A celebrity haunt from the Big Apple lands in Dubai, but has it bitten off more than it can chew? 

For 35 years, fashionistas and A-listers have been rubbing shoulders inside the elegantly tropical New York hotspot, where banquette seating, wallpaper with palm fronds and dim lighting combine to recreate colonial Hanoi. It makes sense then that Indochine’s first international expansion attempt would be the equally trendy Dubai – in the heart of Dubai International Financial Centre.

Taking over the old Gramercy spot – though totally unrecognisable – Indochine’s owners have left no expense in recreating the same jaw-dropping decor that makes the New York flagship so famous. Walk beneath the trademark red neon Indochine sign and you’ll be greeted by Amazonian goddesses (all of whom wouldn’t look out of place at Paris Fashion Show), who’ll lead you past the emerald-green leather booths in front of the sultry bar and into the exquisite main dining room filled with decorative colonial furniture and tropical palm trees.

On our visit, we could hardly keep our eyes from wandering across the dining room and staring at the outrageously fashionable contingent that made up half the room.

A word to the casually-dressed: up your game before paying a visit to Indochine lest you feel shabby.

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Indochine beef pho

If you can hold your mere mortal gaze to the menu for just a couple of minutes, you’ll see that it also complements the colonial Hanoi atmosphere. There are several French-Vietnamese specialities, including a beef pho dish served with rice noodles and sliced ribeye (Dhs80/Dhs100), pomelo salad with shaved fennel (Dhs46), and the signature amok cambodgen, a sea bream in banana leaf (Dhs125).

Unlike the surroundings, Indochine’s dishes are, surprisingly, unassuming. The fried vegetable spring rolls (Dhs45) taste just like the same greasy spring rolls that you’re used to, the shredded duck salad (Dhs56) is fine if a little forgettable, and even the novel beef pho rolls (Dhs79) really were just beef slivers rolled inside a steamed rice noodle and cut into small pieces. All good, but definitely lacking the same wow factor as the decor. We did, however, really enjoy the lamb char sui (Dhs190). The slow-cooked lamb neck was perfectly tender and sweet thanks to the tasty honey glaze sauce. Equally delicious was the triangle scorched rice side dish. Lightly spiced with caramel and a scallion confit, we could have easily devoured three portions.

Ultimately, Indochine is the place you’d want to visit for a big group outing, especially a birthday dinner. The service is speedy, the room is loud and fun, and the menu is full of things that are just good enough.

Gate Precinct Building 3, Level 2, DIFC, Sat to Wed 7pm to 1am, Thur and Fri 7pm to 3am. Tel: (04) 2089333. indochinedxb.com