For a mid-city, mid-week getaway, 101 Dining Lounge and Marina is easily one of the most exclusive, intimate feeling venues in Dubai. With al fresco seating overlooking the city skyline from its overwater location, it is accessible by a long pier inhabited by rabbits and uncharacteristically lush greenery, a quick golf car ride, or private boat straight to its dock. By literally removing its diners from the buzz of Dubai’s population, as well as from its literal footing, 101 creates an atmosphere that is more akin to a tropical escape where the afternoon sun will easily transform into a sundowner and breezy evening.
The views and beach-meets-chic fixings are easily the highlight of 101. Add in the sultry, lounge-y live music, and this is one of the few venues where the volume is just right, the service is understated, attentive and calm, and the crowd proves diverse. While it is a locale in which to smarten up, the vibe remains firmly laid-back luxe – think deep lounge-style cream couches, long natural wood tables, and deck flooring. For a more formal dining niche, the outdoor and indoor tables feature turquoise accents and are limited enough in number that 101 still feels like a discreet, romantic venue that somehow the brunt of the city has thankfully overlooked. And the menu follows suit.
The water-front lounge offers Mediterranean tapas that go far beyond the offerings of other tapas-style venues, and at a surprisingly reasonable cost. With a full-length menu refreshingly devoid of traditional Dubai staples such as burrata, instead, the Mediterranean offerings visit Italy, the Middle East, Argentina and even Japan in their flavourings and subtle fusions. From Avocado Croquetas with a spicy tomato sauce, to deliciously fleshy Pulpo – cold marinated octopus in chives, lemon juice, olive oil and Espelette pepper, Paella Sushi of Boquerones, paella rice, piquillos, béchamel, lemon and saffron, to the delicatessen platters served on slate, Muhammara’s bread crumbs, pomegranate, tomato, cumin and cashes, and the Ossau Iraty Fingers (Ossau Iraty cheese with black cherry jam), the offerings are generous and familiar but with a gentle subversions worth indulging in.
101’s main food menu, however, in addition to a long list of specialty and fine grape, does provide a special seasonal offering. As the time to embrace the outdoors in Dubai, the chefs have provided a special Louis Roederer menu for two, which comes in three simple but rich courses designed to incorporate and complement the accompanying bottle of vintage sparkling. Beginning with Foie Gras Terrine with date chutney or Lobster Thermidor with white mushrooms, the creaminess of each leads way into either the Seabass A La Plancha with truffle leek fondue, yuzu pearl and buerre blanc, or a slow cooked Poultry Supreme with artichoke and green asparagus risetti. While the Seabass is a pleasant and lighter offering that keeps the dinner from being too weighed down, for those willing to really indulge, the Poultry Supreme is decadent and possibly the culinary highlight of the menu, because what it lacks in visual appearance it makes up for tenfold in its effect on the palette.
With the service watchful without being intrusive, the dishes arrive at your pacing, giving diners enough time to enjoy the view to which all the tables are oriented. As dessert arrives, a fresh raspberry sorbet hidden below fresh raspberries and airy but still creamy coconut foam, 101 shows that while the dishes don’t veer too far from classics, it knows how to offer solid value with special menus and plates that compliment the easy, outdoor ambiance of sitting out on the water for a small, but maximum impact, escape.
The Louis Roederer menu runs through February. Further information on upcoming special menus here.
Open daily 11.30am-2am
Smart casual dress code, no shorts