With its white walls, bright natural light, and quirky Provencal-style paintings you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve escaped the concrete climes of Dubai’s financial district and landed somewhere along the French Riviera.
La Petite Maison has its roots in balmy Nice, where the owner serves a glittering set of regulars, including Nicholas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni. The restaurant has a rare, bustling atmosphere: ‘bustling’ is a seldom-used adjective for Dubai restaurants – local venues are often busy, but never bustling.
La Petite Maison heaves with atmosphere and a sense of occasion, while the easy-on-the-eye staff strut around the perfectly starched-white tables with a chutzpah only the French can pull off.
The restaurant prides itself on sourcing authentic high-quality ingredients from southern France – with artichokes, lemons, olives and tomatoes peppered throughout the menu.
Olive oil, too, plays a starring role in many of the dishes – it’s just as well that it’s delicious and piquant, having been sourced from the hills of the Alpes Maritimes. Watch out for the breadbasket which makes a welcome visit to the table – the warm doughs are fresh and homemade, perfect for an unapologetic dunking in the olive oil.
We begin with Le Petite Maison’s famous burrata et tomatoes starter, a non-pasteurised cheese that’s shipped in direct from France. This dish is delicate, creamy and barely set – with generous lashings of olive oil, pepper and fresh basil. As with most of this restaurant’s dishes, it’s the freshness that’s key. The more simple the dish, the more chance there is for the freshness to take centre stage, and burrata et tomatoes is a winning example.
The menu covers all the French classics, with a hearty Niçoise twist. Our feast is delivered to the table in family style, with dishes placed in the centre of the table for sharing. The beef carpaccio, warm prawns, avocado yellowtail and lentil salad all burst with colour and strong, simple flavours. This is splendid grub with attitude.
The mains and sides again come in separate flat dishes for communal eating; there’s something celebratory about eating here, as if good food and good company really are life’s most prized elixirs. The duck, rib-eye steak, and gratinated potatoes are delivered to the table with typical flourish. And the meat is high- quality, flavoursome and the right side of tender.
In La Petite Maison, the staff take pride in their jobs and their food, and it shows. This is not another Dubai hotel restaurant with its standard opulence. It’s the real deal. Bon appetit.