The House at La Serre

Ramadan presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Dubai’s hospitality sector. The former is represented by truncated opening hours and the city-wide appeal to evening diners through special iftar packages and menus. The latter, however, is the window to devise an experience that can elevate a restaurant above the default delivery of a buffet, overhead canvas and whichever oud player could be booked for the month.

For the Holy Month, La Serre, the upscale French restaurant and boulangerie in Vida Hotel, has devised a concept they call “The House”, in which the downstairs street café and bakery is turned into a showcase for the more rustic elements of their menu. Paired with stripped back décor and early 19th century stencil illustrations on the off-white walls, it is designed for friends to gather and graze a good value meal from one of the better chefs in town, Izu Ani.

It the main, it works. The walk-in, walk-out informality, muted colour palette, oversized tables and open kitchen help create the welcoming air of a bistro, while the menu was an intriguing mix of home-style cooking from the South of France.

In three parts
The food here is served in three courses, which is priced at a pretty reasonable AED275 per person – for a minimum table of four. The starters range from the mellow sweetness of the butternut squash soup to the Mediterranean spiciness of the aubergine ratatouille and feta, although the quinoa salad with pine nuts, courgettes, aubergines and cranberries, disappeared from our table the fastest. The watermelon and feta salad, usually served in the Middle East with Nabulsi cheese, provided some local flavour, but as a whole it was the kind of food you’d want to eat around a solid oak table in a Provençale orchard.

The mains were a touch more varied. The pastas, unusually for a French restaurant, were the pick, with the al dente penne arrabiata freshly sweet and sharp, and the truffle rigatoni subtle and soft. The salmon steak with fennel, celery and mushroom offered the best of the France-inspired dishes.

There is dessert, although the choices are pared down to four, the best of which were the spongy, syrupy date cake, naturally enough for Ramadan, and a bitter dark chocolate fondant that we wish most restaurants in Dubai would attempt to replicate.

Ultimately, The House is a noble attempt to add some character to the seasonal dining options. We weren’t convinced that the “concept” was particularly well articulated, or added much to the experience, but at least it allowed the food to take centre stage. On the whole, it merited the attention.

Three dishes to try

Salade de quinoa
The salad superfood of the moment was beautifully accompanied by smoky aubergines, crunchy pine nuts and the sweet and slightly sour notes of the cranberries.

Rigatoni aux truffles
The ribbons of pasta in a cream and truffle sauce might be simple in conception but the execution was subtle and balanced.

Fondant au chocolat
Yes, it’s a bit of a dessert cliché these days, but here it was delivered with panache.

Burj Khalifa Area


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