Classy dining for regular folk @ Jamie’s Pizzeria

I don’t really do Michelin stars any more. It was a phase and it was good while it lasted but it is all over now. No celebrity chefs either, thank you very much. I am happiest when dining out on the streets or comparing one shawarma to the other (though I do sneak in a cheeky brunch whenever I can!) So, when asked to review Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria, I wasn’t really sure why!   

As we walked into the restaurant, I began to understand why they may have asked me to review it. This was a far cry from the fancy, Michelin starred, award winning, celebrity chef restaurant I was expecting. It had a classy roadside diner feel; the kind of place that would take your jacket, ask you how you were doing and seat you at your preferred table while still serving breakfast, chicken wings and pizza. This was a wonderful world of contrasts and I was already very excited.   

We ordered the Mushroom Fritti, Chilli Chicken wings, Chicken Ala Diavola Pizza and Lemon Herb Chicken. The Mushroom Fritti was basically a mushroom tempura (if there is such a thing) and was my least favourite dish of the day. Every other dish was good enough for me to go back to this place to have just that.  

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Fahad from Pakistan has been tossing pizzas at Jamie Oliver’s for a year and a half

The free range Chilli Chicken Wings were supposed to be sticky after being tossed in what was called a spicy freak sauce so I asked if I could have the sauce on the side and use it as a dip. I did not expect them to agree because that would essentially change the whole concept and they would have no control over the amount of sauce and flavour doused on to the wings. To my surprise, they agreed. Such is the effect of a customer centric attitude that you are willing to take risks and bend the rules a little bit. It was a gamble that definitely paid off. One thought going through my mind as I dipped the little drumsticks into the spicy freak sauce was that the only way to explain how unbelievably addictive it was, is to bring my foodie friends back to this place.  

Freaky chicken wings at Jamie Oliver’s

I was intrigued, yet apprehensive of the Lemon Herbed Chicken. I don’t know why but for some reason I feared it may have been under cooked. I think it had something to do with a similar sounding dish which I had tried to eat a week prior to that day in Baku. To my relief, this chicken was neither under cooked and rubbery nor had it been cooked to oblivion and was succulent and tender with a lemon flavoured layer of skin on top. The first thing I did when I got back home was to google the recipe. No, I wasn’t trying to save myself a trip back to the restaurant. I was just curious on how a dish with such basic ingredients could taste so good.

Lemon Chicken at Jamie Oliver’s

It turns out, all you need to create the most awesome chicken dish were a few fresh basil leaves, a couple of rosemary sprigs, some garlic, your choice of veggies and a large lemon. It is what you do with these ingredients that magically transforms this into a signature Jamie Oliver dish. Don’t google it yet. Go and try the real thing first; just so you know what it is supposed to taste like.  

Chicken Ala Diavola at Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria

Last but not least, the Chicken Ala Diavola Pizza because this was after all a pizzeria, right? I was pleased to be offered a choice between whole grain and sourdough. Jamie is the poster boy healthy eating in the UK so it had to be so. I opted for the whole grain option of course because it would help to ease my elevated guilt after consuming 300 grams of animal fat smothered onto a carbohydrate base. I did not expect it be as good as a normal pizza because let’s face it, who wants a whole wheat pizza, right? Me, that’s who. After this day, I am not sure if I want to go back to a normal pizza base. The whole wheat dough lent a unique, earthy flavour to the pizza while carrying half the calories of a sourdough base. It complimented the chilli and the mint and yoghurt sauce to create a wonderful fusion between East and West. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start copying this on the streets of Naples soon; or Lahore, depending on who gets a taste of it first.  

Strawberry cheesecake at Jamie Oliver’s Pizzeria
Jamie's Pizzeria by Jamie Oliver Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

L’eto Cafe. The modest giant.

I remember being pulled into L’eto Café by the captivating display of tarts and cakes, not once but two times as I walked past the store at Mall of the Emirates. Not to eat anything, no. I am supposed to be on a perpetual diet you see. No tarts, cakes or any other sinful indulgence for me, thank you. I am a man of abstinence.
Like all other mortals however, I have my weak moments. Moments when the dormant wild beast within overpowers the voice of reason. There are times when middle aged logic and self-control lose out to reckless curiosity and desire. Usually those moments kick in before dinnertime every day. It just so happened, that the two times I was enticed into L’eto Café was on days that I had already had dinner. So, the reason I had not defied all reasoning to dive head first into a L’eto fig and cardamom tart yet, was all down to timing. I was just at the right place at the wrong time.
This time was different though. I casually slipped in the name while discussing a venue for Iftar that was not a buffet. ‘They do have lots of salads and healthy options’ I said, while forgetting to mention that they also had the most alluring cake display, this side of the Champs-Élysées. Like always, my powerful power of persuasion worked and L’eto Café was the destination of choice that evening.
We chose the City Walk location. It had a patio that looked out into the walking street that had all the performers and little food carts. We decided to sit inside though. The well-lit dining area and luxurious white furnishings were dotted with colorful flowers. This was such an instagrammable place and we didn’t even make it to the cake display yet.
The hostesses were super sweet. Besides being quick and efficient in seating us, they did one thing that will ensure a repeat visit to this place. They offered to take baby D off of our hands. “Do you need a baby sitter?” asked one of them. Before we could process that question, D almost jumped out of her pram and into her arms as we watched in amazement. That didn’t last very long but the fact that it happened, even for a minute, was just so surreal.
Due to my extrasensory perception, we were delighted to see that they did actually have a vast selection of salads. Now, we could eat healthy right before annihilating our vows. Who needs restraint when you can have cake instead? Thanks to the salads, there would be zero percent guilt and hundred percent satisfaction.
We ordered a salad trio which allowed us to pick 3 salads from the display. We went for the Harissa Aubergines & Black Beluga Lentil salad, Honey Roasted Pumpkin & Crispy Kale salad and the Caramelized Beetroot, Dates & Goat Cheese salad. I think the names are self-explanatory but let me just add that the Aubergine & Lentil salad was dotted with cherry tomatoes and seasoned with fresh mint, parsley and coriander. The Pumpkin and Kale salad had bulgar wheat, dried cranberries and feta cheese while the beetroot, dates and goat cheese salad was completed by adding baby spinach, green beans, radicchio and almonds. Need I say more?

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We ordered one of the best looking open faced burgers I had seen in a long time. The ‘California Burger’ was basically some avocado slices over a thick beef patty placed on a bed of greens resting on a toasted bun. The other half of the bun was layered with tomato salsa which had pomegranate seeds mixed into it. It was like a Sicilian love affair in Tehran, or LA – depending on what side went into your mouth first. We were not in any of those cities though. We were in the only city that could be all of those places and more; a city that is a melting pot of cultures with a distinct identity of its own. We were in Dubai and this was the definitive Dubai Burger. I suggest they rename this burger as such but while the folks at L’eto think about that, I am going to go ahead and add this to my ‘Best 11 Burgers in Dubai’ list.

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California Burger at L’eto Cafe

The next dish we ordered was the Chicken Teriyaki. Clearly, the description in the menu was unable to do justice to this dish. It said that the dish included roasted sweet potatoes and oyster mushrooms as sides. What it did not mention was that Oyster mushrooms grow in larger flat caps similar to shiitake. As they grow larger, the flavor intensifies and they become tougher and meatier. The caps of these particular mushrooms must have been quiet large because I could have sworn I was chewing on Thai beef. The roasted sweet potatoes were roasted to the point where they had become slightly less sweet and a little crispy. The crispy sweet potatoes complimented the meaty texture of the mushrooms. Together, with the fragrant teriyaki chicken they created a mélange of flavours that I can still savour, as I write this review.

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Teriyaki Chicken at L’eto Cafe

L’eto is famous for its cakes and pastries but we were so stuffed that we decided to leave the coffee and cake for another day. My priority at that point was to wiggle out of my chair. I was positive I had grown a little bigger than before. I wasn’t entirely sure if I could walk by myself and I think I almost requested for a wheel barrow. My perpetual diet was still on though…once again, I had managed to stay away from the sugar!

L'ETO Caffe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato