JB's Gastro Pub - Amwaj Rotana Hotel, Dubai

With the advent of gastro pubs, I found myself exploring another area of food and drink that I ordinarily would not have ventured into - a pub. Pubs have certainly taken it up a notch in terms of catering for a wider range of guest and the demographic has indeed changed. Gone are the smoke-filled rooms, the smelly ash trays and sign at the door that says 'No kids' allowed. In this context, I recently had the opportunity to try JB's Gastropub at Amwaj Rotana in JBR in Dubai.

Space. This definitely connects my 10-year-old daughter and me as we both say something to the effect that it is so spacious. While she makes her way to our table in the non-smoking section, I pause to take in the scene. It is a well-designed pub with aesthetes likely to line up and revel in the earthiness of the pub.  Brick and wood dominate but clever lighting ensure quite a bit of soul. It is interesting to note that even with the feeling of openness, the pub has that feeling of warmth. 

I am presented with the menu, an A3 sized menu that is very comprehensive, offering gourmet sandwiches, salads,  grills and burgers amongst a wide selection of dishes. I choose a couple of starters, more because I am unable to make a decision between the two that tempt me. First, I have the Grilled Octopus which sets a rather high standard for the rest of the evening. Octopus is one of those ingredients where the margin of error is extremely thin, and when badly cooked is often easy to mask with a really good sauce. The sauce, a combination of capers, olive oil, roasted peppers and Chef's secret extras, together with a  celeriac puree at the opposite end of the plate, ensure there is a lot of moisture and flavour on the plate. A highlight in the sauce for me is that Chef has not gone the obvious route of creating a simple lemon sauce. On the contrary, there is a lot of depth in this sauce. I find the octopus is absolutely gorgeous. I keep looking for a piece that is unevenly cooked, but no -  a perfect piece of octopus. And by the way, I finish the sauce and puree too!

I follow this with the Mixed beetroot & barrel aged feta salad with walnuts and balsamic. 3 types of beetroot are on the plate, exquisitely presented on a  black slate-like plate. Yellow, baby and red beetroot sit on one side of the plate, with a berry puree eye-catchingly next to it. Finally, a sprinkling of honey plays an important role not only in the visual feast but more significantly, it serves to balance the flavours - its sweetness contrasts with the saltiness of the feta; a clever salad that is fresh, textured with those walnuts and brimming with flavours that marry nicely. 

JBs offers a superb wine list for a pub and when you consider they have 40 by-the-glass options including bubbly by the glass, you realise how you are spoiled for choice. My waiter, Ian, quite knowledgeable about the wine I choose, turns out to be a  big part of our experience. He possesses all the qualities you want in a  waiter; he knows and understands the menu, engages without effort and is at home with both young and old - equally so, I must add. Finally, he is self-assured enough, but not arrogant, to make recommendations with authority - an important trait in a waiter when you are feeling your way through a menu.

Out of curiosity, and we are aware that we cannot finish it, my daughter and I try the Brisket on a burger - their signature burger. Angus beef topped with, not cheddar cheese but provolone, already sounds delicious. But add beautifully cooked brisket and you have something very special! That Angus is really juicy, by the way. Tip: add some of the cucumber pickles that are served on the side. I personally enjoyed the added dimension of flavour. 

For my main course, I have the half rack of BBQ Pork ribs. There is only one way to eat ribs, and that is with the hands. I go in and the meat breaks off the bone, without much encouragement. The marination is not overly sweet and is balanced anyway by pickled onions. Baked beans on the side, meanwhile, are worthy of being a  dish on its own, well maybe with a slice of toast. It is flavoursome. Overall, this dish, at 75AED, offers tremendous value for money and a true gastropub experience. 

Dessert, to end our meal, excites my daughter and me equally, notwithstanding the fact that it is a strawberry based dessert - I am more of a chocoholic. What intrigues me about the Strawberry Yum is that the dessert uses one ingredient, strawberry, to create a dessert where strawberry is interpreted in 12 different ways. 

This immediately engages my daughter who sets out to find the 12. It is a very smart dessert and, in the end,  we have dehydrated strawberry, a sorbet and ice cream, frozen and fresh strawberries, strawberry chocolate, jam/puree and then 3 elements that make the dessert even more of  a talking point. An ice cream cone is perched on the dessert, recalling childhood. How many sad memories do you have of yourself as a child while holding an ice cream cone? Exactly. Then pop rock candy and marshmallows, also strawberry flavoured, continue the dance with childhood. I think this is why adults will enjoy the dessert. It is 30 minutes, or however long you take to finish it, of pure escapism to a time and place when life was simple and happiness was so easy to find. 

A memorable dessert. 

There were several things other than the food that stood out for me. Before 9pm they allow children, and my daughter was beside herself because it was different to the usual restaurants. I liked that there was a non-smoking area  and even in the smoking section, I did not feel the smoke intensely. I could go on. 

JB's Gastropub delivers exactly what it promises - a gastro pub experience, but  where more traditional pub crawlers are just as at home as those preferring a glass of wine rather than a draft of beer, those who prefer a pot of mussels as opposed to a full rack of ribs or a cheese board as opposed to bangers and mash. The key for me is the extent to which the dishes and wine on offer justify being part of a gastropub experience.  Does the atmosphere allow the pub to feel like a fun place despite the title 'gastropub'? Yes. Finally, is it a place where value-for-money is a given? Yes, once more. JB's Gastropub, so much more than a pub experience!

The Essentials,

JB's Gastro Pub,
Amwaj Rotana Hotel, 
JBR, Dubai
+971 4 428 2000
JB's Gastropub

Average price for 2 people  - 300AED

Disclaimer: I am hotel and restaurant writer based in Abu Dhabi. I was at the restaurant by invitation.