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REVIEW: Couqley



Another week, another quality meal in JLT’s now booming licensed restaurant scene. Couqley offers a Parisian bistro ambiance with high-quality French food, and while that may not sound particularly radical, this place actually owes its origins to Lebanon, where executive chef Alexi Couquelet has been serving up food inspired by his grandfather since 2007.

This is the third branch of Couqley and it landed in Dubai this summer in the Movenpick – joining the hotel’s existing favourites UBK, Pizza Express and fellow 2016 newcomer, Spice and Ice. Inside, the exposed brick railway arch, the instantly recognisable Belle Epoque posters on the walls and the Vichy-patterned napkins ensure it feels as French as any place in JLT perhaps ever could.

What’s not French (or more explicitly, Parisian) is the service. If you’re expecting shoulder-shrugging, disinterested waiters, you won’t find them at Couqley. Here it’s all beaming Dubai smiles and attentiveness, with well-informed staff and a particularly fantastic sommelier; more bonhomie than laissez faire.

The menu provides all the classics you’d hope for. Given the soaring temperatures here, it rarely seems right to order soup unless it’s a suitably chilled gazpacho, but Couqley’s French onion variety is unmissable. The caramelised onions, the crouton absorbing all the flavour and the gooey Emmenthal gratinee all conspire to create a bowl as soothing as the gentle background jazz.

The saumon tartare is a slightly more temperature-appropriate choice. Made a la minute, diced raw Scottish salmon is infused with a fine herb mix including chives, parsley and a pinch of chilli. The portion is plentiful and the quality of the fish superb.

The main courses are awash with more familiar French fare but the eye is inevitably drawn straight to the beef. There are options to suit all preferred tastes and textures including bavette, entrecote, steak frites, filet or even in burger form with truffle and brie. The king of the cow, though, is undoubtedly the côte de boeuf.

Designed for two to share, the succulent slices of prime rib steak are on the rare side of our “medium rare” request, but certainly not “bleu” or “mooing”. It’s always worth remembering that the French have a penchant for beef that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tarantino film. And don’t even think about ordering well done or you’ll end up like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.

Alongside the meat is a large dish of pomme des terres rissoles, full to the brim with nicely browned cubes of potato and a big, welcome hit of garlic. And then there are the sauces. The côte de boeuf has two for company but in the interest of thoroughness we demand to try all six on offer. Béarnaise, bordelaise, poivre, Roquefort, sauce Couqley and sauce aux herbes all offer something different but our favourites are the gloriously buttery béarnaise, the punchy Roquefort and the rich bordelaise with its deep marrowy flavour.

Desserts are also known as being a triumph of the Tricolore and expectations were high. Chocolate fondant and tarte aux pommes are among the familiar favourites but it’s the pain perdu that stands proudest. Perhaps best described as French toast-cum-bread-and-butter pudding, batter-soaked brioche is fried, covered in icing sugar and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel. The berries feel a little token as this is about as decadent as it gets.

There may be no mistaking JLT’s lake for the Seine and the concept of cobbled streets hasn’t really caught on in Dubai yet, but Couqley certainly offers an authentic bistro experience. And with its accessible classic cuisine, bustling atmosphere and eminently affordable beverages, there’s every chance that Couqley will emerge as the crème de la crème of informal French dining in Dubai. Bon appétit.

Where: Movenpick Hotel, Cluster A, JLT
Contact: +9714 514 9339

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