There are many days when I am dismayed with the state of things here in Dubai. Most often it’s connected to private education and the distinct lack of morals associated with school functioning. Nevertheless, while said schools continue to bank my salary, I shall continue to feed the monster that funds my annual nine-week jaunt about the globe.
This time, I am disturbed by something that’s been recurring in my weekend fun times. You know I like to cook; it’s evident in all my other recipe posts. So, when I actually face the music and am willing to pay someone else to prepare food for me, I hope for it to be lovely, tasty and generally a positive experience. Alas, in just two weeks I have been so incredibly disappointed with service and product in this city, I feel I’m about to resign to becoming a hermit. There’s one major culprit involved here – I’m looking at you, expat haunts.
You know them. The local rag or TimeOut constantly raves about how much it’s like “home”. You see Facebook posts, Twitter check ins and all that, always reminding you that you really must check out that place you keep meaning to go. Well, we’ve taken some time out to do just that of late, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so mixed up as to whether or not this really is the kind of place we can stay to put roots down.
Without naming names, or bringing a slander case upon myself, I will say that a particular purple café, a prominent and very red, French department store and a small, ‘homestyle’ café in the back of where plants should be bought are all culprits. Also, the larger outlet of a wonderfully wholesome food store also caused great frustration on multiple occasions.
It starts with incredibly poor service: waiters and waitresses standing around bored and completely inattentive, dotted around the serving floor. Underpaid and overstaffed, they’re sick of hanging around in their jobs. When you finally catch someone’s attention, many can barely follow an English conversation and you resort to pointing at a menu to try and communicate your message. I’m not in f*cking Thailand trying to order fried duck with holy basil, people. That was easier than getting a turkey, mushroom and brie omelette, ordered directly from the menu, in a place that is a well-known supermarket stocking high quality foods.
The café? God forbid you might want to adjust any part of any dish on order, including simple omission. That’ll cost you more, and usually the additional charge is around the same price as the original menu item. That’s right, we’ll charge you because we might actually have to think for a moment. Then when it comes out, it’s messed up. Sorry, you ordered vegetarian sandwiches on your high tea? Let me just take them away for a minute, while I pull off the salmon, and return them to you with salmon chunks still abounding. Gluten free? Well that’s just a giant f*ck you, really. If you’re intolerant, we don’t want you.
Soy milk? No.
But we have low fat milk, would you like that?
If I order soy, it’s for a damn reason!
(sorry for all the cursing, Nanny)
Gluten free bread, which is on the menu? No?
But we have brown bread.
I can’t bloody well eat it!
Then, after a ridiculously long wait to get your food, and completely incompetent staff serving one patron at a table and not following up the order of the other, someone will screw up the bill and then you realise, for the entire time you’ve been there, not one person has smiled.
I haven’t even touched on how many times I’ve had food poisoning from large chains in this country.
So, will I ever eat out in this country again?
Of course; I have to.
It’s the social fibre of the community here.
That said, you’ll now only ever find me salivating over uttapams at the sweet n’ simple Indian vegetarian place 300m from my apartment, fanning my face to get through a chicken jalfrezi at Ravi’s, or tucking into the best Thai fare in town hidden behind a petrol station.
And no, I’m not telling you where it is.
You can keep your overpriced, underserviced expat haunts Dubai, while I take time to enjoy family run, wholesome food from people who really want to be there, or cook for myself. Let me know when you pick up your game.