WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: CATCH
At first, the idea of a Saturday brunch just didn’t appeal to me. Anyone who’s familiar with Dubai knows that Friday brunches tend to be an all day affair that zaps up most of your weekend so when invited out on Saturday, I declined the first few times.
But then I was having supper with one of my besties and she happened to say, “I’ve heard so many good things about CATCH”. I gave myself a good kick to stop with the humming and harring and to go and explore before I became one of the last people to be in the know.
I’d been planning to pay a visit to Fairmont Dubai anyway to try out Bistrot Bagatelle, one of the other restaurants there, so I decided to just jiggle things around and visit CATCH first.
And with that thought in mind, we booked ourselves a Saturday brunch.
Before we go any further, let’s just clarify that when we say CATCH, we mean CATCH in Dubai. It’s not Catch 22 or The Catch in Abu Dhabi. Although perhaps an appropriate name for a seafood restaurant, the only negative seems to be that a few other people have thought the same thing, which could cause a bit of a headache depending on how clear your friends are when making plans.
Luckily, Google seems to be working in favour of CATCH Dubai as it pops up at the top of the page when you search for it!
CATCH is part of EMM Group, one of New York’s illustrious hospitality groups founded by Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum. CATCH New York was the first of the bunch, when the group thought about bringing a seafood restaurant to life through also focusing on lifestyle. They wanted to do for seafood what Nobu did for Japanese, or Mr. Chow did for Chinese. You could say they’ve executed that concept rather well, considering they opened one in LA, another in Playa Del Carmen, and now in Dubai.
Both the NY and LA spots have done rather well tapping into a competitive and A-lister-filled space but it’s not because the guests are treated like celebrities. It’s because CATCH has focused on providing a warm, comfortable space where people can come and relax without having to worry or think about their celebrity status. They just want you to come and sit down for a minute.
Besides that, the team at CATCH know exactly who they are and what they bring. As a seafood house born and bred in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, they have a clear vision, defined culture, and unique DNA. They’re confident that someone who’s familiar with CATCH LA, for example, would immediately know if they were in a sister CATCH. As they told me “We know the vibe of our tribe and they know ours”.
So with CATCH in New York and LA already having pretty rocking reputations as hot hangouts, the question was, how would it translate here in Dubai?
When we arrived, we headed up a flight of stairs to what would be the back entrance. Unfortunately, due to rain and rather harsh weather, the gleaming front entrance was a no-go. Here, we met Andy who was a top dude from the word go. Even though we were a few minutes early, rather than pushing us away, he merrily let us in.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps I was thinking there would be white cotton tablecloths, servers in crisp aprons, and the clean lines and neutral colours so often used in seafood restaurants. Well, colour me surprised when I walked through the doors right into what seemed like a NYC warehouse in the Meatpacking District.
This place is dark and moody with a mix of textures and materials, at once industrial and sophisticated. The exposed brick walls are offset by accent walls in herringbone patterns and concrete. Massive bronze pillars with a just-right patina staunchly stand throughout the space and the floor has a black and white geometric pattern, providing a stark contrast to the organic shapes and colours of the wooden bar tables. Overhead, clusters of bare bulbs hang down while awesomely epic artwork by the artist Hijack decorates the walls.
Tables and seating vary. We sat in a roomy and comfy booth with dark brown tufted leather seats, perfect for a group of four, but there are also bar tables and chairs, alongside more casual seating in the form of low tables and wide seats made out of wooden palettes set upon some astroturf.
There was even a spot for a hipster DJ who was just beginning to set up shop when we arrived. The tunes we had were funky with some R&B classics but during the evenings, it’s a mix of R&B, top 40s, and some old school heavy hitters like Wu-Tang Clan, Lauryn Hill, and L’il Wayne. But it’s not all soul and hip-hop – if you swing by on a Monday, you’ll twirl right into Havana Mondays where Cuban band CUBACHE and Dubai’s best Latin America DJs provide the soundtrack for some hot Cuban and Latin American dancing.
As I continued to look around, a bicycle in the middle of the floor in one section caught my eye. It turned out to be the tequila bike used to make your own margaritas, special to Saturday brunch. Little bits of fun and quirkiness are all over the place if you look – take the restroom, for example. What? You didn’t notice the punching bag in there?
All in all, even though the look was that of a warehouse and it was daytime outside, the vibe was snuggly and cosy and made us feel like we’d skipped straight through to the evening hours.
Staff & Service
The staff were hip, fun, and held no hostages!
They’re not here just to serve or because it’s just another job but rather, it’s like they were hired to have fun. It actually reminds me of Ramusake, another hopping hotspot I visited recently and found to have a very similar vibe.
Andy and Alexis, the Assistant GM, are fabulously upfront about making sure staff join in and are happy, which in turn makes you instantly settle into the Saturday brunch vibe, which only continued to grow as the day went on. There are over 30 team members and there’s an ongoing effort to keep them engaged and involved. The staff members are “the heart and soul of the CATCH family” and it definitely shows!
We were thrilled that the food was brought to us instead of us having to queue up at a buffet table like school children at lunch time. This just makes the whole experience so much more civilised and it also keeps you from overloading your plate. You know how it goes at buffets – you pile on everything you think you might want to eat because you know that it’s highly unlikely you’ll be motivated to queue up for round 2. Sometimes it’s not even laziness that prevents you from getting up to get more; sometimes you’re seated in such a way that there’s no way you could leave the table without disrupting a conversation or climbing over and behind a few people.
Executive Chef Bobby Griffing is the one responsible for all of the tasty morsels that landed in our mouths and we have to give him an enthusiastic thank you. The menu selection was nice and varied and everything we ordered was delicious. One of the real standouts, though, was the smoked edamame. They were flavoured with chile, lime, and sea salt, and totally rocked. The lobster roll was also pretty spectacular, served on a potato roll with a sprinkling of chives.
The chef spent 15 years at Todd English Enterprises and he’s opened big-name restaurants around the world, from Olives NYC to Beso in LA (Eva Longoria’s baby). He put his international savvy to good use and managed to bring a taste of New York straight to the sandcastle.
The only thing I might say about the food is that the portion sizes could definitely be cut down. The plates were so generous, I bet they could reduce them without people even noticing and save us all a few calories at the same time. I’m pretty sure there were half a dozen eggs in some for or another in the dishes and rather than a spoonful of sorbet to cleanse the palate, we received a huge stack of pancakes. Never mind that they were crawling with naughtiness but this was before the mains!
I know, commenting about having too much food is one of life’s smallest problems but it’s more about not wanting to waste food, which I’m afraid we did. With so much variety and most of the dishes leaning towards the carb-heavy, it soon became a toss-up between having another bite or another cocktail. Speaking of which…
We opted to have gin. I just wish that we’d had another option besides Plymouth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a popular label and certainly does the trick in cocktails but for us gin freaks, it would have been nice to have a few more choices. Again, this is nit-picky and it certainly wasn’t the end of the world! I still enjoyed a few solid G&Ts and had a fabulous brunch, which ended with a tower of the most decadent waffles. We were beyond stuffed but still managed to savour a few mouthfuls. It was sinfully good and if you’re a waffle fan, definitely leave room in your stomach for these at the end!
All in all, it was an awesome brunch and other guests seemed to agree. There seemed to be quite a few who forgot about having work the next day and carried on with eating, drinking, and having fun. Never a bad thing but I do hope they didn’t have too rough of a work week come Sunday morning!
We’re happy to add this place onto our brunch rotation list and we’re also planning to return for their Monday Cuban dance nights!
The Fairmont Sheikh Zayed Road 211715 Dubai