A lot of bars in Dubai are going through an identity crisis; pizza restaurants doubling as Crossfit discos or beach bars with bucking broncos and all-you-can-tolerate bingo nights. I am delighted to say that Lock Stock & Barrel is above all of that, it knows exactly what it is, and what it is, is quite simply fantastic. Without breaking into a canter, it manages to remain distinct from the hotel (the Grand Millenium Hotel) it’s situated within; walking through the doors transports you to an East Coast US music hall – aching with character and buzzing with effortless charm. I think one of the biggest achievements for any serving staff is for them to appear in perfect synchronicity with the ambiance of the venue and they have managed to achieve this in the terrifyingly short period of time since it’s grand reopening just over a week ago.
If you can measure the success of a new venture on how quickly it garners a loyal following, then Lock Stock can afford a smug smile and a contorted pat on its own back. We went on a Monday night and paid witness to a healthily busy clientele base and a stripped-back acoustic performance by the house band. They, 13 Daze, expertly performed a refreshingly different set to what has become an almost universal song-list elsewhere in the UAE. From Finley Quay to Nirvana, a cheeky wink to perhaps the greatest one-hit wonder of all time: Eagle-eye Cherry and a cover of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Californication that ended in a spontaneous crowd-sung chorus.
And Green Day. On a Monday night. On acoustic guitars. I would go for the music but I would stay, beyond contented, for the food.
I guess the menu is what you might expect from such an establishment. What you might not expect however – is the diligence that has gone in to making sure the flavours are dazzlingly on point. The Lock Stock & Barrel Black Angus burger easily nudges its way in to the top five burgers I have tasted in Dubai. And trust me; I have worked up quite the burger-snob status. They have dissected the details of what makes this type of menu work, focusing on the quality of the food and the accompanying sauces. Good flavours, done right. It’s the type of hearty food that satisfies the noisy carnivore within us.
That’s not to say there aren’t welcome surprises on the menu, we also tried the duck and mango pizza for example. I’ve never tasted duck and mango together, never thought they might end up together in blissful matrimony on a pizza – mainly because in nature, I doubt the duck and mango have much occasion to meet. But the chef has uncovered a masterpiece here – the delicate balance of saltiness and subtle sweetness that I believe, although have not yet observed, can quite literally blow your mind. The prices aren’t the lowest around, the burger will set you back AED 89, but given the fact that their kitchen can put a smile on a condemned man’s face, I’d say that still represents value for money.
And it’s all about sharing at Lock Stock & Barrel; the pizzas are cut into thin nibble-size slices and each component off the sharing platters is an utter delight. Shout out to the popcorn shrimp (sorry, I promised him I’d give him a mention). There are also several pool tables if you want to share arguments over what constitutes a foul. The beverages are fairly priced and there is a small but very carefully selected menu of craft hops available, discerning enough to woo connoisseurs and debutants alike. Well, the dictionary tells me I have now run out of words that mean ‘nice’ or ‘good’, so I suggest that you take that as your queue to get yourself down to this, the now standout bar in Tecom.
All pictures by Phil Seaton