Review: La Niña
A new addition to DIFC’s thriving dining scene…
In an area like DIFC, where fine dining restaurants are plentiful, ICD Brookfield Place is solidifying itself as the spot to find the crème de la crème of hotspots. First came The Arts Club, a century-and-a-half-old institution that opened its first international outpost in the building two years ago. From the minds of Il Borro and Alici, we have now welcomed Josette to ICD, but before its arrival, La Niña has made its grand entrance. Brought to us by the team behind Opa, Bagatelle and Myrra, La Niña draws culinary inspiration from Spain and Portugal.
The interiors are pulled straight from Lisbon, with double-height ceilings, and patterned blue tiles stretching all the way up. A water fountain at the entrance and a sail-shaped curtain helps us to forget about the bustling financial district outside and transport us to a Mediterranean setting. We’re a little early, so take a seat at the marble bar while waiting for our table.
Our barman tells us about what life is like in Portugal and fixes us a pair of creative cocktails (whipped port, anyone?), while we work through a bowl of olives and cured wagyu with caviar – a refined start to the evening and the details don’t go unnoticed.
The venue is cleverly designed to make a large space feel intimate. The majority of the restaurant will spill onto the terrace once it’s ready to open later this month. It’s only when we take a sneak peek outside that we’re reminded of our location, as DIFC’s skyscrapers surround us and flood the terrace with light.
With so few Portuguese restaurants in Dubai, we’re keen to experience La Niña’s take on bacalhau (traditional salted cod, Dhs85). There are many ways to serve it, and this one comes in the form of fried fritters, alongside piri piri aioli. With four per plate, the substantial balls are balanced in flavour and pretty satisfying, although maybe not quite as good as the ones you’d find in Portugal.
The real highlight of the starters is the coca de trufa (Dhs85), a warm crispy tart oozing with melted cheese and finished with truffle and sliced figs. We love an indulgent dish (and anything with cheese) so this one really hits the spot. And because life is about balance, we oblige the recommendation of ensalada la Niña (Dhs45). Expecting a bowl of lettuce, roasted corn, tomato, Cotija cheese and pumpkin seeds, we’re surprised to see the salad served in individual baby gems leaves. The hand-held style is genius, and the combination of fresh flavours is a welcome experience after one too many slices of melted cheese and fig.
Mains offer an intriguing, albeit pricey, selection of meat and fish dishes, and we opt for the lenguado al josper (Dhs650). Our server swiftly removes all bones from our filet of dover sole, which has been grilled in the josper oven and topped with tomato, smoked chili, and almonds. It’s light and flaky on the inside with a charred exterior that gives the fish a smoky flavour.
Each dish on the dessert menu has a suggested drink pairing, from aged whiskey to a bottle of Champagne. Our dessert, caviar y coco (Dhs295) is recommended to pair well with the latter, but we defer in favour of another cocktail. The coconut ice-cream is incredibly smooth and drizzled in caviar oil. Using a porcelain spoon or a mini banana pancake, we scoop up mouthfuls of ice-cream and caviar. It’s a mix we haven’t considered before, but the light caviar flavour does well not to overpower the rest of the dessert.
What’s On verdict: A venue worthy of its coveted location, and one that should be added to your DIFC dining roster.
La Niña, ICD Brookfield Place, DIFC, daily 12pm to 4pm and 7.30pm to 1am. Tel: (0)50 889 8336.