Can this French restaurant stand out from the top-grade D3 crowd?

Snails; slimy, juicy, garlic-soaked snails, dangling on the edge of your fork.

A scene at a fine dining spot along Champs-Élysées? Nope. These little guys were served up in the middle of Dubai, at D3’s brand-new French dining spot, Chez Charles.

Spoiler: They’re actually really delicious.

For a new suburb, Dubai Design District has already come into its own as a haven for great food. After all, it’s home to the likes of Lighthouse (one of our favourite restaurants), and the brand-new Molecule. So when we heard high-end catering company Chez Charles was putting down roots there too, well, we had to try it out.

Snails, anyone?

With group executive chef Jeremy Degras (formerly of Michelin-starred Le Quartier Gourmand) at the helm, the menu promises plenty of French classics, with an international twist.

But without further adieu, let’s talk escargot.

The Burgundy snails à la Provençale (Dhs46) are recommended emphatically, and ordered tentatively. But as we plopped the little slugs into our mouths, we were pleasantly surprised. The garlic butter, herbs and tomato combination was heavenly. We went from a Fear Factor scenario to polishing our plate clean. Even the waiters don’t know what makes them so good. “The chef won’t tell us. He just says ‘and more’.”

The highlights extended to the main course. The whole sea bass (Dhs225) was stuffed with lemons and romaine hearts, and decapitated and served tableside. The moist fish was served with “vegetable dressing” – a crunchy, flavourful mix of pine nuts, cauliflower, lemon, olives, “and more”.

As meat lovers, we had to sample (well, devour) the braised lamb shank (Dhs158). The meat fell off the bone (as all good shanks should) and the combination of prune, almond and coriander left it doused in rich, tart gravy.

Now, please excuse us, as we wax lyrical about a side dish. The Venere rice (Dhs34), once a dish reserved for Chinese emperors, was a creamy, delicious mound of black rice. We grilled the waiter for the chef’s secret, but this time, there was none. Just beautifully cooked butter and Parmesan.

For dessert, try the melt-in-your-mouth tropezienne (Dhs44), a brioche so light and drenched in orange blossom, it disintegrates the moment it touches your tongue. The chocolate moelleux (Dhs40) was a chocolate fondant for the ages, served straight from the oven, so piping-hot chocolate and pistachio oozed in every direction.

Chez Charles not only held its own against the D3 heavyweights, it’s carved itself its own spot at the top. Merci beaucoup, team.

Building 11, d3, Dubai, Sat to Wed noon to 1am, Thur and Fri noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 5122444. Taxi: Dubai Design District.

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