Oscar’s Vine Society review
When I think about French food, my imagination immediately conjures up images of jelly-like frogs legs, slimy escargot and chic men in berets with garlic around their necks. Is that just me? I’ll be honest, I haven’t eaten a lot of good French cooking and this week I decided it was time to get acquainted with French gastronomy, but I wanted to make sure I chose someplace legit to take the plunge.
Since moving to Dubai, I’ve been bowled over by the sheer choice of cuisines available in the Emirate’s many eateries. Dubai is a cultural melting pot and every expatriated nationality has brought the taste of home with them, so I’m definitely in the best place to sample the world’s most loved dishes. But how to choose the best French restaurant?
Obviously, I was after good wine with my meal, so I chose Oscar’s Vine Society in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road because they were named Dubai’s Best Wine Bar by Time Out Dubai. The holy grail had spoken. I was off to sample French food, Dubai style.
French food and wine in Dubai? There’s only one place for it.
Oscar’s is one of the Crowne Plaza’s 13 eateries and it’s a refreshing change from the tiresome splendour that characterises Dubai’s bars and restaurants. Yep, I’ve started to tire of 24/7 glitz and glamour. Who have I become?
With a laid-back ambience, almost cavernous feel and a warm welcome, Oscar’s Vine Society is the soothing antithesis to some of its competitors. As soon as I walked in to the Provenҫal style bistro, I knew that hours could pass here and I’d be none the wiser. The decor is rustic yet tasteful, and you can sit at an oak barrel table or hide away in the cosy snug area, surrounded by bottles of plonk and quaint painted French scenes. As you can imagine, I was in my element.
We bagged the window seat and watched late-night swimmers doing lengths in the plaza level pool while beyond, the evening traffic zoomed silently along Sheikh Zayed. A gentle reminder that we were not, in fact, in Bordeaux.
Though I can’t profess to be an expert, my bartending years back in Edinburgh and my boundless love of alcohol qualifies me to tell you that Oscar’s Vine Society have some bloody nice wine. Our waitress was happy to make recommendations and seemed very knowledgeable about the menu. Obviously essential when you’re priding yourselves on being Dubai’s best wine bar. The service in general was great. Our waitress was helpful without being overbearing – a balance Dubai’s service staff all too often get wrong.
Oscar’s has around 120 wines on the menu and 40 of those come by the glass. The names sound like magical elixirs from the world’s most charming destinations. I’ve been to a few wine testing events and just love listening to sommaliers talk. That vocabulary!
I started with a full bodied Dourthe ‘Reserve’ Médoc Cabernet Sauvignon (French, of course) and I can’t tell you how good it was to sip wine that wasn’t the cheap vino they dish out at Dubai’s Ladies Nights. Next, a dark berry Torres Sangre De Toro Garnacha from Catalunya.
We began with a grazing bowl of spiced nuts and a freshly baked baguette. Oh so French. I went for Soupe aux fruits de mer, which is one of my favourite things to order. This Marseille inspired soup had a rich, tomato broth flavoured with aromatic garlic shavings, and the chef hadn’t scrimped on seafood. Is there anything worse than being confronted with a few lousy prawns and four mussels when you opt for fruits de mer? No fear of that here.
We also got the Salade au fenouil; Fresh shaved fennel and arugula with fresh pear, parmesan, pine nuts and an olive oil dressing. The salad list was varied and I just wish I could have tried them all.
The main event for me was Epaule d’agneau de lait rôtie, a slow roasted crispy lamb shoulder. The delicious meat slid from the bone and it took me a while to work out what was delighting my tastebuds: the meat was elegantly spiced with cumin. The lamb came with a tangy apricot sauce and jus in a separate dish – not that I needed it. My ‘cocotte’ of choice was a yummy summer vegetable ratatouille.
We also had pan fried turbot with cauliflower and daisy puree, sun dried tomato and roasted nut pesto.
The menu at Oscar’s Vine Society may be compact, but it packs a punch. Full of hearty fare like red wine and ox tail stew cooked for 7 hours and marinated deer loin with violet syrup and hazelnuts, there’s something for every foodie’s palate and no chance you’ll go home hungry.
I didn’t think I had room for dessert after my lamb but then I saw the options and I was like, pass a girl a spoon. I chose raspberry Dame Blanche, a ‘White Lady’, to us Anglophiles. Creamy but light, this white chocolate sweet was beautifully presented and tasty. The Crème brulée was also lovely – and huge!
Cracking that caramelised shell is one of life’s little pleasures, right?
Oscar’s Vine Society is the ideal place to unwind after work with colleagues and a cheeseboard or to linger over a slap-up meal with your partner. I sometimes find that restaurants either cater to the romantics or the rowdy group bookings, but the candle light and quirky decor at Oscar’s lend the place an atmosphere that works whoever you’re dining with.
Oscar’s is reasonable, too. On weeknights, you can help yourself to the snack buffet and selected wines for just AED 120 from 6pm to 8pm as part of the ‘Oscar’s Winedown’.
I have a feeling this could be my new low key mid-week hangout.
Oscar’s Vine Society really does have a certain je ne sais quoi. The wonderfully unpretentious atmosphere only adds to the appeal of the delicious, classic French food. This gem on Sheikh Zayed Road is a comforting escape from Dubai’s endless parade of extremity and I left feeling extremely satisfied. I’ll be back to take advantage of the weeknight deal.
Where have you had amazing French food, outside of France? Also, if you have any Dubai restaurant recommendations – leave them in the comments!
Want to gorge yourself on fab French fare? To book, call 800 CROWNE (276963) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise you won’t regret it.