I’ll admit that I don’t make it down to the shores of Dubai Creek as often as I’d like to (or should). The buzzing, picturesque area is a reminder that the city isn’t all glitz and gold (although you drive past a gold souk to get there); it’s also people actually walking (shock!), clothing stores that are not Zara and Topshop; the sounds of evening prayer; and a dose of history. Perhaps not a vast history, but it’s our city’s history nonetheless.
So I’m beyond pleased with myself that I took on the review of the iftar at Barjeel Guest House, a six-month-old B&B and restaurant at the edge of the Heritage Village, looking out over the wide swath of water where the creek bends around Al Ras. Dolled-up pleasure-cruise dhows sail past the windows of the traditional-style house as the friendly staff serve up an iftar of homestyle Emirati dishes.
The restaurant forms the front of the guest house, with nine rooms (including a suite) surrounding a pretty courtyard behind. Decorated with heavy wood furniture, woven fabrics and an Arabic music channel on the TV on the wall, it perfectly encapsulates the Dubai paradox of traditional and modern side by side.
Food is served at the table from a set iftar menu, starting with little bowls of chickpeas and broad beans (foul) boiled with garlic and chilli, and crisp-chewy, bubbling fresh flat breads, similar to naans. And of course, dates — here, they were just ripened fresh dates, sweet and sticky but with a bite remaining.
The cold mezze assortment was as you would find at other iftars — tabblouleh, hummus, rocket salad, fattoush, and of excellent quality. Soup of the day, I was glad to discover, was a vegetarian Morrocan harira, a thick red broth with lentils and short strands of pasta, a nice change from yellow lentil.
My dining partner went for seconds on the soup (just ask) while I paced myself — I’d spotted the desserts and had already mentally allocated myself a plate of lougamat.
Mains are a la carte, and we selected the chicken saloona, a thin stew with chicken pieces on the bone, a rustic and home-made-tasting dish that was just enough when served with a pile of machbous rice — long grain rice spiced with black peppercorns, among other spices, and studded with sweet, swollen raisins and cashews. And don’t forget that bread for mopping up the mildly spicy sauce.
Barjeel was the first place I’ve been able to get fresh, hot lougamat this Ramadan, and they were all I’d been hoping for. Simple desserts, to my mind, are the best — those gussed-up pink and fruity mousse fancies invariably disappoint me, but a plateful of warm, deep-fried traditional doughnuts in a slick of date honey? A heavenly slice of tradition, especially with a glass of tea. (Don’t worry, an after-dinner stroll along the creek will help your digestion) Head down to Barjeel just before sunset for great views before a peaceful slice of Emirati food and culture.
Where: Barjeel Guest House, next to Al Gubaiba station (in front of HSBC and the Minstry of Finance). Call 04-3544424.