Reform Social & Grill: Traditional British Gastronomy
Tucked away by a scenic lake is a quintessentially English tavern, an unlikely find within the urban jungle of Dubai.
Reform Social & Grill is located in The Lakes Club, a treasured secret among the Emirates Hills dwellers.
Do you remember the ‘Reform Club of London’ from Jules Verne’s classic novel ‘Around the World in 80 Days’? This was where the main protagonist, Phileas Fogg, started off his epic journey. Reform Social & Grill is named after this fabled club.
Reform Social & Grill has a cozy, tavern-style indoor space as well as an expansive outdoor area complete with its own bar, scenic lake views, a children’s play zone, and The Orchard (a space reserved for the ‘big kids’ where outdoor games and movie nights take place on a weekly basis).
Always on the lookout for authentic cuisines, I’ve been craving for some good old-fashioned British grub, and decided to give Reform Social & Grill a try last weekend.
I got my timings wrong. We got there around 7 pm, well past sunset, and didn’t get to enjoy the lake views. However, the place was crowded and bustling with merriment. The mellow, dim lighting made everything look magical.
We settled for a table outdoors to enjoy our drinks, and make the most of the last few days of ‘Dubai winters’.
Reform Social & Grill has its very own house bar, and their drinks menu is impressively extensive.
It lists a number of British favorites as well as many retakes on classics. You can browse through their menu options here.
Spoilt for choice, hubby finally settled for the Espresso Martini. He loves his coffee, and a mix of martini was bound to be in his favor.
The drink looked sleek, understated and polished, a sharp contrast to its strong, robust caffeinated flavor that was further accentuated with the martini, and a few raw coffee beans. This is a macho drink that’s well-suited to the palettes of seasoned coffee addicts looking for a stronger kick.
As for me, I went for a virgin cocktail. ‘The Umbrella Shop’ sounded like a fruity, happy sip. The drink can be described as a virgin Pina Colada with a blush. It has a pale pink hue owing to the strawberry blend, but the predominating flavors come from the pineapple-coconut mix. It is sweet, creamy and icy cold. A pretty drink, but not as classy or grown-up as the Espresso Martini.
Drink snobs, you are better off sticking to these fancy mixes. I just opted to stay sober that night!
Sitting outdoors, we soaked in the atmosphere of Reform Social & Grill.
There is a communal, almost festive vibe in the air. Groups of friends, young families and couples chit chat over leisurely drinks. The bar is easily accessible, and friendly waiters drop in now and then for assistance. This is definitely an ideal venue to socialize.
We headed indoors for dinner. The dimly lit interiors are beautifully quaint, and the consciousness can easily be fooled into believing you are dining in a pub somewhere in the UK.
The furnishing is all wood, the light fixtures stylishly classic. A few cushy chesterfield sofas fill up the corners of the main bar area, and a collection of vintage advertisements adorn the brick walls. The open windows look out onto the patio. Even the patio is heaving with people, not one table is empty.
I like the look and feel of the menus, simple and elegant.
The dishes are reasonably priced from AED 45 for starters, and AED 80 onwards for mains.
They also have a kid’s menu. For a mere AED 55, kids can enjoy a main dish with a drink of their choice, and end it with a bowl of ice-cream.
A complimentary plate of bread was presented before we ordered. It was accompanied with a knob of butter and a generous pinch of coarse sea salt.
For starters, we decided to share the ‘Fisherman’s Platter’.
Bubby and I love salmon, and were pleased to find it dominating the platter. There was raw salmon and three deliciously succulent salmon fish cakes. The platter also included five battered jumbo shrimps, an assortment of gherkins and pickled onions, a zesty lemon mayo dip and a seafood fan’s favorite, tarter sauce.
The platter was sufficient for the three of us; hubby, myself and our 4 year-old. I liked the fish cakes best, although hubby (who is not a big fan of seafood) found it a little too ‘fishy’. His favorite was the battered jumbo shrimps; beautifully golden and crisp on the outside, yet moist and flavorful on the inside. The tartness of the gherkins and pickled onions were a perfect accompaniment, and we kept debating on which dip we liked better. I say the zesty lemon mayo, and hubby prefers the traditional tarter sauce.
For the mains, I went for the ‘Lamb Shanks with Root Vegetables’. I thought it sounded like the perfect winter comfort food.
Served on a rustic-style handled skillet flooded with a caramelized roast gravy, the presentation of this dish was divinely British.
The lamb was perfectly tender, and just fell off the bone. The gravy had the perfect balance of salty-sweet along with the robust meaty flavor of lamb. This dish took me back to winter days from my childhood in New Zealand; my mother still makes a very similar roast on frosty nights.
The lamb is accompanied with tender roasted slices of potatoes, parsnips and sweet carrot. The portion size was generous enough for me to share with my daughter, and we still had leftovers!
When my husband’s dish arrived at the table, he was a tad bit disappointed. Compared to my aesthetically appealing dish, his looked morbidly blah.
Hubby ordered the ‘Rump Steak with Mushroom & Beef Gravy’. The large cube of beef looked starkly bare and almost black, and the large dark mushroom pieces did nothing but camouflage into the already dark piece of meat.
The dish is accompanied by a small pitcher of beef gravy, and a plate of light, fluffy mashed potato.
However, all this apprehension on appearances was all for nothing. Once hubby dug into his rump steak, there was no stopping him. The medium-rare steak was cooked to perfection, and the beef gravy, warm and rich with the condensed, comforting full-on beef stock flavor, took the dish several notches higher.
Reform Social & Grill’s ‘Rump Steak with Mushroom & Beef Gravy’ proved to be an ugly duckling. It’s humble appearance is a con; this dish will definitely be a favorite among beef lovers.
Finally it was time for dessert, and I had to try Reform Social & Grill’s best-seller, ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’.
The moist, spongy baked pudding is served on a puddle of decadently sweet, sticky toffee sauce. Every spoonful is sinfully sweet!
The pudding is served with a runny custard, and this helps to balance out the sweetness.
The ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’ was everything I thought it would be. It was baked to perfection and had a generous helping of toffee sauce to coat each spoonful. This dessert tastes festively sweet, and Bubby and I cleaned it up in no time.
Hubby is not a dessert fan, and was going to skip dessert altogether till he saw Reform Social & Grill serve alcoholic dessert drinks!
He went for ‘Queen’, a medley of cognac, nuts and cream.
Once again, he ended up with a not-so-photogenic order. ‘Queen’ does not appear as regal as its name suggests it to be, but its richness lies in the drink’s overly generous use of heavy cream and chopped nuts. Cognac sparks up the flavor, and this dessert is definitely a no-no for the calorie conscious!
Overall, we had a very hearty British meal at Reform Social & Grill. We enjoyed our leisurely evening sipping drinks outdoors, and the dinner meal satisfied on all levels. We are definitely planning a trip back, perhaps during the day for a more scenic view, and with a band of happy, noisy friends for company.
If you are planning a visit during the weekends, I strongly suggest you reserve a table. Visit their website for reservations, and details on their special deals.