It reminded me of the scene in Terry Gilliam's brilliant 'Brazil' where our hapless hero and his heroine are driving into the sunset down a road lined with advertising hoardings. We had turned off the Emirates Road into the Al Barari development only to find ourselves surrounded by a wall of verdant greenery. The road all the way to The Farm café/restaurant is like a drive through a tropical paradise, albeit one only a few feet thick - on the other side lies desert strewn with rubbish and 'project on hold' construction sites. We continued down the paradise alley to the restaurant's car park and wandered in to the achingly chic white and wood of The Farm - itself surrounded by a veneer of lush gardens and water park, all fenced in from the outside - a sort of canvas backdrop you almost feel will tear if you put your hand out and push against it.
We were late to the party, for sure - everyone who's anyone has already 'discovered' The Farm, but we needed the Niece From Heaven and family coming out to give us the impetus to plan an eating out in Dubai, having previously forsworn the city's pricey dining pleasures. You need to book well ahead, the place is popular without a doubt - and for somewhere as out of the way as that to be popular says something, no?
We arrived on time for our booking - they had called the day before to confirm this and also SMSed confirmation. The table wasn't ready. There was a little confusion, we were a largish party of seven adults a baby and TNFH but soon sorted out. I handed back the stained napkin sitting under my cutlery to the waiter and we settled down to...
Oh horrors. It's only a bloody iPad menu. I won't repeat my previously stated views regarding this crime against commonsense. Actually, stuff it, I will. It's lunacy. In this case, it's made even worse by iPad stands that are too worn to stand up reliably. The application is better structured than the last one I came across, but still and all that. A bloody iPad. And yes, when the bill came, I did realise who was paying for the 'sledgehammer to crack a walnut' technology.
The menu is tempting, for all the iPaddery. There's a full-on Thai menu and a mixture of salad things and bigger offerings. I played with the idea of lamb shank and bailed at the last minute which turned out to be a mistake.
We had a baby. We had asked for a baby chair when we had booked. We asked again when we arrived. We asked when we got to the table. We asked twice more. Eventually an Ikea baby chair pitched up. We'd likely have been faster nipping out to buy it. Juggling a baby and an iPad menu that won't stand up is not, by the way, for the faint hearted.
Tomato tatin as a starter. Gorgeous, salty goaty cheesy tapenadey and tomatoey. It came before the drinks we'd ordered. Starter finished, the drinks turned up. My peach iced tea was precisely what it said on the box and much enjoyed. I'd have enjoyed it more, likely ordered a second, if it had come before the food. Others had the spiced jumbo prawns or had decided to share plates of bruschetta. All were making oo and aa sounds.
Yeah, clearly hated that one. Loathed it. Yuk.
But we did have to look at the debris for an aching age...
Done, we looked at those plates for aeons. They were taken just as the main courses arrived - in fact, they waited for the table to be cleared before they could serve them. I had the beef papaya salad, very nice and appealing to the eye, if perhaps a little light on the protein. But that was my fault - I knew I was up for a solid chunk of lamb shank, so no salad was going to hit the spot. Others had the couscous halloumi salad, the corn-fed chicken, the salmon. Much pleasure was derived from this food. We had coffee, which was nice. We paid the stiffish bill (around Dhs140 per head, two couples having shared starters and most had salad mains), had a wander around the garden for obligatory tourist selfies and went for a drive to discover the other side of the green Reality Wall before heading for home.
I'd go back, for sure. The Farm has lovely food, a nice 'feel' to the place and a beautiful, if metaphorically loaded, setting - but the service was pretty shambolic. I broke my rule about never taking photos of my food for Instagram again. Which could be said to be a compliment.