Monday, 12 December 2011

Zaatar W Zeit, Festival Centre, Dubai

The chain that sucks the life out of Lebanese cuisine!

My regular readers are going to say 'I told you so' when they read this. Normally, I avoid chains like the plague as I am all about supporting independent businesses. I love the atmosphere of eating falafel in a noisy backstreet of Bur Dubai, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of not just the dish, not just the eaterie, but the whole surroundings. However, I was in a mall, and as we all know, malls have as much atmosphere as the lost luggage room at an airport. After having Sidra and Al Mallah withdrawal symptoms, I could hear halloum and mutabal calling me- yes, my Lebanese cravings were back.
I had recently discovered the Festival Centre mall which I liked due to its calm, tranquil atmosphere, the polar opposite of Deira City Centre where you are constantly shoved, poked and trampled on. Normally, I make a beeline for the food court, but as I couldn't be bothered hunting for it (I know where it is now though!), I grabbed a table in Zaatar W Zeit as I mistakenly thought it was affiliated with my local, Labneh Wa Zaatar. Yeah right, like Mc Donalds is affiliated with Burger King...
It took a whopping 10 minutes for the waitress to bring a menu, an omen it was going to be a bad review. The two guys next to me looked obviously frustrated as they had both received the wrong meals. Oh yes, this was going to be one of my infamous Fawlty Towers experiences. As I opened the menu, I gasped in shock at the fact that they were charging for a pickle plate, a nicety that most Lebanese eateries in Dubai offer for free. I wanted to escape, especially when I saw the size of my neighbour's meal and the fact it was served in a sort of basket rather than a plate. The prices were ridiculously high for street food; topped with the waitress running round in a ditzy way like Rachel Green from Friends, I was slowly losing my patience. Also, the veggie choice was minimal, either a halloumi sandwich or a falafel sandwich. Wow, mind-blowing. In the end, I settled on a fried halloumi dish, which was just that. No sides, no fresh plate of salad a la Sidra. The meal was a couple of sorry-looking pittas, a thinly sliced tomato on a plate with a limp cucumber slice, and a skillet with about 10 pieces of cheese in. Who can possibly eat 10 pieces of Halloumi with nothing much else? Don't get me wrong, I adore Halloumi and have been known to raid a cheeseboard for dessert, but even the most loyal cheese connoisseur can't polish off 10 pieces of the same cheese in one fell swoop. I was beginning to get really cheesed off. Please, don't excuse the pun, my jokes are as limp as Zaatar's salad. Moreover, this exotic creation along with a bottle of water took a whopping 25 mins to emerge from the kitchen.
After that heartburn fest, I was itching to get out and buy a bumper box of Rennies, but as this was Fawlty Towers, it took another 15 mins to flag the waitress down in the style of a tourist suffering from heatstroke on Jumeira Rd flagging down a Camry. ZwZ's advertising on each table then had the audacity to ask me to 'like' them on Facebook. Instead, I shall confine them to my list of profanities along with N*ndo's and the R*inforest Cafe.

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Hi Vindaloo Kings and Queens!