Tesoro – food for the soul … but it comes at a price.

Sssshhhhh … it’s midday on a Saturday. The echoes of lunches, brunches, dinners and suppers have long disappeared from this beautiful Business Bay brasserie.

Whatever time of day or night, it’s heartbreakingly sad to experience an empty restaurant where staff outweigh customers four to one. Are we too early or too late? I ought to enjoy the ‘exclusivity’ but it isn’t exclusive. There are four blokes in one corner and a couple of first-daters in the other (their uncomfortable interaction was a giveaway). My fellow diner and I chose to sit next to a gnarly centrally-located olive tree, equidistant from the other diners.

Tesoro offers an elegant setting with floor-to-ceiling windows reminiscent of a country conservatory. The wooden carved fretwork is strategically placed to dapple the retina-burning Dubai sunshine. And the floors are so shiny and clean that one could happily eat off the floor without crockery. There’s no need for that (obviously) because this is a classy restaurant with starched linen and splendid glassware. The choice of tunes, however, is somewhat erratic – a megamix of EDM and world music; quirky and worthy of comment.

Our server was utterly charming and resplendent in his striped deckchair sleeved uniform. Within seconds of greeting us, he’d brought six warm bread rolls in a wooden tray alongside two delicious dipping sides of pesto / mustard mayo and red pepper mayo.

Following our amuse-bouche, we opted for the “Chef’s Plank”, listed as “a surprise selection of five small plates designed to share”. The ‘surprise’ is the cost; an overpriced AED195. The price, however, is easily swallowed when the server brings out Chef Aabhas Mehrotra’s plank of loveliness. Noteworthy from the famous five are the tremendous trio of spicy guacamole, brilliantly squeaky halloumi and the crunchy Padpi chaat.

Sometimes soufflé leaves me as deflated as … well, a deflated soufflé. But not at Tesoro. This ‘Taj Autograph’ double-baked Camembert fluffy monster delivered right on point with the lightest, subtlest hint of cheese. I am in lactose-tolerant heaven. Keep me here.

I was reliably informed that the rocket salad starter was also good; but who cares about salad when there’s a superior alternative?

And then came the mains.

My constant dining companion – who eats like a bird – enjoyed potato gnocchi with creamy burrata and pesto emulsion (AED90). I swung a glance, found it to be a depressingly small portion; guiltily stole one of the little dumplings and found it to be over-seasoned and unpalatably salty.

My choice of ‘comfort main’ was the 12-hour lamb shank with turmeric mash and roasted vine tomatoes (AED125). The presentation appealed to my British schoolboy humour. I inwardly and childishly guffawed at the totally erect bone (see photo). But what a depressingly small lump of meat. Was it butchered from the smallest sheep on the farm?

I was warned that the Bramley apple pie would take some time to arrive but I have no idea why. I think it unlikely that the staff had to run to the orchard to pick the apples but upon delivery, the pie was colder than the ice cream accompaniment. “I trust you like the quality of the dessert, sir” I was asked. I did. “Was it like Mama used to make?” No; which is just as well because she was a dreadful cook.

Tesoro is a charming restaurant; the food is tasty albeit overpriced and the portions are small. In Spanish, Tesoro means “treasure”. Unfortunately, this place has a little way to go to become the true treasure of Business Bay.

  • Food 6/10
  • Staff 8/10
  • Overall experience 7/10

Review: Nick Stephenson

More information: Tesoro, 3rd Floor, Taj Dubai, Burj Khalifa Street, Business Bay, Dubai