3 January 2012

The Lost Post

New Year, new resolve... The plan, as you've probably all guessed or, er, remember from previous years, is to blog more regularly. The reality will no doubt be that reality gets in the way. However, having seen the benefits of planning in 2011, I've managed to keep January mostly free in order to give 2012 some structure and catch up on some long outstanding posts from 2011. Part of the deal is also the chance to review what was probably my finest ever year of eating and, let's face it, it's had some serious competition. 

Even so, 2011 was a landmark year, from the joys of handheld snackage to a surprisingly large number of Michelin stars, via many memorable experiences, remarkable people and lots of travel. There were many unexpected pleasures in there (two of the year's finest meals occurred in Latvia and Estonia), and at least one of those happened in Dubai. 

I'd been to Dubai before and came away slightly bemused. The place is so gloriously odd and artificial that you can't help but wish they'd stop taking themselves so seriously and just admit that: a) they're not fooling anyone; and b) are effectively Vegas.  While I'd certainly recommend it for those of you who want a hotel break - you're guaranteed insane heat, great food and impeccable service - the official line of Dubai being full of culture seemed a slightly misguided claim. It wasn't therefore on my list of places I wanted to return to... and then the invite came through to spend a weekend at Atlantis The Palm

Like I say, Dubai is a brilliant place if you just want to stay on resort and revel in luxury. And there is nowhere more glorious to do that than at Atlantis. The Palm bit of the address refers to the man-made, reclaimed land that juts out into the Gulf in the shape of that tree. If you were trying to think of something that just shouted wondrous excess, you couldn't come up with anything better. The hotel occupies many acres - many, many, MANY acres - of the top bit of the palm, giving views, through the haze, of downtown Dubai and also out to sea.

 














Quite a lot of that footprint is taken up by the aquarium (and I apologise for the assorted "Ray!" injokes that pop up on Twitter quite a lot), the incredible rooms (I could have got my London flat into my suite at least twice) and multiple dining opportunities. My colleagues on the trip have already commented on some of the dining / experiences here, here and here (and the latter two with much better photography than I could muster) and, like Chris and Jeanne, I could wax lyrical on the joy of (snogging) playful dolphins and the incredible and incredibly delicious tuna collar, for hours (not to mention the sheer brilliance of the tahini fountain).
















So I won't. Instead, I'm going to show the other side of Atlantis because, while it's possible to eat like a king (at least) three times a day, there's some much lighter-hearted dining available too. This includes an outpost of American chain Coldstone Creamery where you can choose for all sorts of sticky treats to be smooshed into scoops of rich ice cream and also enjoy the antics of the servers who'll flick your scoops around the room and slam dunk them into cups... with, admittedly, the occasional mishap. 

 






 






















It also includes TBJ which stands for The Burger Joint. Yep, you guessed it, even Dubai is going through the burger craze. TBJ has a slight advantage over many downtown places in that the hotel's demand for the best ingredients means that, thanks to executive chef Mark Patten, they're breeding their own heavily marbled, Wagyu-like cattle in Australia. At any given moment, there's a shipment of beef headed their way and that boat journey is an incredibly effective way of ageing meat to  their requirements. The net effect is that the steaks in their dedicated beef restaurant Seafire are the best in the city and - surprisingly - the best value. The knock on effect is that the burgers served in TBJ are made with offcuts of this beef. 










 




















Does it work? Oh dear God, yes. In a year of regular Goodman burgers and several meanders through the menu at Meateasy and Meatliquor, TBJ was a stand out experience, with intense beefiness (undoubtedly bolstered by the fact that, in a Moslem country, the "bacon" is also made out of cow), slices of the sort of cheese even Mr Pople would approve of, a good ratio of (slightly sweet brioche-like) bun to burger (and bread that held its shape as the burger gave up its juices) and just enough salad. Chips too were excellent, ditto the thick milkshakes and the surroundings: the chance to "graffiti" your name on the wall isn't the sort of behaviour you might associate with a famously strict country such as Dubai which probably makes it all the more satisfying.



3 comments:

Chris said...

While the Atlantis sure does ooze that certain "I'm rich why are you staying here" atmosphere, it was great to see so many of what I'd call ordinary travellers staying there when we did.

Combine that with their first class food and oh man... those burgers I'd say it was one of my most memorable trips.

Now we just need to get organised and meet up for burgers in London. After all ray's been hanging out for a catch up for ages

Jeanne said...

Aaaah, good times, good times... Those burgers were pretty spectacular as were those fries - *swoon*.

But the Ray jokes were still the highlight for me ;o)

doesthebellyrulethemind.wordpress.com said...

Finding a good burger, not as easy as it sounds.
I hope to try Hestons simple burger recipe, soon. It only has two ingredients. One of them is quality sirloin beef, salt being the other.
http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/heston-blumenthal/beef-burgers-recipe
Please post any good burger hits in London you find
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doesthebellyrulethemind.wordpress.com
Restless Native is my other name