Cipriani, DIFC

Not to be mixed up with Cipollini (who is a bike riding superstar, and very tasty to look at), Cipriani is a very snooty but tasty Italian restaurant in DIFC.

I’ve only been once before because it’s really quite expensive, and it was such a treat! I didn’t think I would really have the opportunity to go back again, until DIFC sent an email out the other week to say Cipriani was launching their own Business Lunch!

Within seconds of the email hitting my in box, I had sent it on to the entire office to make them aware and also sent it to the girls to get a gaggle of us together for lunch this week.

Thankfully, they are foodies too so it wasn’t hard to organise a lunch date!

First impression was vastly improved to my last visit. A nice cheerful chap in a beautifully cut suit opened the door, and the hostesses actually smiled. Last time they were super judgey. They looked me up and down, and very obviously found me lacking. Mind you, it was around Christmas time so I was probably hungover and tired looking. I would have judged me too!

The restaurant is beautiful and reminds me of the inside of a super fancy cruise ship in the 20s or something. Well, that or the dining cart in Polar Express for some reason. I am sad to report that no one comes out dancing and singing about hot chocolate!!

White linen table cloths are on every table, as are the crisp white linen napkins. My Grandmother would have loved it!

Amusing contrast to the overall theme though was a massive photograph of Madonna on the wall, and the song from Flashdance playing!

There are two options for the business lunch – one course with tea, coffee and water for AED 90; and three courses plus water, a soft drink and tea or coffee for AED 150.

It also includes this glorious bread basket with super high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I was all mentally prepared to go in and have one course as I wasn’t hugely hungry, but the menu options for the three courses was much better. Also, and here is a little but super impressive twist… the menu changes daily!

A few of my coworkers had been earlier in the week and told me all about it their lunch. This was before I knew about the daily menu changes. I was therefore all geared up for the pasta arribiatta and as a result, was disappointed and a little bit sulky because there wasn’t anything else on the menu that sounded as nice.

It turns out this was a huge blessing in disguise. I would never have considered the starter or main course I ended up with if it had been on a full menu, and I would have been sorely missing out.

NB: All 5 of us ordered the exact same thing!

We started with a cucumber salad with sweetcorn, datterino tomatoes and avocados.

It was placed in front of me and I was a little disappointed despite it being pretty. It looked like the start of something tasty but not a finished thing. I was completely and utterly wrong. It was absolutely delicious! The entire table agreed!

It was actually so good that I ate the whole bowl, including the tomatoes. I don’t even really like tomatoes! I loved these though. They were so rich and sweet. Amazing! Oh, and the corn wasn’t some average corn from a giant catering tin. It was freshly cooked and cut from the cob. I don’t know this for sure but it’s the only way that it could be as good as it was!

It was huge and really filling, so the idea of a bowl of pasta next was a little daunting.

When the waiter had explained what the dish was (and managed to be only marginally judgey that we hadn’t got a clue – again, huge improvement on last time!) we all agreed that this was the only option. Steak tartare is very nice but as an appetiser. I can’t imagine eating a main course worth of raw beef – which is funny because I can eat as much raw fish as you give me if I’m in a sushi binge mood!

Orecchiette is a flat round disk of pasta. It has a bit of a dent in the middle so it makes me think that it was made in a tiny ball and then someone stuck their thumb in the middle to flatten it out a bit, because it retains a slight curve. Probably a terrible description but better than “round pasta” which is how it was described to us

The sauce was made with broccoli and potato. I have no clue how you make a sauce with broccoli and potato but I’m super glad someone does because it was surprisingly good. It was creamy but still had a bit of bite because of the broccoli and the pasta being cooked al dente.

Despite having very little space left after the huge salad, most of us had seconds! Very much worth the slight twinging pain of having a very full tummy!

However, because I like honesty and balance, one of the ladies described it as “one of the most bland, unexciting and worst things I’ve ever eaten”! She is the one who didn’t have seconds, incase you were wondering!!

The portions are massive. I need to reiterate this point, that is how big they are. The picture above is one dish of two that was prepared for 5 of us. One on its own would still have been plenty! We all ate a very good sized plate full and had extra, and there was still enough left for two giant portions to take with us.

Next up was dessert and I really didn’t fancy it. I love a good sorbet and I had no doubt it would be a good one, but there was just no room. On the flip side of that I always need a sweet bite at the end of a meal so figured it would be worth it for a little bit more stomach stretching!

The flavours of the day were strawberry, passion fruit and lemon. I’m a bit of a purist though and sorbet to me should only be lemon or orange. The lemon was very good and had a bit of a twist that was delicious but I couldn’t place. It worked and that’s all that mattered. The other two were very nice but not my thing really. One bite was enough. Not everyone agreed and there wasn’t a scraping left in any of the bowls when we left!

The waiter bought a nice surprise though…

He brought us over a bowl of ice cream so we could try for variety. He had tried to convince us to do the same with the main course but we hadn’t listened. We were all glad he didn’t give us a choice this time!

It was the best ice cream I’ve had since Ting Irie’s Madagascan vanilla soft serve on their funnel cake. In fact, I think it may have been better if that is possible.

It was basically the texture of a Mister Whippy, but much more vanilla flavoured. It even had vanilla seeds in it. It was so good that I would go back just for a pudding every now and again!

We had such a good meal and I would absolutely recommend people to go. I would just note though that we were there over an hour and a half, despite reminding the team regularly that we only had an hour. If we hasn’t, it would easily have been 2hours or more as my coworkers were in the week. That is not really the idea of a business lunch. The idea is a smaller menu and set prices so you can get through a meal in under an hour.

The food was really good, but not enough to upset all your coworkers with when you waltz off for an extended break regularly. Perfect for a one off!

The Verdict: A still very respectable, 8/10.

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