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Are Rivington Grill’s fish and chips at Taste of Dubai beer-battered?

A bunch of us sat around a table, digging into our plates from the different restaurant stations at Taste of Dubai, dissecting what could've made that deep-fried batter coating on Rivington Grill's signature fish so light and poofy. It started out with an airy golden brown crunch, and then, as I distracted myself with newspaper-wrapped fries, it gradually fell apart from the white fish flesh and started sponging up all the salty sour streams of malt vinegar, fresh lemon, mushy green peas, and tartar cream that had pooled together on my plate. In the land of deep-fried decadence, that last final mouthful of juice-dripping batter - all on its own, without the fish, without the fries [as much as I love them both] - warrants a separate dish all on its own. So was the fish batter at Rivington Grill beer'ed up or not? Without offending the teetotalers in the crowds at the festival, myself being one of them, I NEED to know the answer to that question because such poofiness, such sponginess, must be replicated at home.

XX-battered fish & chips from the Rivington Grill stall at Taste of Dubai

Lick-my-spoon blogger Sukaina raised an eyebrow at my question - "They can't, not publicly in Dubai without telling folks. It's got to be sparkling water." Tip noted. For all future deep-fried treats at home, switch to sparkling water for ultimate poofiness. I did come home and google Rivington Grill's fish and chips recipe online. The entire recipe stands exposed on BBC Good Food. And it calls for 500ml of beer. So did they stick to the standard recipe for Taste of Dubai, or tweak it for the public? I think I may need another helping of batter encrusted fish doused with salt and malt vinegar to figure it out. In case you're heading out to Taste of Dubai and have 30 bucks to spare for this tiny plate of deep-fried goodness, definitely go grab a plate and give me a shout-out if you know what went into that batter. Or maybe, just ask them and help me put an end to my mental guessing game. In addition to the fish and chips, I sampled a bunch of other stuff. A HELLUVA LOT of other stuff to be precise. Like the chicken pastilla from Almaz by Momo, a crispy Morroccan pastry stuffed with chicken, and...get ready to either be revolted or inspired...sprinkled with a coating of caster sugar and cinnamon.

Chicken pastilla by Almaz by Momo

I'd fallen in love with this sweet, crispy, chickeny Moroccan specialty back in my New York days, and Almaz by Momo's version totally lived up to that experience.

Assorted maki rolls from Haru

Also munched my way through a plate of assorted maki rolls from Haru - two of them were a tad bit too fishy for me, but the one doused in spicy mayo, tempura crunch and caviar was explosive. In a good way.

Tacos baja, from Maya by Richard Sandoval.

My reaction to the above fish taco from Maya: oh, fish taco, me used to adore thee back in my spicy, crunchy, mayo-slathered, catfish taco face-stuffing days [until I discovered that catfish are quite hideous at sight, far removed from the purring feline forms I thought they'd be. catfish never quite tasted the same after.] You look just like them incredible catfish tacos. And I'm sure you taste just like 'em too. I'm sure you taste of [first bite]...[ponderous expression]...taste of...[chew chew]...[deeper ponderous expression]...taste of...[swallow]...taste of nothing.

And thus we have blandness disguised in the form of a fish taco.

Another outstanding disaster were the Peking duck pancake rolls from The China Club. Had somebody thought to cook those pancakes, or was the raw floury taste meant to be part of the dish? And duck sauce, where were you...overpowered by the raw pancake exterior?...I missed you.

Peking duck rolled in pancakes by The China Club

Luckily, my evening was redeemed when I discovered free samples of truffles at Carluccio's. Really unique ones these were, with the thick texture of smooth chocolate, but the prominent flavors of cappuccino, white chocolate or hazelnut, depending on which ones you tried. I of course tried them all, and then dragged back fellow bloggers, Sukaina and Sarah, to sample my proud free discovery. They gave their seal of approval too.

Truffles at Carluccio's

Moving ten notches higher on the sweet decadence scale was the sticky date pudding at the Wharf. Moist with liquid gooey toffee, don't be put off by the boxed up plastic appearance. Sukaina and I just plonked it out on a plate, drizzled it artistically à la Lick My Spoon with toffee syrup, and dug in gleefully like little giggling girls at a birthday party.

Sticky date pudding with toffee sauce from The Wharf

Twenty notches lower on the same scale was Indego's attempt at a summery yoghurt smoothie. Chef Vineet Bhatia, I hate saying this especially since you were such a friendly down-to-earth gem of a person at the event, but this sour fruity yoghurty mixture had me gagging after one lethal spoonful. That said, I know at least one other far more sophisticated dessert conoisseur [Sukaina] who loved the minty ice cream on top...but my final plea O steamed yoghurt, red currant and mint pistachio ice cream, is that you never land yourselves simultanously on my tongue ever again.

Steamed Yoghurt and Red Currant Jelly, Mint and Pistachio Smoothie from Indego by Vineet Bhatia

On a happier note, actually, ecstatic note, is that I *think* I discovered my fantasy coffee bean at Taste of Dubai. For those who've read my earlier coffee posts, Parts 1 and 2, you'll know that I've been on the prowl for a non-acidic, not bitter, smooth and subtle espresso bean for my coffee machine at home. Who else other than Raw Coffee Company to have had it all along - a sweet velvety swig of their cappuccino made with their "Working Blend" espresso beans makes me think I have found The One. It's so hard to believe that I've actually found my dream bean that I'm not risking making a big show of it until I've sampled the coffee a second time at their original location at the Garden Center.

Cappuccino from The Raw Coffee Company...working blend espresso beans with the potential to rock my world.

Other must-trys at the show - partly cause I'm proud that I found such awesome hidden treats in my food-coma'd rounds of the Taste of Dubai grounds, but mostly because they're gloriously free, include:

...bread dipped in a sample of super fragrant, really deep and earthy white truffle oil at one of the gourmet stands at Taste of Dubai. My ability to remember names had completely died in some food-sodden part of my brain by this point, but I do know that this exhibitor had the word 'Gourmet' in their name and offer an [also-free] cup of warm and comforting chai tea latte.

White Truffle Oil at one of the gourmet exhibitor stands at Taste of Dubai

Another free treat presented itself as cubes of manchego cheese at Al Hambra. Glossy with rosemary-perfumed oil on the outside, and full of sharp, almost parmiggiano-like cheesiness at the center, this deserve to be piled up in a big bottomless glass bowl right near my bedside.

Cubes of rosemary-marinated Manchego cheese at Al Hambra

Something I didn't try but that looked really promising and somewhat adventurous were the beef cheeks at Gordon Ramsay's Verre.

Beef Cheeks at Verre

Me: which part of the body does the beef cheek come from? [plausible answers: (a) unrelated to cow face (b) related to cow face (c) related to cow rear - aka butt cheeks *wretch*]. Server: from the cheeks on the face [silently: DUH LADY, D-U-H.] Me: Ah ok, what do they taste like? Server: Really soft and fleshy and tender and...[all other related adjectives that would get me to pay the 20 or more odd dirhams this plate was priced at.] Me: Ok, gotta come back for these. Sadly, I never did go back during my six hour long binge at the Taste of Dubai. Till the next time I come across beef cheeks, from Food-Drugged Me to all those out there visiting or who plan to visit Taste of Dubai, eat up, drink up, and try to con someone else into driving you home cause it's painful to drive under food coma. Over-stuffed and out. (Disclaimer: Yes, I did receive free tickets to Taste of Dubai. No, I did not agree to cover the event in any specific way or write anything positive about what I ate there. Yes, life as a blogger really rocks.) Taste of Dubai URL: http://www.tasteofdubaifestival.com/ PROMO code [still valid as of 04/03/2010 at 17:00. Gives you 2 standard tickets at AED 30 each instead of at AED 75 each]: BLOG


  1. FooDiva

    Great review Arva! It’s non-alcoholic beer in the fish batter. Verre’s beef cheeks are OK…but much more tender in the restaurant itself.

  2. Sally

    I loved Al Hamra’s food too and single-handedly demolished rather a lot of that cheese and their olives while waiting for my patatas bravas and churros. I don’t know how you get the food to look that good – brilliant. Useful post as you’ve revealed some things I didn’t see over the last 2 days but will seek out tomorrow.

  3. Oh, yes, that cheese was damn good, thanks Arva, for sending me there to try it. And FooDiva, I knew someone would know about the beer batter. Don’t you love comments!

    Wish I would tried the sticky toffee pudding, but still a bit confused about why nobody makes a sticky date pudding here instead – this is after all, date world….

    Thanks for a great post.

    • InaFryingPan

      @FoodDiva – END OF MENTAL TORTURE, FINALLY. i knew someone would have the right answer, you’re a lifesaver.

      @Sally – I know right! I beelined for the cheese again on day 3, so wonderful and so FREE. Hope you had a chance to discover some of the other stuff…and it was so perfect bumping into you on Saturday, really needed a friend to share that fantabulous Rivington Scotch egg with. That fish and chips experience totally paled in comparison to the Scotch egg.

      @Sarah – But that was date pudding…wharf had a sticky date pudding, though I do remember seeing sticky toffee pudding on some other restaurant’s menu at the event too. But this one was all date, drizzled with toffee. They should rename it the Sugar Shock.

  4. Great pictures as usual! Love your style of writing too, ’poofiness’ – love it! The duck at China club is always hit and miss even in the restaurant, and like any duck unless its fresh it can be a complete disaster.

    Looks like you had a fooood filled Taste of Dubai! Thanks for taking the time to write it up for those who couldn’t make it – shall make do with drooling over your pics.

  5. Great photos Arva….mine came out rubbish….definitely not good enough for public viewing. And ahem,,,,,where is my pic with Gary Rhodes. btw i am sooooo glad that batter didnt have beer. my earth nearly stopped. and thanks for crediting my styling skills!!!

  6. Saleem

    Good photos and keep it up

  7. My mom and I had also fell in love with the White Truffle Oil, we had about 5 mouthful pieces. So fragrant and delicious! I agree, the duck was a HUGE disappointment. The hoisin (plum) sauce was non existent.

    Great write up, simply love reading your posts Arva!

    • InaFryingPan

      @CompleteFoodie – aw thank you :) wish you could’ve made it, but there’s always next year!

      @Sukaina – methinks you lie. You are a photographer extraordinaire. If not for your superb food lighting and placement skills (I just plonk food down and ’snap’ – nothing close to the level of thought you put in!), these pics would have gone down the drain too.
      (PS. I sent you the Gary Rhodes pic, his claim to fame can now be that he got photographed next to Dubai’s dessert queen. ;))

      @Saleem – thanks dad, wish you’d been there!

      @Yasmin – You know, I definitely saw some raised eyebrows when I went back for my 3rd free white truffle oil sample. But what’s a raised eyebrow or two in the face of high quality truffle oil. Sad that you had the same sorry experience with the duck, someone needs to help that restaurant help itself by letting them know that they’ve massacred that dish in an incompetent sauce and pancake.

  8. Hi

    I followed a tweet and found your food photography, which I must say is really strong and you give it a fresh approach. Plus I adore the fish and chips shot and cant look at it again as its 8.41am and its making me hungry. Grant

    • InaFryingPan

      @Corporate portraits – Thank you! I’m genuinely in shock that you think so – usually just snap away and keep my fingers crossed that something appetizing turns up when I download the pics later :D *Ego puffing up to the point where I’m bursting off my computer chair*

      …anyhoo, you’re in the land of uber-awesome fish and chips, so I’m sure an amazing F&C fix is just steps away!

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Meet Gary Rhodes…is he cooking up another restaurant? | FooDiva 5 Mar ’11 at 11:19 am

  2. By I’m eating Fish and Chips in London, wooo hooo! | I Live in a Frying Pan 29 Mar ’12 at 10:58 pm

  3. By If you catch me with a lost lovesick stare, I’m probably dreaming about a Moroccan chicken pie from last week. | I Live in a Frying Pan 2 Jun ’12 at 8:39 am

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