Pascal Tepper French Bakery

Dubai loves a big name, especially in the context of a restaurant. Slap a Michelin-star chef on the beginning or the end of an eatery’s title and people will take notice. It’s neither a good nor a bad thing – just a Dubai thing. I raise this point because the city has recently been bequeathed with its first celebrity-endorsed bakery: Pascal Tepper in Dubai Media City. Pascal is a rather handy Parisian baker, and the fact that he’s setting up shop in the heart of Media City is great news for the countless urban, edgy media types clamouring for a fresh, alternative breakfast, lunch or (to a lesser extent) dinner fix. I’m one such media type (though maybe less urban and edgy), and I’ve long lamented the dearth of good lunchtime spots in an area that is in desperate need of a few more. A sandwich or salad prepared by a team coached by Pascal Tepper was an enticing prospect and, a few days after its opening, I ambled over to take a look. The first thing that struck me was the dead space that greets diners as they enter – an expansive dark-wood floor occupied by little other than dusty footprints. The cleanliness of customers’ footwear is by no means the responsibility of the management, but the layout of the restaurant made it difficult to get a sense of what Pascal Tepper is trying to be – a place to drop in for a takeaway sandwich, or a venue for a sit-down lunch? It turns out that it’s trying to be both. The open kitchen, baking ovens, display counter and till are set across the room from the entrance, while the two seating areas are positioned to the left and right. No one came to greet me at the door, so I was unsure what I should do – order from the counter, or take a seat and order from there? As it turned out, I did both: I approached the counter, sourced a menu and was then told I could take a seat. The plentiful staff looked as confused as the diners, and I was filled with a sense of foreboding. Mindful of the time (my lunch break is an hour long), I found a table and waited. And waited. Ten minutes passed and I resigned myself to the fact that things were only going to get worse, so I decided to grab a sandwich and visit another time. Before I could, a waitress spotted me and scurried over to take my order – a salade Nordique and a poulet curry tartine. She left me and I waited some more. After another 20 minutes, the atmosphere of the restaurant was flammable. It appeared I wasn’t the only one waiting an inordinate amount of time to be served, and I knew it was time to cut my losses when the table next to me finally received their order, which turned out to be wrong. What made me angry, however, was a group of Europeans standing at the door watching the prevailing chaos. I’m guessing they were the franchise owners, who, rather than jumping into the kitchen to help out, preferred to take notes, nod sternly with crossed arms and mutter to one another about the improvements that needed to be made (ie everything). I felt like a test subject in a perverse culinary experiment, when in fact I was a paying customer. Well, I would have been if I’d eaten – my lunch hour was all but over. I apologised to the waitress, cancelled my order and returned to the office hungry. The story doesn’t end there. A restaurant review is never much good if the reviewer doesn’t actually eat during his visit, so I returned to find out what my salade Nordique and poulet curry tartine would have tasted like had I had the time and patience to wait well into the afternoon. I should really have visited again at lunchtime, though I was too scarred by my first experience and opted for an evening visit instead –at least this way I could be sure I’d get something to eat. The restaurant couldn’t have been more different to my first experience. It was quiet (I was the only customer), cold (the air conditioning was set to arctic), and the service was sweet and attentive (I reiterate: I was the only customer). My Nordique salad, featuring pink rolls of smoked salmon, glistening capers, cherry tomatoes and fresh mixed lettuce, with the occasional mint sprig, was, on the whole, pretty good. It was simple, straightforward and in no way groundbreaking, but pretty tasty nonetheless. Worth waiting an hour for? Not on your life. My poulet curry tartine (béchamel sauce, chicken pieces and gruyère cheese), however, was poor. Very poor. The chicken was rubbery and the sauce, which should have been an exciting medley of flavour, fell completely flat. More insulting, however, was the Dhs35 price tag. By way of dessert I contented myself with the creamy blackberry smoothie: two scoops of vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries, milk and a dash of lime juice. But no blackberries – interesting – though I doubt even blackberries would have saved the smoothie from being a senseless saturation of sweetness. I had two very different dining experiences at Pascal Tepper, neither of which I’ll be in a hurry to repeat. I concede that both visits were during the ‘soft opening’ stage, but regardless, a restaurant should still be able to serve a salad in less than 30 minutes. I’m sure the food and service will improve, but it’ll take longer to recover from the first three weeks of ineptitude. The bill (for one) 1x Salade Nordique Dhs48 1x Poulet curry tartine Dhs35 1x Blackberry smoothie Dhs20 Total (excluding service) Dhs103

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