A restaurant that believes in ‘more is more’…

The Collective at Grand Hyatt Dubai boasts four dining concepts in one

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So I have a confession to make. A part of me thinks I am living a double life. Hold your thoughts! It’s nothing to do with guilt, shame or lies from illegal or immoral acts. It is life’s little problems of being single and hanging around with the married lot.

I am single, but hearing these husbands and wives constantly talk about the ups and downs, needs and wants, pros and cons of this holy union somewhere makes me feel I am already in it. At times I give such brilliant advice to share on what makes a marriage work that I have people telling me ‘your husband must be a lucky man’. Damn right peeps. Just that ‘this very husband’ is an illusion. 

Now why am I thinking about this on a lovely evening dressed up driving towards Grand Hyatt Dubai? It’s because its latest culinary offering is a blend of four micro concepts. We all know that too many cooks spoil the broth, so when you have a spot like this making its debut at a venue that boasts great dining experiences; it’s a bit of a risk, isn’t it? And that got me thinking (read: giving it the benefit of doubt) that perhaps it works on the principles of a relationship, wherein you need more than one box ticked for it to work. Maybe the fact i've heard so many friends tell me the different things that make a relationship work...it's not just one thing. Maybe like this new restaurant concept... you need at least four things to make something perfect?

So here I was (with a plus one I managed to muster up) at the entrance of The Collective waiting to find out if more is indeed more...

For those who knew Market Café, erase it from your memory as The Collective has taken over. It’s still located alongside the property’s indoor tropical garden, but instead the old décor has been upgraded to reflect the four new concepts. Think mosaic tiles and Middle Eastern lamps, as well as patterned Turkish ceramic bowls in the Levant Emporium. The Bombay Café is strewn with handmade rugs and the focus here is its book wall (book worms might be disappointed that you can’t pick out one to read, but get your thrills running your fingers on the wall and feeling the pages). The Grill Bar has booth style diners and a show kitchen lending it an industrial feel, whereas the Bakery has multiple styles of tables and chairs - leaving diners with loads of options to settle their bottoms on for the last course. Renowned Japanese design firm Super Potato keeps the transition from section to section smooth with the use of earthy colours consistent throughout. At this point we can let you in on a little secret: the design team and chefs spent as much as a year in each of the countries to nail the food and interior details. It surely has paid off!

We seat ourselves at one of the tables in the Bombay Café where our server offers us water and the beverage menu. We decide on some sparkling drinks before the restaurant manager invites us for a tour around the eatery - explaining (in detail) each section as we move along. Seated at the far end of the restaurant, opting to start with the Levantine Emporium (the first section as you enter) is perhaps one of the best decisions. Little do we realise those little walks will help us digest each round of the meal, before we indulge in further gluttony.

Our first pick is the Turkish simit bread (not too different from an oversized bagel). This sesame ring is served with melted (on a shawarma rotisserie) Kashkaval cheese and drizzled (super generously) with honey from a Yemeni honeycomb. Gooey cheese topped with sweetness sandwiched between crisp bread…yummm! And perhaps only something an ‘Emmental cheese and honey on toast’ loyalist would understand. The fluffy, fresh, homemade Arabic bread is best had with a dollop of basil hummus, where you can feel the peppery zing of the herb. The pumpkin moutabel is a real tease to the taste buds because you recognise the flavour, but it's hard to tell it’s pumpkin. The mains from this section are undoubtedly the crumbly and mildly nutty couscous with meatballs soaked in a flavourful tomato sauce. Did we mention we strategically skipped the salads and mixed grills, so we could sample as much on offer in the other sections as well?

The Grill Bar has lots on display including lamb leg, beef and Mexican chicken, but the show stealer is the grilled tiger prawns. Served with mango relish, the two large pieces looked dry and lifeless when plated, but are so succulent and come apart from the shell on the slightest prod with our fork. Lesson learnt: looks can indeed be deceiving. We had that with a side (by which we mean a large plate) of fries with unsparing and artistic squirts of mayo and ketchup.

Our third stop is the section we were seated at, the Bombay Café, with our first pick being the famed street fave keema pav. In English: minced meat with peas, served with buttered bread. Like everything else at The Collective, this too is made at the moment – straight from the tawa (India’s version of the griddle) on to our plates. Served piping hot, it's absolutely delicious with the right mix of spices. Parsi specialties include sali murghi (tender chunks of chicken in a tomato-onion gravy) served with fried potato sticks, mutton dhansak (a Persian-Gujarati dish of mutton cooked in lentils and veggies) and lacy chicken farcha. It’s usually regarded as the Parsi version of KFC chicken so we’re talking deep fried pieces of chicken with a blend of tasty Indian spices (shhh…the typical ‘lip to hip’ kind of food).

This is the point where anyone who had mastered even the slightest bit of self-control would understand it was time to STOP eating! But, not us! With an array on display including chocolate kunafa, sticky date pudding, cookies and plum tart, it would be unfair to leave without a quick taste. We keep the calorie count ticking. First with sponge cake dipped under the chocolate tap (because a choco fountain is so passé), followed by a light, sweet and crumbly strawberry meringue (it's like knocking off a wall and watching the cement crumble) and the creamiest caramel custard. If you’ve ever experienced the joy of wiping out condensed milk from a can and loved every minute of it, this dessert is for you! We wash it all down with a cup of peppermint tea, though we're told a lovely climax to a succession of satisfying treats could only be their Italian illy coffee. The baristas take pride in the fact that they can prepare a cup for each guest, even when the restaurant is at full capacity, on their much-loved manual coffee machine. 

A little longer and we'd probably have to be rolled out of The Collective. We struggle to get off our chairs, but slowly and steadily make our way to the lobby. I think back and agree. These four micro concepts did work like a marriage. There's love and passion - evident in the service, with around 70 staff (be it chefs or servers) from over 20 nationalities all excited to share their recommendations and extremely enthusiastic to attend to diners (even when we were bordering the demanding and annoying line). There's an element of faithfulness - with each section remaining true to its style, be it the design factor or dishes on offer. A dash of compromise - yes, it is classified as a multi cuisine outlet so there (might) be diners who expect Italian and Chinese too and could be disappointed at not getting it, but hey they've got enough to choose from. And above all, there's harmony – while retaining individuality, all four sections worked so well together. My leaving thoughts...or perhaps advice: go, give it a shot, and let me know if it ticks the ‘happily married’ box for you too! *wink”

To make a reservation, contact 04 317 2221; dinner package at AED 199, exclusive of beverages; hyattrestaurants.com/gcc/dubai

Now read: Lovin Dubai's TOP 10 Indian restaurants

Written By

Naina Shahani

There are two kinds of people. Those that are constantly dieting and those that will die eating. Naina falls in the latter category. When not planning her next meal or finding a new spot to eat at, this trained reflexologist turned writer is busy sharing stories on how much Dubai has changed in the last 30 years.