Unlike most celeb chefs, foam, dust and smoking oddities have no place on Marco Pierre White's plate. Go to one of the 50-year-old's many restaurants - of which we now have three in the UAE - and you'll find unpretentious food with heart. As such, his new venture, Titanic, is somewhere that would satisfy both your cutlery-placement-aware auntie as much as your pub-grub-loving uncle (and he won't even complain about the portions, they're massive).
The latest concept from the man who himself had a major part in training Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, but now - self-admittedly - spends little time in the kitchen, first opened to much fanfare in London in 1998. And while it was successful as a bar and restaurant, it closed in 2006; and it's taken a Spanish hotel opening in Bur Dubai to reinstate the brand.
Driving through low-rise Bur Dubai and Al Mina you can't miss the shiny new Al Meliá hotel, and from the minute you arrive at the metallic-slick spot you'll feel transported to another - very Bond-esque - world. Titanic is all art-deco glitz. There's a headless angelic statue, crystal white lighting and the small, opulent dining room is a texture-lover's dream. Rich curtains line the walls - those that aren't mirrored; while dramatic square chandeliers cover the ceiling and the seats are all clad in white leather. After we'd discussed our favourite elements of the room, and chatted to the Mauritian sommelier - who was so sure in his craft that we took all of his suggestions - we tucked into the menu. The single page read like a study in the greatest hits of contemporary European cuisine. Hors d'oeuvres ranged from retro-favourites (hello Prawn cocktail!), to opulent options such as Oysters. We opted for Crab rolls - simple spring rolls with a piquant mango chutney, and Carpaccio served with a pillowy mozzarella (paired perfectly with the fresh olive focaccia).
For the main event, there was a lavish Lobster pasta and interesting grills including Magret of duck with peaches; but it was the comfort food that tempted us. The Fried haddock, chips, pea purée and tartare sauce was a simple dish elevated by little touches - the chips were thrice-fried, and the pea purée was peppered with mint; while the 250g Rib-eye steak served with Béarnaise was served with well-seasoned mushrooms.
Feeling bloated to sinkable proportions (geddit?), we struggled through dessert - definitely our favourite course. The Cambridge burnt cream, aka crème brûlée, was marked by its thin burnt sugar topping and strong vanilla bean flavours, while the Eton mess - berries served with crushed meringue and a rich vanilla ice cream - was like Kristen Chenoweth, sweet but not sickly thanks to a tartness. While Bur Dubai's a trek for some, we recommend you make a visit to this surprisingly affordable new spot - near, far, wherever you are… (yes, we just referenced Celine Dion, we apologise).
Need to know
Location Meliá Hotel, Kuwait Street, Port Rashid
Timing Open daily 12pm-3pm and 7pm-11pm (bar till 2am)
Tel 04 386 8111
Tasty trio: Marco’s UAE restaurants
While Marco doesn't claim any direct connection to this branch, it's a franchise of his popular Italian brand. Sitting inside, we feel like we could either be on a cruise ship, or in Tony Soprano's favourite restaurant, but then that's why we love it. It's casual, but smart enough to be special, and the pizzas are amazing (we surprised ourselves by loving the duck and truffle oil variety).
Location Al Fattan Tower, JBR, The Walk
Timing Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 6pm-11.30pm
Tel 04 399 4311
MPW Steakhouse & Grill
This steakhouse-meets-Brit cuisine spot in Abu Dhabi is a must-try for all UAE residents. With perfectly-pitched steaks, scrummy English puddings and dramatic interiors (there's a flame wall), this 65-seater is a decadent dining experience.
Location Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
Timing Open daily, 7pm-midnight
Tel 02 654 3333
The opening date is rumoured to fall between August and the end of the year (who knows in this town, though, right?), but the seafood restaurant is likely to be worth the wait. MPW launched Wheeler's in 2009 in a legendary London seafood restaurant that has stood its ground since 1856 (as Madame Prunier's fish restaurant). And if the London menu's anything to go by, we'll be able to sample dishes like Wing of skate with winkles and jus à la Parisienne; Grilled spatchcock poussin à la chipolata and Bisque of fresh crab. Can't wait.
Location Gate Village, DIFC