Après has a lot going for it. It has a gorgeous view of the made-in-Dubai ski slopes at the Mall of the Emirates. It has funky retro fittings, from the tiled orange columns to the disco-lit bar for those interested in a more potent post-ski drink than hot chocolate. And it’s one of the few local places that proudly offers authentic Swiss cheese fondue, with an entertaining menu description of age-old fondue-eating customs for the first-time fondue dipper.
So why was I not impressed? Maybe it was because my Gruyère cheese fondue totally missed the sublime ‘I want to drown in this heavenly pool of cheese’ mark. Rather than the satisfied sigh I’d have expected to emit after popping the first cheese-dunked bread cube in my mouth, I was left wondering why our fondue was so strangely watery, so totally lacking the creamy gooey palate-sticking consistency that any respectable fondue should have. The Gruyère itself was somewhat bland and tasteless, necessitating the addition of salt and fresh pepper at our table to resuscitate its flavor.
The calzone fared slightly better, with a gigantic, soft golden brown pastry crust that soaked up the taleggio cheese, spinach and mushrooms filling on the inside (the filling usually also contains beef chorizo, though Après did a meatless version for my veggie friend). Still, I was sorely disappointed. The menu had mentioned taleggio cheese as a key ingredient of the calzone, so I was expecting the full-bodied, buttery taste of taleggio (a creamier version of Italian brie), rather than the indistinguishable-from-store-bought-cheese that melted its way into our calzone order. Had Apres just plainly called it cheese, and not made me salivate in anticipation of a pricey (Dhs. 72) taleggio-touched calzone, I may have been more sympathetic to the otherwise flawless crust and cheese combination.
To give Après all blame and no credit would be unfair. Our starter, Brioche de Champignon, with a thick buttery slab of brioche, towering over a béchamel-laden pool of meaty mushrooms, started the meal out on a high note. But after that first peak, the meal skidded clumsily downhill in a sad culinary analogy of the novice skiers outside. And it didn’t make matters better that our servers were grim and inattentive throughout the meal – maybe a dose of hot chocolate before each shift to thaw the ice?
Despite the disappointments, I’d still recommend Après to anyone craving the comforts of bread and melted cheese, and willing to pay for a heartier experience than a slim grilled cheese sandwich whipped up at home. But for those inclined to get their hopes up at Après’ mention of exquisite-sounding cheeses, you may be better off holding out until your next flight to Europe.
Phone: (04) 3412575
Mall of the Emirates, Barsha, Dubai