My visit to Après for cheese fondue

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.   

Inside Apres, the bar to the right, and Ski Dubai through the windows at the back


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.   

Apres' (failed) attempt at recreating a traditional Swiss fondue


My skillfully dunked cheesy bread cube


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.   

Fresh baked calzone with piping hot cheesy filling waiting to ooze out from within.


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?   

The peak of my lunch experience - Brioche de Champignon


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

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

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