No. Fifty Seven Boutique Cafe from Abu Dhabi was recently in Dubai for a four-day pop-up cafe stint. Pop-ups seem to be the in-thing at the moment but Buthaina Al Mazrui and Alamira Noor Bani Hashim are no newbies to it. The young, talented girls founded the Dinner Club No. 57 in 2012, hosting elaborate dinners in unusual locations like a construction site or under a bridge or in an empty bus. All very chichi, invite-only affairs.
I haven’t been to their cafe in Al Marasy yet so when I saw on Instagram that they were bringing the concept to Dubai, I jumped on it! The brunch menu was a secret, all we knew was that the location would be on the top floor of Sheikh Rashid Tower, the original landmark of Dubai which still stands proud and tall on our 100 Dirham notes.
It turned out to be a day like no one could’ve imagined. Sand flying all over the place, low visibility, trees swaying in unnatural angles and tall flag poles shaking vigorously. We were caught in the middle of a sand storm. Day two and the wind showed no sign of slowing down.
Walking into the venue however, it was beautiful. Used as an events venue many years ago, the 37th floor of Sheikh Rashid Tower these days remains empty. It is mainly used for storage with run down parquet flooring, the ceiling made of sweeping roofline tent, but with a stunning panoramic view of Sheikh Zayed Road and old Dubai. On that day unfortunately, no view was to be had.
Marina Home Interiors provided all the furniture for the “dining room” and hang out space and the transformation was chic, rustic, ‘Californian-Desert meets Bohemian’, complete with distressed leather couches, rugs as wall art, cacti plants, and their classic No.57 Animal Heads. Very stylish!
Once we settled down with our tea and coffee, the food was brought out as and when we were ready.
Started off with poached eggs with avocado on toast, a breakfast burrito with veal bacon and tomato salsa, french toast with a berry compote and caramel sauce, and a little bowl of coconut sago pudding.
By this point – we’re full!
On to mains, we had lobster rolls with a lime sweetcorn salad on the side, No. 57 cheese burger with truffle fries, and beef and butternut squash lasagne, which was very tasty.
For dessert there was the No. 57 signature “Ermahgerd” (toffee crumble with cream and roasted marshmallows), Pavlova with berries and popping candy, a bowl of homemade broken mint chocolate and for me, the best thing I ate all afternoon – their Toffee skillet cookie.
Dessert was easily the best course of the brunch and left us feeling giddy with joy (I speak for the table!). I’d drive down to Abu Dhabi any day, just to eat that Toffee skillet cookie. Sigh..
Given the unfortunate weather, the No. 57 girls handled the afternoon SO well – if it were me, I’d be crying in a corner. We did however have one vegetarian with us and Namrata who doesn’t eat beef. Both girls could barely eat any of the food as everything was more or less prepared and there was no option to request changes. Also, portions were massive. If the food was indeed meant to be shared family style, individual portions were big and bread heavy.
Having said all that, I get that these might be some of the issues that come with the pop-up territory, the operational challenges when it’s not your own kitchen and space. Also, as a customer, if you don’t know the menu from the get-go, having any strict food preferences can be hard. And you might end up leaving hungry.
The decor was so cool chic, especially all the cacti! We were left wishing it was a permanent place we could go back to!
All in all, we had such a fantastic time. The thrill for me is in experiencing something unique and unforgettable, in not knowing where exactly I’m going and what I’ll be eating. The cafe was buzzing with chatter, filled with good looking groups, all of us somehow feeling like we’re in the know. No. 57 transported us in to their exclusive and uber-stylish world and it was great to be there, if only for one afternoon. The hard work put in by the girls is noticeable in all the quirky little details, its like everything has a story and reason to be there. If they do another pop-up soon – and I’m sure there will be plenty – I’d say GO!
Have you been to any fun and unique dining experiences lately? Do tell!