There’s a new restaurant in town that is quickly making a name for itself. It’s called Frioul Bistro de Luxe and it’s run by Chef Brian Hughson. Named after the Frioul Islands off the coast of the Mediterranean coast, the restaurant boasts elegant white and dim-lit surroundings as well as food that reflects the origins of the region – southern France, the Mediterranean, Spain and Italy.
This was the former venue for Jambase, Dubai’s much-loved live music concept that offered guests the ability to dance all night long to great music and tasty snacks and drinks. Now it has turned into a sumptuous venue dressed in white that exudes sophistication and Mediterranean hospitality (all the waiters we had were either from France or Italy). What’s more is that it follows stead to the increasing number of home-grown restaurants in Dubai. And the menu is based on a sharing-style concept – Hughson’s idea and where he saw a gap in the market. On Frioul’s elegant tables are served a number of the restaurant’s “sharing” dishes, including tapas-inspired starters, such as scallop ceviche, basil crostini and crudites with truffle cream. But the problem is that we didn’t “share.” So enraptured by restaurant’s promising selection, we ordered for ourselves and did the usual – selected a few starters or “floaters” to taste as we went along.
Marveled we were already by the restaurant’s decor, which is unmistakably French contemporary in style, yet still laid back in ambiance. There’s an open kitchen and a lovely bar near the entrance with miniature white lamps evoking the feel of a swanky Parisian brasserie. Desiring a quite spot, we headed to the back of the restaurant away from the live music in order to talk with ease. That’s another thing Frioul offers: the space is large enough to accommodate those who wish to have a quiet evening and those desiring a more lively atmosphere. Rare is it to find a restaurant that can do both.
The menu is divided into several sections: Grignotage (tapas); Pour Commencer (to begin with); Land and Air, From the Garden, Pizzetta and Pasta, La Mer (From the Sea); Les à Cotés (Sides) and Les Desserts. Pretty self-explanatory, the list under each offers a variety of creative French Mediterranean dishes. We chose a selection of starters: Basil Crostini and Tomato Tartare, which was light and fresh – similar to the idea of Bruschetta, except more crunchy; Sea bass with lemon, fennel and radish, which was exquisite – slightly sweet, salty and pucker; and the Onion Tart, which was recommended, but we weren’t so keen on – the flavor didn’t quite do it and the onion was a bit too overpowering for the thin cracker of bread that it was on. For the main, my guest chose the Duck Magret with baked peaches. An eclectic mix – the duck was perfectly cooked and offset well with baked peaches which gave the dish a hearty and excellent taste. Fish eater that I am, I opted for the Steamed Cod with a fricassé of vegetables and lemon grass. Light, fresh and savory and with a wonderful variety of sautéed veggies. To wrap up the Manjari Chocolate Fondant with roasted flour ice cream and the Floating Islands are magnificent.
Staff is friendly, but perhaps a bit too efficient – a sign that the venue is still in its early stages. While the wine list is not extensive, is does offer some delightful options. And even better, everything is available as a glass, carafe or full-sized bottle.
But “sharing” is certainly about bringing people together and that is something that Frioul is doing very well. For a new restaurant in Dubai, we observed a steady stream of guests come in to get a table or stop for a drink at the bar while enjoying live music near the entrance of the restaurant. And now that the weather in Dubai is more agreeable, tables outside are positioned near the canal of water that runs through Madinat Jumeirah – an ideal spot for a romantic evening.
There’s a lot of potential in this restaurant and it would be wonderful to see it flourish. Dubai is still lacking in a selection of restaurants that residents can count on for a welcoming ambiance, stellar cuisine and friendly service. Drop the emphasis on “sharing” and Frioul is definitely a place to return to – again and again.
Frioul Bistro de Luxe is located in Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Tel: +971 45670011 www.frioulbistrodeluxe.com