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Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2017 Shortlists Revealed

by Time Out Dubai staff

"It is time for Time Out Dubai to reveal the names of the very best restaurants in the emirate.

Our team of reviewers has spent the past year eating at hundreds of restaurants anonymously and paying for their meals. It means we can give you an honest and truthful opinion on the city’s bars, cafés and restaurants as well as its brunches, afternoon teas and breakfasts without any outside influence whatsoever.

Below are the shortlists in each category, chosen by our culinary experts based on their experiences. There have been no nominations and there is no public vote."

Top 10 Steakhouses

1 Center Cut, The Ritz-Carlton DIFC
2 Gaucho, DIFC
3 J&G Steakhouse, The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor City
4 JW’s Steakhouse, JW Marriott Hotel Dubai
5 Nusr-Et, Restaurant Village, Four Seasons Dubai Resort at Jumeirah Beach
6 Prime 68, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
7 Seafire, Atlantis the Palm
8 Big Easy Bar & Grill, Els Club Dubai
9 The Grand Grill - Steakhouse Dubai, The Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection
10 The Rib Room, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

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ernie els big easy durban

Dine Divine

Fine dining spots you'll love
Reviewed by Gemma White
OK! Middle East


WHAT IS IT: Casual, laidback dining in a classic steakhouse setting.

WHY WE LOVE IT: Boy, did I learn a lot dining at The Big Easy Bar and Grill. First up, that Ernie Els’the South African golfing legend behind the club nickname is ‘The Big Easy’, hence the restaurant’s name. Yes, golf fans might be rolling their eyes at me right now, but I didn’t know. Secondly, I learnt a ton about steaks and grapes from the gregarious restaurant manager, Tobias, who was quite the most enthusiastic, sociable and knowledgable man I have ever come across. If Tobias ever has a dinner party, I want to be invited!

With its dark, wood-panelled décor, the Big Easy Bar and Grill sets a laid back tone as an eatery, and on the Thursday night we went, the place was Filled with family groups, couples and golfers grabbing a bite post-game. The menu is unpretentious, and deceptively simple, and we got stuck right into starters of baked brie, snoek and crab cakes, and seared scallops – that’s right, three starters between the two of us, we were hungry! The juicy and tender scallops came wrapped in duck prosciutto and cooked in butter and herbs and saffron aioli, while the hearty pan-seared crab cakes were complemented with a corn and spiced mango cilantro sauce. The brie was huge, oozing out onto the plate with each cut, to be smeared on the crusty baguette and topped with blackberries. Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll find plenty of South African classics which have become global favourites - including Boerwores in a thick tomato onion stew and Bobotie samosas with banana chutney and coconut shavings.

For mains, there are plenty of seafood options, such as grilled jumbo prawns, pan seared sea bass and Norwegian salmon steak, and meats are well represented with the cinnamon and spice flavoured lamb stew in baked Portuguese bread, New Zealand red deer fillet and the intriguingly named angry duck curry that we’re definitely going to try next time. But, c’mon, it’s a Thursday night, we wanted to have steak, Tobias wanted us to have steak… Heck, probably even Mr. Els wanted us to have steak – we were going to have steak!

ernie els steaks

We highly recommend the steaks in this laidback eatery, and for dessert, the warm apple pie (below)

ernie els warm apple pie

I opted for the 8oz U.S. beef grilled tenderloin, while my husband went for the 12oz South African rib-eye, along with the suggested beverages to accompany. For our choice of sides, we went big, we did not go home, and got stuck into the aptly named mother of all baked potatoes, Big Easy fries, sautéed baby spinach, mushrooms sautéed in cream and seasoned with fresh herbs and steamed broccoli. Does it sound like we over-ordered? Well, the joke is on you, because we polished off the lot! The steaks were delicious – tender, juicy, cooked to perfection – while the sides were super-generous (the potato could easily pass for a starter) and super-tasty. It’s also worth noting here that we were very impressed with the quality of the kids’ menu which featured options that were not only healthy, but also a veritable taste exploration for little ones, with a 3oz fillet mignon, salmon fillet with green beans and grilled chicken with broccoli among others. As a mum who hides the fries from my kids, I really appreciated the options.

Where were we? Ah, yes, dessert, which I had to tackle alone due to husband’s aforementioned 12oz steak. I chose the warm apple pie because the description contained two of my three dessert trigger words – ‘caramel’ and ‘fudge’ (the other is ‘toffee’ if you’re taking notes). Of course, it was delish, with apple both soft and crunchy, and generous drizzles of caramel cinnamon fudge, making for a brilliantly sweet end to a relaxed and fun meal.

WHAT TO WEAR: Keep things smart-casual.

WHO TO TAKE: Friends and family, the little ones, your man… Big Easy Bar and Grill is perfect for all.

winemaker louis strydom ernie els wines

Capture The Sunshine

A visit with Ernie Els' winemaker offers a lesson in South African wines
- just as it did for Els 16 years ago.
by Mike McAllister

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa – A light haze caresses the Helderberg Mountain, which looms behind Louis Strydom's right shoulder as he pours one of his creations into a long-stemmed crystal glass. Shade from the oversized umbrella provides much-needed relief from a challenging hot summer day in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cool False Bay breeze that extends the ripening period has yet to announce its presence.

In Afrikaans, Helderberg means “clear mountain" and now, while sitting in its foothills, you understand why. The setting on the back patio at the Ernie Els Winery is spectacular, one of those life-is-good moments.

On the table in front of Strydom are a variety of wine bottles, a mid-afternoon taste testing ready to begin. It’s not unlike the scene 16 years earlier when Strydom – an award-winning winemaker – first explored the palate of his country’s top professional golfer.

When Els decided in 1999 to enter the wine business, he asked Strydom to join his project. Priority No. 1 was choosing the wine they wanted to make. Potentially, this was a problem, since Els was no wine expert. He grew up in Johannesburg, in the Highveld, a grassy plateau through South Africa’s interior. Big city. No vineyards.

“They only drink brandy and Coke there,” Strydom says with a laugh. “They don’t drink any wine.”

Els’ dad, in fact, didn’t drink alcohol at all, and didn’t allow any in the house. Els’ interest in wine only took off in the early ‘90s after he met his future wife Liesl, who grew up in Stellenbosch. But while he now enjoyed a glass, he couldn’t tell you why. And that’s what he told Strydom that day.

No worries, replied Strydom. “You don’t have to know anything about wines to know what you enjoy.”

He then set aside five bottles, each one placed inside an unmarked bottle-store paper bag. This would be a blind taste test. Strydom didn’t want anything – the grape, the color, the label -- to influence Els. The only thing that mattered was taste.

“What the hell am I tasting here?” Els asked, still feeling out of his element.

“Just tell me. Just talk to me,” responded Strydom.

Els remained unsure. These guys with the oakey and the smokey and all this, he laughed to himself.

“Listen,” he told Strydom. “I’m not gonna tell you what I’m smelling or tasting. I’m just gonna tell you what I like."

So he did. A sip from the first bottle. The second. Third. Fourth. Fifth. It was that fifth and final bottle he enjoyed the most -- a classic Bordeaux-style blend with five varietals.

Strydom then went to work.

ernie els winery

Ernie Els Winery, Stellenbosch

A year later, the Ernie Els Signature wine was introduced, utilizing those five varietals – 62 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, 5 percent Petit Verdot, 4 percent Cabernet Franc and 4 percent Malbec. It was an immediate success, akin to a golfer making his pro debut by winning The Open Championship. Wine Spectator gave it 93 out of 100 – no South African red wine had ever been rated that high.

Since then, the Ernie Els Signature has annually received 90-plus points for every vintage. Platter’s Wine Guide, the country’s top wine annual, has given it 5 stars on four occasions. It continues to set the tone for all of Els’ wines each year – a high-end product that consumers will appreciate and enjoy.

“I trust him – and I did trust him back then – so I knew he would come up with a good product,” Els says of Strydom. “He just wanted to see what I liked. I’m glad that first meeting went well.”

When it was released, the 2000 Signature sold for R450 in South Africa. At the current exchange rate, that’s just over $31 in U.S. dollars. If you’re a wine connoisseur, you’re probably not flinching at that price. But 16 years ago ...

“It was the most expensive wine in South Africa,” Strydom says. “And it came out of a brown paper bag.”

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big easy napkin

Our verdict on the Big Easy brunch at the Els Club in Dubai

by Rory Reynolds
7 Days UAE

What’s the scoop on this venue then?
The Big Easy is the plush Friday brunch at The Els Club in Sports City, Dubai. Usually set up as a sports bar for golf fans, the venue is transformed into a chilled and well-stocked buffet extravaganza. It’s big on live cooking, big on meat – and they even smoke their own salmon.

First impressions?
Chilled and relaxed with an impressive view over the course. The venue is a large bar restaurant with a live cooking room next door. There’s no queues, unlike the bigger brunches, a live band and superb staff. The clientele is a mix of families – I spotted a few face-painted youngsters heading straight for the deserts at 12.30pm – couples and partygoers. It’s smart and classy but not too dressy.

What’s the set up?
So, large platters of seafood serve for an ideal starter. Mini salads come in small glasses. Everything is bite-sized to prevent you getting too stuffed early on.

What did you opt for?
I launched straight in to the seafood, so fine smoked salmon, juicy prawns – all the stuff I couldn’t justify/afford buying to eat at home.

Sounds great, what next?
Hit the live cooking stations. A Thai station serves chicken satay off the grill along with spicy soups and a series of meaty, stewy South African dishes are on offer. A variety of tender steaks, salmon and seafood is made to order. Even the chunky wedges and fries are cooked to order, so there’s no soggy sides. I opted for BBQ salmon and my wife had a tender, rare steak. Melt in the mouth stuff.

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big easy brunch

Two Brunches to Try This Weekend

Style Vault Dubai

Brunching in Dubai, be it on Friday or Saturday is a weekend ritual. It is as much a part of the city’s DNA as the Burj Al Arab. There are also new brunches popping up every day and it is difficult to choose which ones are worth your while. Here is my pick of my favorite brunches you should try this weekend.

Located at the Els Club in Dubai Sports City, Big Easy bar and grill is a South African export named after golfer Ernie Els. The restaurant is laid-back and elegant with a mature ambience. Upon arrival, your nostrils are treated to the aromas of what to expect from the brunch. There is an open kitchen that allows you to directly interact with the chef, which was my favorite part. As a picky eater, I got to customize my eggs and eventually my pasta. There is also a live cooking section next door with various meat, salad, cheese and dessert options. As the bubbly flowed from one glass to another, the family friendly brunch becomes more lively. While the food was delicious, the best part of the experience was the attentive and helpful staff that made sure we had everything we needed. I will definitely repeat this brunch.

The Big Easy Brunch takes place every Friday from 12:30pm to 3:30pm. For more information Visit Els Club

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