Tag Archives: Dubai Cafes

The Culinary Boutique, Dubai: Wow!

 


The Culinary Boutique, Dubai, Wow! What can I say ?

I walk in with two of my friends and my two kids, tell the first employee, Hans, that I read about them in the emirates magazine, Portfolio and he greets me with such delight, tells me about the cafe, takes me on a  tour, introduces me to the head chef, who takes over, tells me about their philosophy (which I’m very impressed by), introduces me to his staff, shows me the prepping room for their signature lavender croissants, tells me about their cooking schools (which I’d love to try when I visit Dubai again on holiday), then after about 20 minutes, send these down for my party of 5:

Prawn on sweet potato mash

Okay, it’s not coffee, but I’m coming to that.  But when you get service beyond your imagination, you’ve got to commend, congratulate and tell all.

Okay, so  the place is gorgeous in decor, just look below;


I can’t add anymore. Attention to detail. Even if you just visited to look around, you’ll be forced out of sheer will to buy something and yes, I confess it’s expensive, but so is everything with quality – you get what you pay for. Look, a rose croissant;

Rose croissant

Rose croissant

I must confess, I initially visited because of the coffee but the other stuff just blew my mind.

Okay, so let’s get to the coffee. Before my tour, although dressed in typical emirati gear – custom made and designed by me – I exposed my strong coffee sense, naming their machine, a la marzocco GB5, the grinders, asking them about their coffee blend (Kenya and Colombia), roasted by newbie Dubai based roastery, Seven Fortunes. Initially I was a bit apprehensive with the type of blend, as Kenyan coffee beans tend to be very fruity and will take over when brewed as an espresso. I mentioned that most coffee aficionados tend to prefer fruity coffees, so before I could even place an order, Hans arranged for the Ugandan barista, Andrew, to make a single shot for me;


Yes, it was a bit fruity, but the acidity was mellow enough to consume without frowning. I mentioned that yes, people used to drinking coffee at your usual coffee chain will have their taste buds mesmerised by a fruity espresso blend and may frown. However, I recollect that when I tried such an experiment at my cafe in Cape Town (2010-2012), I had to offer free coffee tasting lessons so that people could appreciate what I was trying to do. Perhaps Culinary Boutique should try this. However, as a coffee lover, I won’t change the coffee – let people know that you are different and educate them about why your coffee tastes different. Stick to your guns Culinary Boutique.

So, of course I ordered a cortado – not on the menu, so that I could appreciate the fruity coffee with a bit of milk.


Delicious !!!

So impressed was I with the coffee, that I asked if I could buy some of the beans, which being as accommodating as they were, they obliged, yay! More on that in a later post on Dubai cafes and roasteries.

So thanks to Hans, Andrew, the Capetonian cafe manager and the head chef and of course the owner, whom I didn’t meet, but I was informed about her strong commitment to providing the best and it showed.

Looking forward to trying out their food next time insha’allah.

Check them out at :

AddressVilla #56,Jumeira Beach Rd,Jumeirah 1 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone+971 4 345 0023

 

 

 

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The Sum of Us, Dubai: Revisited

  
I guess I kind of give the impression that I live in Dubai – well, my jealous daughter just told me “You stop-over there so often”, and my reply “don’t be a hater”. Anyway on yet another stop-over, just last weekend, I was naturally craving coffee, even though the curry fish I had the previous night didn’t provide relief but grief. It just so happened that on this occasion, the Sum of Us was the closest decent cafe to get to before rushing off to the airport.

On entering, I was pleasantly surprised. First up, when I visited in the summer, the cafe had only been opened about 4 weeks and hence was not on the radar yet, making it quite empty – read more here. So, on this occasion, the cafe was literally packed, both inside and outside (it was only about 24C). I only wanted a good cup of milk-based espresso a flat – a magic. 

  
After placing my order, I wandered around and went back to wait by their “take away” station. 

  
After downing my caffeine bliss, I was very intrigued by the expresso blend used – it was quite exceptional and so after discovering it was their house blend, aptly called “Tsunami”, I walked off to the roastery section to purchase my bag of beans.

  
Upon entering, there are gadgets (aeropress, Hario V60 and more) on the left-hand side of the wall, plus I was greeted very nicely by Kersti from Estonia. As we talked, she sensed I was not just another buff and mentioned that she was also holding a coffee tasting session later that day.

  
 I noticed two coffees from EspressoLab, Cape Town, chatted for a bit and ran out to meet my very patient cousin, who was driving around wondering why it was taking me 10 minutes just to drink a cup of coffee.

So, whats changed? More people, eclectic atmosphere, the smell of success and coffee tasting. By having your own roastery, you have access to multiple revenue streams – you gain control of your raw material and product line, coffee, you can sell coffee to other cafes and of course, you can hold coffee tasting sessions. On the latter, for the great value price of AED75 (Euros20), you can have an hour or more session on how to taste coffee – I did something similar at Escape Caffe in Cape Town, once a month. Hats off to the Sum of Us/Tom Arnel and Sergio.

But we’re not finished yet…

  
The coffee, which I brewed this morning, called the Tsunami or the Sum of Us house espresso blend.

   

I call it splitting the heart. Enough of the pedantic, what did it taste like? Hints of toffee and believe it or not caramelised cashews, yummy. Worth the price and transport from Dubai to Vienna in my baggage.

So, if you’re in Dubai and are reading this, pop down to the Sum of Us, enjoy some breakfast, coffee and atmosphere for me and buy some coffee to be brewed how you like.

Ma’assalama, as they say in the Emirates.

 


The Best Coffee Shop in a Mall: Common Grounds, Dubai

  
Usually, malls are dry places for creativity, where only the big chains can afford the exorbitant rental prices, stifling independent and artisan retailers, so when you see something different in a mall, it catches my eye, and no more so that coffee or/and food shops.

I recall about 7 years ago walking into a mall in Cairo and seeing the famous Venetian coffee shop, Caffe del Doge – sceptical, I went in and was really intrigued by the enthusiasm of the baristi – the coffee was typical Italian, dark roast, but prepared with care and lots of etching (not latte art, but using chocolate syrup to draws patterns). Back then, I thought that was the best coffee shop in a mall. Then about 3 years ago, I went into Westfield Stratford in London and was pleasantly surprised to have coffee at Grind. Attention to detail in preparation, coupled with great espresso machines, topped up with cakes, customer friendly staff in a very busy environment made for a very electable coffee shop environment and for me back then, the best coffee shop in a mall.

But now…. we have a new contender… drum roll…..

With two Victoria Arduino Black Eagle two group machines (i.e. the most expensive espresso machine in the World, designed by Jim Hoffmann – see my last post), 

  
 a coffee menu, offering filter coffee especially brewed for you using a chemed, aeropress or Hario V60, coffee beans on sale, a very welcome spread of cakes, sweet bites, pastries and more, including a food menu with wide appeal, friendly staff, the brainchild of serious coffee fanatics and located in a the city of malls and more, comes…..

Common Grounds in the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.

  
The brainchild of Tom&Serg, Common Grounds is their third outlet in Dubai, after the Sum of Us. The latter location is now their coffee heaven location, where all their coffees are roasted and dispatched to their shops, with espresso blends and filter roasts  on offer.

Located in a mall, Common Grounds had to be different – first off all, it’s in the Mall of the Emirates extension – this remains one of Dubai’s most popular malls and is famous for the one that has the ski slope, amongst other popular attraction and designer shops. The shop is not too far from the movie theater area in the corner. For this location, Tom&Serg had to offer more food and dessert and own 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I visited I had a burger, prior to my flat white of course 

  
and was really spoilt for choice on the desserts (almond and orange cake, mini-cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, pastries and more), I decided on the almond and orange cake.   

The staff from France and South Africa were really friendly and couldn’t do enough. The barista were available to offer coffee geeks like me a choice of coffee based on brew process – I settled for the chemex.

I could easily have been in a cafe in central London in terms of the attention to detail – with it’s laid back feel and no evidence of being a chain, Common Grounds has a unique and independent cafe appeal. As you know, I like shopping (mostly outside and not in malls, unless it’s for food) and visiting Dubai, but now I’m rest assured that no matter how much shopping I’m doing, not to mention, my wife and daughter are doing, I can always escape if I’m Dubai to a cafe to relax and drink great coffee.

A well deserved title from me “the best coffee in a Mall”, but let me know if there’s somewhere else, I’ve missed in the World of Coffee.


Drinking Coffee in Dubai: The Sum of Us and more….

 

The Sum of Us

I could easily have done one post on this cafe, which comes from the team behind Tom&Serg (click here for my post on them) because the space and what’s on offer here is quite extensive. Located at the top end of the famous Shaykh Zayed Road (the road lined with all the skyscrapers, The Emirates Towers, et all and famous 5 star hotels), The Sum of Us is just behind the new Sheraton Hotel and easily located at Burj al Salma Centre, 6th Street, Trade Centre. During the cooler months, it would be ideal to sit outside, but we visited a few weeks back, when it was 40C outside and sanely sat inside. It was a bit quiet when we visited as it had just opened a few weeks back but that gave my kids and I the leisure to stroll around and take lots of pics and for me to specifically chat with the staff and head barista, Fiona, from Ukraine, but more recently of Nude Coffee in Soho, London.


First up what’s different ? The Roastery – I strongly believe that in developing markets, the tide rests with the supplier and in this case, the roaster. In developed markets, it’s fine for a busy cafe, pumping out 600 to 1,000 cups of coffee a day to order from a reputable roaster, because the investment financially and time wise is huge. However, when you’re in an economy like the Middle East or Africa, then roasting and selling your own opens up “multiple revenue streams” – the buzz word for spreading your opportunities with just one capital investment. Ok!, enough of my economic baffle, but I speak from experience with escape caffe and just my observation of the huge margins when you roast greens into drinkable coffee. So, in summary, as hinted to Tom and Serg, roasting your own is great. However, not to steal their thunder (a British term), Raw Coffee Roasters, (read my post on them here) the current premium roaster in Dubai, suppliers of Tom and Serg, are also helping the Sum of Us with setting up their roastery. In fact I spotted their van outside the cafe when we were there. It’s very magnanimous of Raw to help what would potentially be a competitor, well done to Kim and her team.

Sharing the space downstairs with the roastery, is their in-house bakery, displaying recently baked goods and famous for their sourdough bread. In addition, there’s a coffee bar with a La Marzocco Strada and some seating and a take away booth.


 Upstairs, there’s a lot more seating with an airy feel and some subtle decor and fine touches, open plan kitchen, complete with another brew bar and La Marzocco Linea, naturally.


 On offer is coffee, of course, together with small but filling, no frills food, celebrating the eclectic culture of Dubai, which means carefully chosen street food from around the World. For the not so adventurous, there are burgers, and for the hardcore brekkie fans, like me, there’s breakfast served well into the afternoon. I must admit I was tempted to order of the breakfast menu but decided to try the Chicken Katsu Bowl instead, as I’ve never heard of it.


On coffee, first off was the flat white


and after my meal, I asked Fiona to make me an Ethiopian using a Hario V60.


Coffee fix done, I was glad to visit the Sum of Us and look forward to reading more about it in the future and of course visiting it again God willing. Before I leave, I should add that another major difference between tom andsErg and the Sum of Us, is that the latter are also offering dinner. For me that means one thing as a coffee geek; finally a place to get great coffee in the night when in Dubai, yay! Read more about their focus on http://thesumofusdubai.com

 

Kaffeine Projekt @DubaiMall

So, you’re in the largest shopping mall under one roof in the World and after walking around for hours googling (nothing to do with the internet but the original English word for looking at something) at the World’s top retail brands from Louis Vuitton, Rolex, to Zara, Topshop, Hamleys et al, you need coffee right ? Well, I did mine in reverse, as we traversed the valet parking with Bentleys, Ferraris and more into the main entrance of Dubai Mall, I was already looking for coffee and stumbled at Kaffeine Projekt. After quizzing the barista, Ren, about how long he pulls an espresso shot and I asked him where he was trained, I decided to try their coffee and went for a cappuccino, which I often do, when I want to try both their espresso and milk frothing/pouring skills.


So impressed was I with him, that the next time we visited Dubai Mall before the end of the holiday, I stopped there again and posted pics onto my instagram (fromcoffeewithlove). I’m not sure why they spell project the German way, but there. So, when you visit Dubai Mall, check them out at the main entrance, where al, the posh shops are and right behind the information desk.

 

Plato’s Cafe @Atlantisthepalm

Ok! I confess, we stayed at a real icon hotel in Dubai, Atlantis the Palm on the Palm Jumeirah. My daily coffee fix consisted of coffee using my aeropress, brought from Balthasar Cafe in Vienna but on one occasion I was really craving espresso based coffee. I decided to take the plunge and visit Plato’s Cafe in the West Wing. After quizzing the barista about how long she pulled an espresso shot, we decided to not agree on her 30 second shot. Next was the milk frothing and pouring interrogation – gee! I’m really a coffee snob – my wife and daughter quickly ran to sit down, rather than be associated with this coffee fanatic.So, I asked her if she could pour a tulip and she said yes and then I took the plunge.

Using illy coffee, like all the restaurants at the Atlantis, the coffee was fine but it satisfied my fix with a carefully poured cappuccino using posh villery and boch crockery – very posh indeed. Ok, so if you do visit or stay at the Atlantis, try the coffee at Platos Cafe in the West Wing.

So, that’s my take on cafes in Dubai, but I have heard that Speciality Batch will be opening a cafe very soon in Dubai, so search out for them if you live in Dubai.