Downtown Deli

Finding a good mid-range lunch in Dubai is like trying to track down the holy grail: this is, after all, one of the few cities where the top cafés can routinely get away with charging Dhs50 for a salad. Given the price of real estate at The Dubai Mall, the search for reasonable grub in an attractive setting is that much more arduous. Yet Downtown Deli seems to have filled the gap nicely. Outdoor tables look out onto the crystalline body of water surrounding Souk Al Bahar, and the menu boasts not only affordable soups, salads and sandwiches, but organic options as well. For breakfast, lunch or just a quick snack stop, it’s easy to fall in love with this place based on appearances alone. When I visited, the affable staff only helped to fuel my optimism. My date and I took our seats outside in the sun, where we were surrounded by lunching ladies munching on monster-sized salads served in comically large bowls. While these looked tempting, we were in the mood for something more substantial. My date settled on a grilled cheddar sandwich, complete with onion slivers pickled in balsamic vinegar set on a fat slice of peasant bread. On the side was a bowl of slender, perfectly crisp fries (though these were rather lukewarm when they should have been hot) alongside a dish of Branston pickle. Cheese sandwiches tend to be simple and plain and, while this version was both of those things, it was an exciting version of what is traditionally a pretty no-frills dish. There was nothing cheap or processed about the cheese: it was a sharp, full-flavoured and mature. Even the bread on which it sat was clearly made to a higher standard. I, on the other hand, foolishly veered from the formula and ordered rosemary-baked hammour, which came with a side of roast potatoes served with a hollandaise dressing. Though the rosemary bestowed a wealth of flavour on the fish, the oven had dried it out, while the potatoes would have made a nicer side if they were served without the heavy, calorific sauce (which seemed to defeat the purpose of my saintly menu choice). Ordering dessert was a task, only because the menu overwhelmed with delicious-sounding options. My date settled on a bread and butter pudding, which would have been just like granny’s version were the texture not so dense (although the toffee syrup underneath was addictive). My cheesecake had the opposite problem: it was soft and silken – a delight to run my tongue through – but was too sweet. Though not everything on the menu dazzled, Downtown Deli remains an excellent venue. All the lunchtime classics are good value and well prepared – anyone in the mood for a salad or sandwich served with a picture-perfect view would do well to pay a visit. The bill (for two) 1x Small bottle water Dhs8 1x Coffee Dhs16 1x Molten cheese sandwich Dhs30 1x Baked hammour Dhs58 1x Bread and butter pudding Dhs32 1x Cheesecake Dhs28 Total (excluding service) Dhs172

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