Wheeler’s

Long-awaited and slightly delayed, the latest launch from British celebrity chef Marco Pierre White opened its doors last month in restaurant hotspot DIFC. What awaited us when my friend and I entered Wheeler’s? It was like DIFC meets London’s Mayfair (the home of the original): understated grandeur in gold and ivory tones, live music from a pianist in a corner of the bar and the same dangly glass light fittings found at Titanic, the previous Dubai opening from chef White. Still, the atmosphere was notably improved from the last haunt, with the tiny bar space occupied by suited gents from nearby offices, and a few large parties enjoying dinner in the restaurant area. We took a seat, not far from the piano player, which initially added to the luscious, tranquil ambience – although the playlist soon moved on to covers such as ‘Just the Two of Us’. Fun, but less refined. The giant one-page menu seemed a little steep, but was simply and accessibly divided between different styles of fish dish and a few token inclusions of steak. We opted for the obsiblue shrimp ceviche and fish cake to start. The fish cake didn’t specify its contents on the menu, but the soft, sweet texture inside suggested it was primarily made with prawn (an unusual inclusion). It was nice enough, accompanied by some pleasant wasabi mayonnaise, although the additional chunks of wasabi were a step too far. The shrimp ceviche arrived looking like a lively riot of dainty colour accents. The wonderfully creamy shrimp flesh was perfect paired with the cubes of aloe vera; a beautiful mirror of fresh elegance in texture and flavour. It was, however, not a ceviche. The pretty little segments of lime and scattering of pink peppercorns may have been intended as a clever ceviche deconstruction, but in reality the raw and concentrated sourness and the peppery-aniseed flavour were jarring and overwhelmed the better qualities of this dish. The feeling of déjà vu from a similarly ill-conceived seafood carpaccio from another Marco Pierre White opening in Dubai stuck in my gullet. Moving on, we opted for the waiter’s enthused recommendation of the plaice, and a dish recommended by the menu as a ‘Wheeler’s speciality’: the fish and chips. Considering this traditional dish was being billed as a house speciality, and cost Dhs110, it was disappointing. The triple cooked chips were neither soft enough in the centre, nor crispy enough on the surface, while the batter around the fish (the day’s special was cod) was greasy and overly soft. The coarsely crushed and modernised mushy peas, however, where deliciously buttery. The giant portion of plaice was simply but nicely cooked, with pockets of melt-in-the-mouth flesh within the fillets. Unfortunately, the accompanying nut butter with capers and almonds was not particularly good, with a sour edge, and detracted from the fish, rather than adding to its flavour. For dessert, we chose the bread and butter pudding, which had a classic and home-made quality, with a lovely eggy texture and plenty of cinnamon. We also tried the chocolate fondant. It appeared at the table looking a little like a sponge layer cake, with a seam carved around the top. While the middle of this fondant was gooey and chocolatey, the flavour of the chocolate was overly sweet. What’s more, on closer inspection it looked as though someone had sliced the top off and basted it back on. Throughout the meal, service veered between highly professional and friendly to less impressive and absent. While the waiter knew the menu well, tiny errors crept in consistently throughout the meal: it took a while for drinks to arrive, and just as long for empties to be taken away. I’d love to tell you otherwise, but so far Wheeler’s smacks of a fish-themed sequel to Titanic, this time complete with cheesy soundtrack. The bill (for two) 1x shrimp ceviche Dhs145 1x fish cake Dhs80 1x plaice Dhs190 1x fish and chips Dhs110 1x green beans Dhs25 1x bread and butter pudding Dhs45 1x chocolate fondant Dhs50 2x still water Dhs50 2x mocktails Dhs60 2x coffee Dhs50 Total (excluding service) Dhs893

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