Flour power at La Farine
Seven types of potatoes on the sides menu! I was sold on just that when it came to reviewing this French restaurant at the JW Marriott Marquis. In spite of being in the middle of grey Business Bay and inside a very busy hotel, the restaurant does manage to evoke a sense of a modern French café. Tempting house-made breads and pastries are displayed all along the side as you enter, and there’s a bustling open kitchen island in the middle.
The high ceilinged space is flooded in natural light thanks to the all-glass walls in the dining area, where splashes of lime green in the chairs and napkins add to the fresh, bright feeling. There are also dimly lit cosy booths in the lounge area, as alternative seating options.
The café-style menu features a reasonable selection of vegetarian dishes but only one veggie main course (mushroom vol au vent), so we decided to plump for a couple of different starters and sides to make up our meal. First up was a classic, burrata with tomatoes and pesto. I love burrata and tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu but, I have to confess, this was not the best version of this classic Caprese-style dish I’ve tried. The tomatoes tasted like what you’d get in a local supermarket, the cheese was also mediocre, and I needed to add more pesto (which was served alongside butter with the fresh, warm bread basket) and seasoning.
The disappointing start to the meal was counter-balanced by a delicious ‘juice of the day’: a mixture of spinach, broccoli, pineapple, apple and lemon from their healthy juice bar. Also from the ‘specials du jour’ menu was the pea soup we ordered. Creamy yet redolent of fresh peas, the soup was hearty, comforting, and reminded me of homemade pea soups from my childhood winters.
Next, we ordered a caramelized mushroom and gruyere tarte (there are two tarte options on the menu and both are vegetarian), which is served with a side salad. We also tried one of the seven potato dishes on offer, the pommes Anna – a Dauphinoise style baked dish (sans the cheese), with thinly sliced buttery potatoes prettily arranged in a mini cast iron pot. The tarte, while pleasant enough, had a couple of negatives. The base felt a bit soggy, and I couldn’t help but feel that the dish was something that I could (and very well might) toss up for supper at home one night, and not really restaurant-worthy. The potato dish was lovely in terms of concept and presentation, but again, I felt that it could have benefited with the use of better quality potatoes.
In fact, the whole meal felt like it was let down by the quality of ingredients. The restaurant is nice, and the menu quintessentially French café-style. But, to truly recreate the taste experience, the ingredients need to be top notch.
In the dessert department, however, La Farine shines. There is no menu, and you are invited to choose from the wide array of cakes, pastries and macarons on offer. I tried the flourless chocolate cake, and it was a treat of several chocolatey layers in different textures, topped with a silky, glistening chocolate ganache, and garnished with a raspberry mini macaron, did not disappoint.
That’s probably why the restaurant is popular as a breakfast and afternoon tea destination. With its reasonable prices and quite varied vegetarian selection, it could become the ideal lunch stop for vegetarians in the neighbourhood too. However, the execution of some of the dishes could do with some tweaking.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Good variety of vegetarian dishes; Reasonable prices
Cons: Underwhelming flavours
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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