Enter into the brightly-lit and caramel-colored interior of the Crowne Plaza Dubai and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back to the 1980s. Compared to the rest of Dubai’s newly-opened luxury hotels, the decor of the Crowne Plaza looks a bit worn and tired and reminds visitors that it is one of the city’s oldest hotel properties. As I journeyed up several floors to dine at the recently refurbished Oscar’s Vine Society, I was eager to see how a Provencal restaurant would transform from eighties kitsch into something more cozy and Mediterranean.
The effort was certainly there. The quaint decor of Oscar’s new look takes homey and French brassierie-style as its theme. A chalk board listing the day’s specialties hangs from red bricks while green bottles are noticeably stacked towards the ceiling. A bar towards the back of the restaurant boasting wood furnishings invites passersby who care for a drink like any French wine bar would. The ambiance is very casual and unassuming and yet so much so that I was almost taken aback upon entry – how could something so laid-back be situated within the mass of shiny counters and fluorescent lights below? While the interior doesn’t cause guests to go “wow” as would other Dubai properties, the food is in a class of its own and, as my guest and I found, immediately outdoes its surroundings.
We were greeted by friendly staff and an efficient sommelier who suggested we start with an assortment of appetizers accompanied by Torres Viña Esmeralda from Catalunya, Spain, a smooth and slightly fruity white wine. We began with Soupe de Poisson Faςon Bouillabaisse, a traditional French stew from the port city of Marseille made from a mixture of fish, potatoes and a variety of tasty Provencal herbs and spices including garlic, cayenne pepper, saffron and olive oil. Light and smooth, its taste was pungent and enticing. A variety of Tartines Provencales aux Olives, Poivrons, Tomates et Courgettes, dainty slices of farmer’s bread with goats cheese and marinated vegetables, tomatoes and green leaves, were brought to the table. Rich and heartening, our favorite was the goats cheese.
For our main course which each chose a fish dish. My Poisson du Jour Grille au Fenail et ratatouille, catch of the day with fennel and ratatouille, arrived in a brilliant and colorful ensemble with the ratatouille positioned in an enticing colorful array. The fish was well-cooked, moist and tender and its taste was heightened by the flavorful accompaniment of ratatouille and fennel. My guest opted for Saute de crevettes a la Provencale, Shrimps with onion, garlic, capiscum, tomatoes and black olives steamed potatoes with pesto sauce. Once again, this seemingly simple dish was enriched through a selection of fresh herbs and condiments. The addition of pesto was gave a pleasant and slightly tangy aftertaste.
Satisfied and replete, we ventured on to dessert. A Tarte au Citron, or traditional lemon tart, was served for us to share. Personally a big fan of anything citrusy especially when it comes to dessert, I was eager to indulge in the sweet tarte before me. While it was indefinitely sweet and lemony, the consistency was a bit too mushy for the usual Tarte au Citron I had become accustomed to years earlier when leaving in France. The pastry was quite tough and crunchy rather than chewy and moist. In all, the taste was a satiable way to end the meal. We were also provided with an Assiette de Carlissons, dainty small confits of marzipan candy made with fruit and almond icing. These were exquisite, sweet and added a nice final touch to the meal.
A trip to Oscar’s recently refurbished venue is definitely worth – just don’t be let down by its decor. The heartwarmingly simple concoctions are so flavorful that you soon forget where you are.
Crowne Plaza Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, fourth floor. Call 800 (CROWNE).