Is there such a thing as a stealth restaurant? If not then Boulevard has a fair claim to being the first one. Located out the back of the Al Raha Mall, when we went the only clue to its presence was an anonymous sandwich board. Worse still, it lacked even the most basic of directions. ‘Not a problem,’ you say, ‘it’s a tiny mall’, but having scoured the food courts for a good 15 minutes, I admitted defeat and threw myself on the mercy of the concierge, who pointed me in the direction of the rear exit. At first it looked like I’d been banished to the car park – a trio of valets bantered enthusiastically as I walk by – however, to my left, opposite the wooden playhouse, stood the mighty new Boulevard.
It is a somewhat incongruous sight. The building itself is gargantuan. Huge glass windows peer out over Al Raha beach and even the lobby is larger than most mall café-restaurants, although it has some truly eccentric ideas on décor. (Lampshades stacked in glass boxes – what’s that about?) Nevertheless, it oozes class. If they’ve got one thing spot on it’s the interior. Winding stairs lead to an upstairs balcony where shisha is served, but the high ceilings give it the feel of a cathedral; an effect made all the more dramatic when bathed in the scarlet of a setting sun streaming through the windows overlooking Al Raha Beach.
These are the good points; alas there is a downside. Boulveard has reduced cooking to one simple equation; meat plus sauce plus starches equals dinner. A seemingly endless array of pizzas, pastas, grills and appetisers (heavy on the veal) illustrates its family restaurant credentials. But what arrives is just puzzling. My kafta starter is just a half-dozen lamb burgers swimming in a sickly sweet sauce. What do you do with it? Salad? No. Basket of fresh bread? Yes. Left to make sickly repetitive burgers, I feared for the future.
The main arrives with similar question marks. To the imagination, grilled prawns in saffron sauce sounds like heaven. Images of succulent jumbo prawn drizzled in a light, fragrant dressing spring to mind. What arrives is four (seriously, four!) small prawns, a collection of sad looking veg, some fries, rice and a giant jug of gloopy saffron gravy. Forget the double starch blunder – they clearly thought I was in need of serious carbohydrates – but the poor presentation is a letdown.
In the end, this is very new and we’ll cut it some slack. They’ve built a café-restaurant that looks like something special, feels like something special, but is perhaps still finding its feet. It’s early days, the service is at least friendly and attentive, but they have few distractions in the shape of customers at the moment. Boulevard is very new and clearly thinks big. It could be great, but it needs some work.
The bill (for one)
Grilled prawns with saffron Dhs65
Fruit cocktail Dhs18
Total (inc 15 per cent) Dhs127