Nikki Beach Resort & Spa first popped up on our sustainable radar when it announced it was ditching plastic straws at its Pearl Jumeirah property. It was a commendable move for the global hotel group, which serves its fair share of mixed drinks at its luxe beach clubs around the world, but we were keen to see if its eco-cred extended beyond the #saynotoplastic social media buzz.
To dig a little deeper, we pay a visit to Café Nikki, the hotel’s all-day diner overlooking the pool and the Arabian Gulf. It’s clear from the outset that Nikki Beach’s commitment to the environment is greater than its war on straws. Tables are decorated with pots of rosemary rather than cut flowers, and proper cloth napkins stand in for paper (although, curiously,
they still use paper drink coasters).
The menu makes all the right noises, too: salads are packed with produce from “Nikki Beach Organic Farm”; there are feel-good bone broths and on-trend ingredients such as kale, activated cashews and coconut oil; allergens are clearly noted; and there’s a smattering of references to sustainable seafood. The kitchen draws inspiration from Nikki Beach’s 18 destinations, from Miami to Marbella, to create a globe-trotting collection of salads, sandwiches, sushi and mains.
To start, we share the Café Nikki Planter Pot, a ceramic pot of baby carrots, radishes and mushrooms protruding from edible, nutty soil. Our waiter upends the pot onto a plate to reveal layers of crunchy salad greens, bright-pink beetroot hummus, roasted vegetables, quinoa and pomegranate arils. Although the menu may lead you to believe that Nikki Beach has a fully-fledged farm in operation, we later learn that the ingredients haven’t been plucked from the hotel’s allotment, as such, but rather from a collection of independent organic growers who work closely with the kitchen.
For mains, I’m drawn to the Versilian cacciucco, a seafood stew inspired by Nikki’s Italian outpost in Versilia, on the Tuscan coast. It promises “five varieties of responsibly sourced seafood”, and arrives as a healthy serve of scallops, prawns, squid, mussels and fish, with house-baked bread to soak up the rich tomato, sage and garlic sauce. My husband orders the spring chicken a la plancha, a wholesome, colourful plate of grilled chicken breast and thigh, broccolini, red quinoa and pumpkin puree.
You can tell a lot about a restaurant by the quality of its kids’ menu, and Café Nikki does not disappoint. My toddler’s delicate white fish fillets come in a light, crisp batter, with chunky potato chips and steamed broccoli, peas and carrots. Our only gripe is the accompaniments of ketchup and mayonnaise, which are served in those small, single-use glass jars rather than a ramekin or reuseable bottle. Perhaps the next step in Nikki’s sustainable journey could be to phase those out, too.
DOING SOME GOOD
Patrick Ikinofo, Chef de Cuisine, Nikki Beach Resort & Spa
Where do you source your ingredients for the restaurants’ signature salads?
We work with a few different organic suppliers to source the ingredients for our salads, such as lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbages. We use that local produce when it’s in season, and then during the height of summer when it’s not available here, we look to producers within the region – we don’t believe in importing our fresh produce from all over the world, as we don’t want to impose a large carbon footprint.
How do you champion sustainable seafood?
Sourcing sustainable seafood is a big thing for us. We’ve just launched our Gulf Seafood night, which builds on the Choose Wisely initiative that divides fish into three categories: red for heavily overfished; orange for species that are at risk; and green for the more sustainable options. Our Gulf Seafood night is not your average all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. We’re showcasing sustainable fish species that are less common, but make great eating. We’ve teamed up with a supplier who drives down to the Abu Dhabi fish market each Sunday to source responsibly caught fish, which are then tagged with all the details of the species and fishing methods. Diners can scan the tag on their phone to find out what it is, where and when it was caught, even the fisherman who caught it.
What are some other ways you try to reduce waste in the kitchen?
With an all-day dining restaurant, you have to be very flexible, as you’re catering to different tastes, but everything from the biryani to the burrata salad has to be the best quality. We use a tracking system called Chefs Eye to monitor how much waste is produced in the kitchen,
and then we look at ways of repurposing that waste, such as using vegetable trimmings or breaking down whole chickens and fish, then using the excess for stocks and sauces. We make 99 per cent of our food in house, so we
can keep track of what’s going into everything.
Café Nikki, Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, Pearl Jumeirah
Breakfast, 7am-11am; lunch, 12pm-5pm; dinner 6pm-11pm
Tel: 04 376 6000, visit: nikkibeachhotels.com/dubai