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REVIEW: The Eloquent Elephant

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It’s never particularly easy for a modern hotel to deliver the cosy intimacy of a British pub – although many have tried. There are simply too many elements going against it: a typical Dubai hotel is a building designed to convey space, refinement and a certain grandiosity, with high ceilings, marbled floors and floral displays seemingly borrowed from a royal wedding.

They have uniformed doormen and incidental music, oud perfume and statues of horses. They are about as far removed from the dim-lit, stained-glass, wood-panelled retreats found on every English street corner as you could imagine.

That said, the odd one has made a reasonable fist of it. The Underground in the Habtoor Grand has the desired lived-in quality, while the Crown and Lion in the Byblos has successfully translated the vibe of a city centre pub on a Saturday afternoon. For the combination of informality and intimacy, though, the Eloquent Elephant in Taj Dubai in Business Bay provides a warm-hearted welcome with a youthful, urban touch that mimics an upscale, hipsterish gastropub in a better part of town – somewhere in, say, London’s Hoxton or Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Anywhere with a lot of brick, basically.

It helps that this is on the ground floor of this new-ish hotel, tucked away well off to the left of the main lobby and reached by a heavy wooden door in a passage that might otherwise be marked “private”. And that’s the beauty of this place: it has a speakeasy feel, where everyone is in on the secret. The pub vibe, though, is very much in evidence, from the small circular tables, the bank of well-upholstered benches and the soft orange glow from the shelves full of Edison lights in jars. There’s also a guitarist at the far end churning out some standards – Ed Sheeran, Oasis, the usual.

We’re here for the food, though, and from our corner table we order up a range of starters to share. The Indian-spiced paté – stay with us – came in a small jar with a paper bag of toasted seed bread, which was a meal in itself, frankly. The smooth paté had a pleasing garam masala taste that warmed rather than overpowered the chicken liver, while the soda-battered onion rings with aioli sauce had a taste that was almost audible. The masala calamari – fried in the lightest of flours – was spicy, soft and disappeared all too quickly.

This was Wednesday, so it was steak night and we decided to forego some of the menu’s main highlights – there’s a section Brits in particular will enjoy – and opt for an Australian tenderloin cooked just on the well side of medium, and a sirloin that veered towards the rare. Served with triple-cooked chips, they were both well-seasoned and succulent and required several ease-back-in- the-chair pitstops to complete.

A s’mores brownie, again shared, rounded things off, but by then the eyelids were growing heavy, the gentle embrace of the place lulling us into a satisfied silence. In future, we might actually consider checking in to a room upstairs to save the effort of driving home.

Three dishes to try

1. Indian-spiced paté
We accept this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this is a nice blend of Indian and Western cuisines – and it comes with mountains of bread.

2. Masala calamari
Beautifully light and crisp with a delicate touch of Indian spices for a novel twist on the classic dish.

3. Grass-fed tenderloin
Not just available on steak nights, this is a hunk of beautifully seasoned steak that is a pleasure to carve through.

The Eloquent Elephant
Where:
Taj Dubai, Business Bay
Contact: +9714 438 3131, website 

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