR THE LEMON CREAM SAUCE
½ small onion, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp double cream
1. Begin by making the ratatouille. Lightly coat the base of a non-stick frying pan with corn oil then place the pan over a medium-high heat.
2. Once the pan is hot, add the crushed whole garlic cloves, courgettes, mixed peppers, aubergine and onions allow to cook, stirring periodically until the vegetables become golden brown.
3. Season to taste and finish it with a dash of lemon zest or lemon juice. Set aside.
4. Next, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice with the onion. Bring to the boil and reduce over a medium-high heat until only 2 tablespoons of the
5. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cream until the sauce is smooth and all the cream is incorporated. Keep warm until ready to serve.
6. Lightly coat the base of a non-stick frying pan with the corn oil then place the pan over a medium-high heat.
7. Once the pan is hot, season the fillets with salt and place in the pan skin-side down.
8. Using a fish slice, press down on the fillets to prevent curling and to ensure even cooking of the skin.
9. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the skin is nicely golden and crisp then turn the heat to medium and add a knob of unsalted butter to baste the fish.
10. The fish is cooked when the flesh becomes opaque. Transfer the cooked fish in to a paper towel to allow the excess butter to drain, before plating with the ratatouille and a drizzling of the sauce.