Part concept store, part high-end eatery, D3’s first licensed venue also boasts a responsibly-minded kitchen
Named after a Virginia Wolfe novel, boasting an address in the ever-more-intriguing Dubai Design District, a retail space packed with highly-Instagrammable objets d’art, and the highly-talented Chef Izu Ani, formerly of La Serre, in the kitchen, it’s safe to say The Lighthouse is a place we wanted to love from the word go. Which can so often be a very bad sign indeed. With great expectation comes a real risk of disappointment and it was with no small sense of trepidation that we took our (impeccably selected blue velvet) seats at The Lighthouse.
We needn’t have worried, at least not about the venue, though if you’re in any way design-inclined, you might want to leave your credit card at home, lest you completely fill your home with cute sculptures from MOMA NY, cactus vases (we didn’t even know we needed one in our lives, but we did), ethically produced candles from Elise Som and sustainable children’s toys from brands including Miller Goodman and Cuboro. Truly, this place is a Pinterest board with plates. But, oh, what plates.
Chef Izu’s signature European style is present and correct, though the vibe is much more laidback than in his previous Dubai ventures. This is not a place for starched linen tablecloths. Diners are scattered around the retail space, there’s a bar overlooking the kitchen perfect for solo diners, and the music is set to lively, with ska, jazz and a bit of old-school Michael Jackson adding to the fun but relaxed vibe.
We started with an impeccable baked feta, topped with pistachios, pine nuts and barberries, the sweetness cutting through the naturally salty cheese perfectly. Given it has its own bakery,
it’s no surprise the accompanying pita was notably good, and top marks for providing plenty of it – being left with a load of cheese after the carbs have gone being a true restaurant annoyance. Grilled prawns with garlic, rosemary and green chilli, also from the mezze list, were plump, perfectly cooked and swimming in great olive oil (again, mopped up with an impeccable bread, this time of the Campaillou variety).
The shallot and caper dressing on the ribeye steak was deliciously savoury and very moreish, though if we were to be picky we’d say the steak could have done with little more resting time. No such complaints with a special of lamb cutlets, charred on the outside, juicy on the inside and served with a smoky sweet aubergine and labneh purée. Perfect.
A caramel tart, a great espresso and a couple of take-home blondies for tomorrow’s elevenses later and we were back outside admiring the art on a stroll around what is fast becoming our new favourite neighbourhood. The Lighthouse is packed throughout the day but remains reasonably quiet at night, a trend we expect will very soon change as the area continues to evolve into an evening destination. Get there first, especially if you too are missing a ceramic cactus in your life…
Building 6, Dubai Design District, Dubai, Sun to Fri 8.30am to 11pm, Sat 8am to 10.30pm. Tel: (04) 4226024. Taxi: D3. thelighthouse.ae
DOING SOME GOOD
Izu Ani is partner and head chef at The Lighthouse
How do you balance local and international sourcing practices?
We buy all our fruit and vegetables from the local market where produce comes across the region as well as the UAE. We have a responsibility to provide the best for our customers and part of that responsibility is to source the best ingredients within the region. That said, most of our meat comes from Canada because the abundance of natural resources there means these animals live a very healthy life, which in turn results in a superior quality end product. Our fish is mostly from the Mediterranean because it’s closest and freshest. Local fish isn’t as sustainable as we would want it to be.
You’re passionate about reducing food waste. How do you think restaurants can influence this?
I believe social responsibility should be key for us all, and portion control, balance and education can help reduce food waste. I also make sure we use byproducts to create new dishes. For example, using vegetable stems to make stock for risotto instead of throwing them out.
You work in Europe as well as in the Middle East. How does customer engagement with ethical issues compare?
Naturally, European consumers are more aware, and have been for a long time. But you learn from the people you are around, and having an expat community, I believe, is influencing the way we address ethical and environmental issues here. It has a very positive impact on the rest of the community in the UAE.
What would you like to see change to help reduce food waste further in line with the government’s objectives?
The packaging of the ingredients is a problem for me, there are too many boxes, even with local produce, and there is just no need for it.