STAY by Yannick Alléno

Truth be told, I didn’t want to be in STAY. Indeed, 10 minutes earlier I hadn’t even heard of the One&Only’s new ‘dinner-only’ restaurant, helmed by the legendary (and owner of three Michelin stars) Yannick Alléno. I had, however, heard of 101, the Palm resort’s Mediterranean offering, built out low over the water, where guests recline under the stars, dabbing at fresh seafood and tapas, basking in the warm glow of the distant Dubai skyline. But standing there, on that pitch-black beach, staring into the darkness, my date and I could conclude only one thing: 101’s opening date had been delayed. And so somewhat grumpily to STAY, a place as far removed from casual seafood dabbing as you could imagine: chandeliers swinging down from the impossibly tall ceiling, hung against a backdrop of high timber walls, crisp white tablecloths, suited floor staff and a far wall entirely dedicated to fragile pastries. It was almost enough to pull me out of my sulk. Almost. I’m too long in the tooth to be impressed by a wall of pastries, no matter how high; bring me the menu, my friend, and if you call me ‘ma’amsir’ I’ll kill you where you stand. I opted for duck foie gras with beetroot jelly. Now, I have a problem with foie gras, and it’s not the obvious. My problem is that neither it, nor its paté counterpart, are ever served with enough toast. If you’re going to go to the trouble of cutting delicate slices of bread and toasting it under the grill, why not provide enough to finish the dish? And so it was at STAY. The foie gras was exceptional: rich and buttery in flavour, with the strong, heady tang of beetroot (although the gold leaf was a step too far in my book). Yet the toast was all gone within two seconds, leaving me with half an uneaten slab of foie gras to first prod with a knife, then abandon completely. My date’s fregola sarda pasta (grain-size and toasted) proved much better; creamy, cheesy and slightly nutty in consistency, it was, to quote her verbatim, ‘amazing, amazing, amazing’. I ceased sulking and started to feel slightly excited about the main event: black peppered wagyu beef fillet ‘Café de Paris’ for myself, and 200 grams of Australian wagyu beef fillet for my date, cooked rare. In fairness it’s hard to go wrong with peppercorn sauce, and although the meat was cooked perfectly and my accompanying gratin dauphinois was creamy, soft and sumptuous, I couldn’t help but stare with envy as my date’s knife sliced through her fillet like hot butter, producing sublime cuts of meat that melted on the tongue. Combined with French green beans and chopped shallots, it proved to be the clear star of the evening. And now, and only now, is it time to mention the service. Good restaurant service is always difficult, because true perfection materialises in discretion without tardiness, knowledge without pomp, speed without haste, all of which tend to take longer to master than most are prepared to dedicate to the waiting profession. And yet the STAY staff impressed; attentive, not overly assertive, yet confident enough to steer us through the menu without appearing to attempt the ultimate cuisine crime of upselling. There was a slightly awkward moment when it became obvious I wasn’t going to walk over to examine the wall of pastries, and no, I didn’t want someone to bring me a selection. Yes, I can see it’s a wall of pastries. No, I’m still not going. Menu please! But the moment passed and we dived into the finale of the evening: a vanilla, coffee and chocolate soft tart to share, which arrived as crisp, buttery chocolate pastry filled with a sumptuous coffee cream and fresh vanilla mousse. Perfect. Dubai may have many fine-dining venues that are far easier to get to than the One&Only The Palm, and yes, it’s perhaps a little highbrow for a beach resort boasting a Mediterranean tapas restaurant at the end of a jetty, but should you ever find yourself staring at a shut shop, full of hunger and nowhere to go, I couldn’t recommend anywhere better. The bill (for two) 1x Duck foie gras Dhs120 1x Fregola sarda pasta Dhs60 1x Peppered wagyu fillet Dhs290 1x Australian wagyu fillet Dhs270 1x Gratin dauphinois Dhs20 1x Vanilla and coffee tart Dhs45 Total (excluding service) Dhs805

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