February 15, 2013 3 Comments
I was in Waitrose yesterday where you can buy everything and anything. Like black-skinned tomatoes from Holland, baby carrots from the USA (Food air miles are a moot point here). There is a special room for pork, a bit like the room for adult entertainment in American DVD shops.It’s the opposite of Berlin where I face day after day of local kohlrabi, cabbage and oh potatoes, miles of waxy potatoes even when they claim to be floury.
Margins are similarly different. Dubai Marina, where I am staying, is clogged with Pauls and Pain Quotidiens and the prices are astonishing. A cappuccino is 18 DHR or €3.60. The chains open up so fast that the food bears little resemblance to a Pain Quotidien in London, say. This mushrooming can only be explained by returns. The reason there was a gold rush in 1848 was because one could pick up nuggets of gold from the ground, I think food outlets in Dubai promise similar riches.
But it doesn’t make for good food, or exciting food. My experience so far has been disappointing. Sure I can order Singapore noodles from the Noodle House and they get delivered hot but they are just ok. Much better than the food from Yo Sushi which is barely edible.
I suspect there is a lot of good food to be found, if you are willing (able) to go break free of the chains. My father has a local friend who works for the King (not sure which King exactly). His job seems to be similar to that of a courtier. The other day he woke my father up at 5am to go eat somewhere special. Somewhere special turned out to be a cheap standing only joint for the local Indian taxi drivers. They ate flat bread filled with onions. My mouth watered at the sound of it as I ate my sterile chicken wrap from Zaatar and Zeit with exactly 100g (keeping those margins healthy) of soft chicken breast (they play if fast and loose with the meat tenderizers here). Read more of this post