Most of us in Dubai are still too busy (read: lazy) to cook at home, so we can make ourselves feel better by eating ‘home-style’ food – simple dishes made from fresh ingredients, which, if you’re lucky, are sourced locally. Has Dubai finally grown tired of its Nero-esque consumption habits in favour of a more down-to-earth diet? We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but the recent influx of restaurant-café-grocers is indicative that the city’s dining scene is growing up by toning it down. And so, we visited Sophie’s, an ‘Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well’ concept café courtesy of Markus Thesleff of Whissle Hospitality and Ramzy Abdul Majeed of Okku. With such a debonair pair lending their names to the project, we had high hopes for Sophie’s. Such hopes soon plummeted back down to earth on the discovery that we wouldn’t be dining on feel-good, fresh food with views of the sleek Riva resort on the Palm Jumeirah in which Sophie’s is set; rather we’d be sat in an overly air-conditioned, windowless basement. The lack of natural light is compensated for with bright furniture, friendly staff, bucolic, waterfall-strewn murals and even an Astroturf feature wall. Bizarre, yes, but the abundance of fresh fruit piling up on the counter did at least suggest that the menu was more authentic than the view. Ordering proved a no-nonsense affair – we were invited to point to our chosen meaty main dish behind the glass display counter, as well as two salad sides, before drifting over to our table next to aforementioned Astroturf wall. My date had picked the chicken Milanese, which proved to be a mistake: the chicken was tough and dry (and the fact it was fried didn’t do much for Sophie’s health-conscious credentials). Her salads were far better – the white beans were soft, simple, fresh and filling, while the chunks of pumpkin were embellished with bright baby spinach leaves. My meatballs, bathed in an inoffensive tomato sauce, proved a better choice of main, especially with the zesty quinoa side and creamy pumpkin hummus that I’d ordered as accompaniments (I only learned when I received the bill that the pumpkin hummus was not included – a point that could have been made clearer by the waitress). The highlight of our visit, however, was the fresh juices (my date and I had ordered beetroot and carrot, and beetroot and apple respectively), which are bound to prove popular with The Palm’s body-conscious residents in search of a quick and easy (though not necessarily cheap) lunchtime fix. For us, however, Sophie’s was a little too homely to lure us all the way to The Palm to eat there again. The bill (for one) 1x Meatballs with quinoa salad Dhs60 1x Chicken Milanese with pumpkin salad Dhs60 1x Pumpkin hummus Dhs15 1x Large apple and beetroot juice Dhs27 1x Medium beetroot and carrot juice Dhs22 Total (excluding service) Dhs184