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What you see is what you get at Joe's cafe.

Byline: Joe's cafe;, while set up beautifully, proved to be rather uninspired and overpriced.

I didn't expect a cafE[umlaut] inside a fashion store would to be the place to head the morning after a long Thursday night, when all you think you want is a plate of stodge.

But I felt very virtuous as I took a table next to the window in Joe's, part of the Joseph store in Dubai Mall (there's a terrace overlooking the fountains, but noon is not the time to be there). With a perfect view of the blue sky, even bluer lake and Joe's bright white interior, it's a perfect spot for lunch when you're feeling a little gloomy.

A freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice added a jolt of colour to our table as my dining partner and I picked our dishes from the one-page menu. Focaccia sandwiches laden with chicken and mayo were tempting, but the grapefruit juice had jolted our brains too: let's do healthy, we decided.

Imagine how wonderful we'll feel tripping around the mall later, knowing we didn't succumb to Krispy Kreme and Taco Bell.

Which is how I ended up with a Dh65 smoked trout salad in front of me quite some time later. Twenty minutes for some chopped apples, kiwi fruit, strawberries and a pile of baby spinach with the trout on top was a little too much for me, and we still had to ask for bread.

Of course we polished it off, starving as we were, and thankfully the mains came more swiftly, although they too, were uninspired. Grilled chicken with steamed veggies is what we ordered though, and that's what we got. There was something about the restaurant that had us thinking they'd do something different with those ingredients - like maybe put a sauce on them?

My chermoula chicken was better - the grilled chicken was marinated in Moroccan-style spices and had plenty of kick, and the accompanying couscous was studded with sultanas. But the promised baba ghanoush was dreadful - a cold block of grey paste on the side of the plate. I was imagining some smoky, silky aubergine - ok, aubergine won't win any prizes for beauty, but it doesn't have to be grey, does it?

We so wanted to like Joe's when we walked in. Before we ate, we had considered it a venue for a birthday lunch the next day.

It's pretty and makes you feel prettier just for being there. But they cannot go on serving food like this, especially at those prices.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 13, 2009
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