We love buying guides like Oman2Day and Time Out and browsing through their restaurant section. Perhaps you've noticed, but these guides are incredibly positive about almost every restaurant. A review for McDonalds is completely exchangable with one of Tuscany. But still, if these guides claim a restaurant or bar to be their favourite, we tend to believe them. That's why we visited Oscar's Vine Society when we were in Dubai.
This bar, located in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, has a low key feel to it, with wine barrels transformed into tables. There is a decent selection of wines by the glass, a couple of special wines offered by the bottle and a small menu for dinner. We started with a very good plate of cold cuts, and two glasses of white wine. A lovely, refreshing glass of Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett and a bit more serious full bodied sauvignon blanc from Sancerre by Pascal Jolivet.
So far so good.
Time to order a bottle of red wine. We opted for a bottle of Chasse-Spleen, a magnificent Cru Bourgeois from Moulis in Bordeaux, but sadly it was out of stock. And here the difficulties began. The setup of the wine menu is good, with short descriptions per wine, so you don't need extensive wine knowledge in order to make a choice. But apparently the knowledge of the staff doesn't exceed the write-ups in the menu either. Our request for an equally good bottle of Bordeaux (preferably with a bit of age on it to avoid a tannin overdose) resulted in an utterly comic parade of bottles that were brought too the table. We got there in the end, but it took some effort.
The food didn't fare much better. Mr. R felt heroic and ordered andouillette, which tasted like, well, andouillette. Completely his own fault of course, although it seems a bit risky to place this on a menu with no more than four main course choices. Mrs. R ordered one of her favourites, a classic steak tartar. When made well, this raw meat dish is a delicasy, but Oscar's cook thought it would be a good idea to murder the taste with an overdose of gherkins and capers. An acidic mess. We asked for a new plate, only meat this time, as we didn't trust the cook to go easy on the gherkins. It didn't work. Instead of gherkins and capers, the cook happily sprayed the meat with an abundace of vinegar.
Conclusion: don't burn your palate on a main dish and stick to cold cuts or a cheese plate. Don't expect any real wine knowledge in this wine bar, but enjoy a glass or two from the standard selection. If this is the best wine bar of Dubai (as Time out suggests) we would be very disappointed, but we wouldn't mind spending some time here a next time in Dubai.
But we will also continue our search for a wine bar that we can call our favourite. And we will let Time Out know when we found it.