For the Real Madrid Café, think Hard Rock Café but with the stars of the Bernabeu being paid homage to instead of music’s legends and infamy.
You’ve then got the choice of going upstairs to eat inside or on a balcony terrace looking out to the beach and The Palm - or you can head left into a ground floor seating area which, during the cooler months, opens onto an outdoor patio.
Décor is clean and stylishly simple, with astroturf working as a carpet downstairs, contrasting with dark walls and white and black chairs.
At one end, repeated on the first floor, is a jumboscreen featuring more favoured footballing moments conjured by the boots of the café’s heroes.
A handful of the well-groomed sportsmen graced the premises in December when the Real Madrid squad was in action in the UAE.
While the current first team is a multi-national affair, the café menu follows a mostly Spanish theme, right down to its Solan De Cabras and San Benedetto imported water. Quick tip; although not listed on the menu, they do serve ‘local water’ here, if you’re keen to save a few dirhams while wetting your whistle.
And, bearing in mind Real Madrid Café’s credentials, what better way to test a Spanish-orientated outlet than by ordering paella.
You get three versions, including a vegetarian option; we sampled the chicken and the seafood takes.
It has to be remembered, Spain has many types of paella with some of the best super vibrant in taste and dark with squid ink, but this café plays it fairly safe for Dubai’s multinational crowds.
The chicken version is a colourful display, the red peppers and green beans contrasting the bright yellow of the saffron-infused rice. Moist pieces of chicken were also plentiful in a dish that was more filling than it initially looked likely to be.
Alas, the flavour didn’t quite match the visuals, largely due to a lack of seasoning. A good scattering of salt and pepper was needed to lift the subtle mix.
The seafood option was a more enjoyable affair from the off, a generous number squid rings, white fish pieces and peeled shrimps providing a great base taste as well as a variety of textures.
An accompanying well-nourished prawn and two muscles could be eaten independently or chopped into the mix to add extra authenticity. Either way, this was definitely the more satisfying of the two paella dishes.
Preceded by a bowl of fresh bread and a good, garlic-packed, chunky green olive tapenade, overall this was a filling, but easy-going lunch on one of Dubai’s hottest days.
The varied but efficient menu also boasts enough choices to entice repeat visits, ranging from a short bakery section and Champion’s Breakfast – although most top draw strikers would probably be tucking into the fruit platter and muesli available rather than a fry-up, maybe – to Eggs Benedict, Spanish Tortilla and omelettes, alongside a decent tea and coffee selection.
The Stadium Menu is where it gets more enticing as Steak Skewers with Chimichurri, Prawns Pil Pil and Octopus and Shrimp Ceviche seek the back of the net alongside Nachos, Chicken Quesadilla, Beef Sliders, Burrata with Ratatouille and Arancini “one bite paella”.
Of the short desserts huddle, the fresh fruits sorbets arguably vied with the Amaretti Cheesecake to deserve most attention, even above the Spanish traditional Churros.
Real Madrid might not have been in the Champions League final – a board advertised they would be screening the showdown between league rivals (and eventual trophy winners) Barcelona and Italian side Juventis – but they have succeeded in creating a cool but smart hang-out for football fans; and a prime way to pedal some merchandise alongside mocktails and nosh in one of Dubai’s trendiest areas.
Real Madrid Café, The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai.
Call 04 2775625. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org