REVIEW: Bistrot Bagatelle

A certain surge of urgent chatter surrounds high-profile restaurant openings in this city, especially when they arrive like a very important and highly anticipated guest from New York. Most stateside newcomers have lived up to the hype, Nobu, Catch, Junoon; the ones that didn’t, well who’s counting.

Then Bistrot Bagatelle arrived in Dubai at the end of last year with the confidence of having nailed their St-Tropez-in-the-city concept in New York’s hard-to-please Meatpacking District – before then conquering 10 more cities across four continents. And what a welcome they have received. The restaurant has been packed out with a glamorous party crowd since the unmarked double doors on the first floor of The Fairmont Dubai first opened. In fact, it already has a month-long waiting list for hopefuls seeking reservations.

On launching brand Bagatelle in 2008, the aim of co-founders Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente was to fuse the cultures of the South of France and New York City. Take those endless lunches enjoyed on the French Riviera – all fresh seafood and “let’s get another bottle” vibes and drop them into a frenetic urban setting. Add DJs, pop art and caffeine-charged cocktails and you get the second, third and fourth wind each and every night.

Still, those unmarked doors could be taken as a sign of the pretentious, but our welcome couldn’t have been warmer. In fact we felt like very important guests. “The main entrance is moving to the other end now our lounge is finished,” explained Roberto, the restaurant’s guest relations manager. “These doors are just temporary”. All is well again.

Walking to our table, it’s clear the interiors, designed by architect Callin Fortis, are styled to replicate a Parisian apartment. Table cloths and walls in bright white but warmed by chandeliers and candle light. Corners come to life with orchids jutting from delicate vases in cream, orange and magenta bursts, while the pop art (curated by The Opera Gallery) helps charge the room with an excitable energy. Sitting down, even as one of the first of the night to do so, it was hard not to think: this is going to be good.

The Mediterranean inspired menu is in the hands of head chef Timothy Newton (formerly of La Petite Maison) with 70 percent of the dishes original to this city in order to stay in tune with local tastes and ingredients.

Like all Bagatelles, though, the dining concept is sharing. To start, we order yellow-fin tuna tartare, duck confit (with crispy duck skin and pickled shallots) and baby kale salad, packed with goodies like pumpkin, pecans and dried cranberries. There are ten cold entrees and just as many hot to choose from.

Full to the brim

Within half an hour, the restaurant quickly busied with Dubai’s chic collective. It’s a great people-watching spot and, ladies, it’s worth adding that the wellbeing of your handbag is paramount from the moment you sit down – with little crushed velvet seats pushed up to your ankles for the sole purpose of ensuring your clutch is comfortable while you enjoy yourself.

For mains, the sharing plate poulet rôti aux truffes had come highly recommended, but wanting to keep things varied we chose the pan-seared sea bass with barigoule sauce, leek fondue, pickled vegetables and the Wagyu striploin, with homemade fries and peppercorn sauce. The portions are hearty and each bite was melt-in-your-mouth wonderful.

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When it comes to dessert, you’ll welcome the sharing concept as it’s impossible to shun one completely. We ordered the Alaska Flambée with two spoons. It’s a play on the 1970s favourite Baked Alaska and built on a foundation of chocolate cake with layered Rocky Road and a refreshingly tart pistachio ice cream all encased in torched meringue. Just delicious.

As we asked for the bill, the restaurant was buzzing like the kind of kill-for-as-table New York establishments Laba and Clemente strived to achieve outside of the Big Apple. But the ingenuity here is the balance maintained between exquisite culinary execution and effortless, but seriously sophisticated fun – and it’s all in the details.

The DJ will respond to the mood of the night and deliver, your waitress will remember your preferences next time and if you’re lucky enough to book a table when Roberto is working, its likely he’ll look after you so well you’ll hug him goodbye like an old friend at the end of the night. An old friend who you have just enjoyed a lazy lunch of eating seafood by the coast within the south of France, that is. Now where’s the after party?

The Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, +9714 354 5035

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