Dubai; Meandering around the new Al Wasl Square development on a drizzly Saturday (yep it does rain and we do walk on occasion here), we pass so many new eateries, some with the hoarding still up. Smiling BKK‘s seafood concept, Book Munch, a Japanese bakery by the name of Yamanote Atelier, Chez Sushi by Sho Cho, and finally our port of call on the corner facing Safa Park, Pantry Café.
Jam-packed with a buzz reminiscent of Jones The Grocer’s early days…well in fact the near-all-glass exterior and exposed ceiling is also very Jones, with a deli counter showcasing cured meats, artisan cheeses and condiments, plus a row of expensive kitchen goodies.
The pleasant and smiley hostess searches for an empty table. Lucky for us, someone leaves and we grab a coffee-table banquette for our trio. We have to request menus and sadly that’s the first of many service issues. In all fairness, this sign on every table does forewarn us, and one many new restaurants would do well to embrace – it helps with managing expectations after all.
The menu is divided into breakfast available until noon on weekdays and 2pm on weekends, and all-day dining, boasting organic eggs, herbs and veggies from regional suppliers. Would be good to know the exact country of origin. The wood-fired pizzas that appear to grace every table look heavenly. We chase after a waitress to take our order.
My mama’s French onion soup, a daily special arrives first – sadly sans any floating toasted bread. She tears up the accompanying chunky bread and adds it in. A little bland so she requests some parmesan, which again we have to chase. In the meantime, my dad’s blue cheese buffalo chicken burger rocks up – a slightly toasted brioche bun encasing a chicken breast (pan-fried?), with lettuce, tomato, celery, pickles, blue cheese and a piquant tomato and pepper ‘buffalo’ sauce – accompanied by tad undercooked chunky wedge-like chips with the skin intact, and artisan Sir Kensington ketchup. I nab a bite and the blue cheese complements the spiced chicken without overpowering – a little lukewarm though.
Whilst all this munching is going on, I polish off my side order of chunky chips…I still await my baked Camembert with rosemary and honey drizzle – only to have the manager tell me that sadly they have ran out of Camembert. In all fairness he apologises on behalf of the waitress who should have relayed this when we placed our order. Bizarrely, despite a huge cheese display, Brie de Meaux included (sharing boards are a key menu item), he is unable to substitute. I knew I should have opted for the shakshouka from the brekkie menu, or one of those pizzas. So I order a quick fix Thai-inspired salad – slithers of grilled Heritage Angus…am pretty sure it’s Canadian, lettuce and kidney beans tossed in a spicy kaffir lime and bird’s eye chilli dressing. So hungry by then I scoff it in minutes. Whilst The Pantry’s menu claims freshly squeezed juices, my pomegranate clearly isn’t and is rather watered down, a Barakat supply I think.
The bill arrives for a reasonable AED 66 per head including a bottle of Voss water, but I am surprised to see a charge for my salad given the mess-up with my initial order. Surely you should waive this off given the serious delay? Despite the lacklustre service and the odd food issue, Pantry has huge potential and a delightful daytime vibe – just give it a good few weeks to settle in. In the meantime, so many eateries in this new little neighbourhood will lure me back – if you’ve been I’d love to hear your feedback. I’ll sign off with a cute quote from Pantry’s menu and my foodie mantra . What’s yours?
Pantry Café is located in the new Al Wasl Square development on Al Wasl road, opposite Safa Park, Dubai. T; +971 4 3883869, E; firstname.lastname@example.org Open daily 7am to midnight. AED 66 per head. Free wi-fi too!