I don't drink.
I don't do pork.
I (temporarily, until my doc gives me the green light), can't eat beef.
So what was I doing signing myself up for Oktoberfest, placing myself in the midst of German beer and sausage lovers?
[For those who're still reading this blog and haven't x-ed out the screen in disgust at reading a blog by a foodie who shies away from beer and bacon, I humbly thank you for not hating on me.]
To answer the question, I just wanted a glimpse of the traditional German Oktoberfest action. The crowd. The rowdy singing yodeling scene. And even if I wasn't sporting a beer mug, I wanted to play fly-on-the-wall, watch people go crazy and enjoy the fun from my cushy white sober seat. And I'd definitely join in on the dancing. (in fact, someone who'd once seen me at a party was shocked to hear that I hadn't imbibed a drop of alcohol. Never quite figured out whether to feel flattered or insulted at that comment.)
We made reservations at the Hofbräuhaus, a German bar/restaurant at the JW Marriott in Deira. The place had this cozy, authentic German/European tavern feel, and as I entered the empty restaurant (empty because I got there super early, just so I could snip away a few photos in peace before the crowds got in) I could just imagine what the place would feel like once it filled up with raving mug-hoisting Octoberfest'ers. Our host set high expectations of crazy dancing to follow that evening: "I intentionally reserved a side table for your party so that you don't get squished from either side with the crowd dancing on the benches." My response to the kind and thoughtful host: "Um, actually, that's exactly what I came for. Could we get a table in the center please? I want bench dancing. I want Wild."
Well, either the scene at the JW Marriott last year was drastically different, or the host had ingested a few pints himself before the party had begun, and/or he'd attended the Oktoberfest party at the Grand Hyatt that week and in his post party beer-logged memories, got the experience mixed up with the dinner deal at the JW Marriott, but this place was anything BUT wild. Other than the two sultry imposter yodeling wheezing [evidently, opinions on our table varied hugely] singing ladies up on stage, and a rather domestic set of dance moves courtesy an energetic granny and (admittedly cute) children from the table behind us, the atmosphere was just really...there's no other better word for it...tame.
Had I been aiming for a family-style gathering with a decent buffet and folksy music, I'd have been plenty satisfied. But having read about the crazy Oktoberfest evenings in the Grand Hyatt tent (which was sadly totally sold out), and having also read some pretty rowdy reviews about the JW Marriott (yet another reminder to self: don't ever trust online reviews a 100%, even if they look totally legit) , I'd geared myself up to watch some unrestrained German debauchery...a wild hope that the JW Marriott just couldn't live up to.
The only elements that redeemed the experience and saved the evening from being a total washout were...
...the awesome company (big shout-out to the folks who made it from our foodie group, Famished in Arabia, and the friends of my foodie friends who joined us for dinner!)
...the pretzels with the two types of mustard - sweet brown grainy and regular yellow
...the creamy shrimp salad
...the heaty beef goulash (I snuck some beef in there, couldn't resist.)...(my doc would never know.)...(let's hope.)...(unless he's stalking me online.)
...and did I mention the two mustards? I definitely overdosed on them, coating everything imagineable from the rubbery spatzle to the veal meatballs with mustard. The only thing I didn't douse in mustard - but in retrospect, maybe I should have - was the half-baked apple streudel that had probably been yanked out of the oven before it had the time to really cook through.
I must admit that I feel quite wicked writing such a harsh review, especially when the JW Marriott folks had clearly attempted to include many German favorites in their buffet and gone out of their way to give our group a special discount package for the evening (before discounts: AED 180 for the buffet, and AED 365 for buffet & drinks). But it is what it is...if you're looking for a fun family-style celebration, hop on on over to Hofbräuhaus. But if you're all geared up for the wild Oktoberfest deal, with beer-mug hoisting and PG 13 dancing and high quality yodeling, this just ain't the place to be.
Would definitely recommend checking out the website of one of my fav foodies in the city & one of the bloggers in our group that night, Sally Prosser. She's just posted up a (far more tactful and infinitely less wicked) review on our Oktoberfest night, with a bonus yummy pretzel recipe thrown-in!
JW Marriott, Dubai
Phone: +971 (0) 4 607 7977