Cave Wine Bar - Conrad, Dubai

There is still something very sophisticated about a wine bar, especially in the UAE where they are pretty much a niche product, eschewing the masses who over-run bars for their hops and  cocktails. Even the growing dining scene that is Dubai does not have that many wine bars, but it is growing. On a recent visit to Conrad Dubai, I discovered Cave, a dedicated wine bar that, like a cave, is almost hidden. 

Walking in, it resembles a cave with lighting perfectly set to capture your imagination. Seating options abound. As I continue, I spot a cosy and romantic corner spot with even more low key lighting. I spot some high tables, large enough to accommodate up to 8. Then, I see some more standard table and chair options. However, I keep walking, pass the bar, and spot the much read-about day beds. Maybe for an after dinner dessert wine, I think to myself.

There are so many off beat elements  that will endear Cave to you. It is full of surprise after surprise. Champagne bottles, wine bottles and corks turn up in unexpected quarters, all the while creating a very cool, almost arty atmosphere. It feels so organic, and I get the feeling that on my next visit, there could be something else added to the decor. Significantly though, it is not pretentious at all. Looking around, I see an eclectic crowd that spans a couple of generations. This is not a stuffy wine bar catering exclusively for Dad, but neither is it designed for only millenials - this is one of the strengths I notice early on. 

After being seated and offered a menu, I find myself tapping my feet to some mild house beats. My love affair with Cave continues. Looking through the menu with a  succinct selection of dishes that would be at home in Brasserie, I see great possibilities. It is much more than a wine bar and it also goes beyond finger bites or canapés. 

By way of an aperitif, I request a glass of the Bella Vista Franciacorta Brut NV. It is part of a 46 by-the-glass selection, a very generous selection if you ask me. People fail to appreciate how different the reality is here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi when it comes to choices. Starting at 48AED for a Michel Chapoutier Bila-Haut Blanc,  up to 120AED for the Franciacorta - very well priced indeed. 

I am served a starter platter consisting of Terrine of foie gras, Beef tartare, Escargots, and Duck rillettes, presented in smaller portions. Served on a  wooden board, it has brasserie written all over it. The foie gras, matched with an apricot purée and brioche could not be better - the foie gras  is served at just the right temperature, ensuring it goes so easily on the brioche. 

The snails, lying  on a bed of panka crumbs, have that aromatic and flavoursome garlic tones you want in your snails. As for the Duck rillettes, it checks all the boxes, and is nicely served with onion marmalade. Finally, the beef tartare though, lacks a bit of character and I find it a bit flat. Of course there are variations on this classic dish, but either capers or a dash more of Tabasco could have transformed it for me. 

For my main course, I have the Confit lamb. It is paired with a wine, Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna, that brings out a gaminess in the lamb.  My pairing comes about via the Wine supervisor, Zachary, an easy going and wine specialist who debunks the idea of wine aficionados being unapproachable. 

The lamb, it must be said, will not appeal to everyone, but those who understand the confit concept, will love it. It is such a brasserie dish! Served with crisp potatoes and almond honey mustard, recommended. 

In anticipation of dessert, I move to the day beds. The homeliness of this is obvious. Small wine crates are used as makeshift tables and my drinks are placed on one. Again, a very smart way to offer the guest another option at Cave. It is the concept that grabs me. I lie down, glass in hand, looking up at the ceiling mirrors - I love the indulgence. 

For dessert, I have the Grand Marnier Soufflé glacé. I have it with Grand Marnier of course. Perfectly matched. Indulgent. Delicious. 

At the end of the evening, I could see why Cave recently walked away with the Timeout Dubai award for Best Wine Bar. In many ways it defies being shoe-boxed because it just offers so much to so many different guests. It is of course first and foremost a wine bar, and in this regard to it is true to itself with a 500+ wine list and  a very good selection of by the glass wines. Coupled to this a menu that offers very real options for a complete evening. Cave need not be just a pre- or post-dinner destination. 

The Essentials,
Conrad Dubai,
Sheikh Zayed Road,
+971 4 444 7111

Sample Menu

Onion Soup 45AED
Beef Tartare 85AED
Seasonal vegetables 30AED
Confit lamb 130AED

Disclaimer: I consult at restaurants and hotels in an attempt to look at the entire product to take service levels to where they should be. I visited Cave courtesy of the hotel.

Brandon Stoltenkamp