James Fryer goes back in time to sample an ancient culture at Ottomans.
The first room that passes underfoot at Ottomans is an inviting lounge with huge cushions to sink into before your taste of Persian cuisine. We passed through to the restaurant area as the sounds of oud and drums married to form mesmerising music which avoided the all too common faux pas of drowning out the restaurant’s guests. Earthy colours, subtle ceiling lighting and Turkish pottery make for an intimate feel. The homely appeal of the restaurant was in no way challenged by what looked to be a full house – as the cosmopolitan clientele enjoyed the bustling setting. Before I’d even ordered from the tempting menu of traditional fare I had decided this was definitely somewhere I’d be putting on my entertainment hit list.
Waiting for our starters to arrive, we had soon nibbled away at the basket of Turkish bread – straight from the oven as I later found out when waiting for more to arrive. The manti (Dhs 40), seasoned minced meat filled dumplings with clotted yoghurt and melted cherry tomato sauce, had a slightly bitter taste and proved a little tricky to eat, but nonetheless was an interesting dish. It was lucky we’d ordered more bread as we delved into a chickpea red onion cake with roasted lamb and yoghurt mint sauce (Dhs 45) – more of a posh hummus dip complemented by succulent slithers of lamb.
Our waiter asked how soon we would like our next course, and 15 minutes was plenty of time to enjoy a decent Semillion Collage Chardonnay (Dhs 140) – one of the less expensive bottles on a competent but slightly intimidating wine list comprised of vintage champagnes, old and new-world whites and reds, as well as rosé wines. Time also to take in some of the restaurant’s finer touches. Whose job is it to keep all those candles going?
Sea bass, shrimps, mussels, clams and julienne vegetables arrived in the form of Turkish bouillabaisse (Dhs 99) – the Mediterranean’s famous fish stew. Presentation couldn’t be faulted – the chef had done a good job of balancing the overcooked sea bass, tiny, flavourless mussels and soggy vegetables over a moat of bland and watery soup. One touch and everything went overboard, and that’s largely where it stayed. My disappointing dish was not helped by the rather fatty lamb kebab with roasted aubergine that arrived opposite me. With only nine main dishes on offer we expected each to be refined plates of perfection. No such luck.
The enthusiasm of the service brightened the mood, and desserts raised the bar again: a luxurious baklava with fig confit and vanilla ice cream (Dhs 35), and the waiter’s recommendation, a light hazelnut rice pudding with sweet plum sauce (Dhs 35).
A press release announcing the launch of Ottomans claims it was created to meet the need for a high-end Persian restaurant. If such a need does exist, it hasn’t been quenched by Ottomans, at least not yet.
Ottomans, Grosvenor House Hotel, Dubai. Tel: (04) 3998888.