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Round the clock bites and delights - By Rebecca Wicks

There’s a place in the city that some people would prefer to be kept under the proverbial hat. Although the PRs and management are beyond proud of this particular place, they’re also slightly wary that word could get out to the wrong crowd. I’ll tell you the secret, but you must promise, people, to hold it close to your hearts. Tell only the ones who need to know; the folk who’ll use the information for good, not evil.

It’s a 24 hour delicatessen. Yes, you read it right. A spot to line your chops 24 hours a day, from dusk until dawn, and we’re not talking a calorie-ridden greasy floored, greasy spoon joint either. This is Dubai, dahlings. It’s a posh nosh establishment in the marina, thoughtfully located on the ground floor of the new Harbour hotel, opposite Mina Seyahi. They call it ‘Counter Culture’, and cultured is probably a suitable word for it. Sure you can enjoy your carbs and thigh-expanding kebab-style alternatives here (if that’s what you’re craving at 3am), but you’ll sit in a relaxed yet refined environment and still retain your dignity while you do it.

Can you see why we have to keep this one quiet?

Tell the wrong people that they can stop for a salmon encrusted pie and fresh, crispy garden salad at 2am and they might very well show up for it, en masse, and eat it very loudly at the table next to you. Tell the staggering bloke in the bar that you’re heading for a blue cheese and broccoli quiche with rock-salt fries and a watermelon smoothie at midnight and he might just try to follow you - with all of his blathering friends. Places like this don’t stay secret for long, but together we can do our best. We can only do our best, in the end.

If you’re a person who likes to remember what they’ve eaten the next day by a means other than pulling remnants of it out of your hair, you’d do well to stop for a spot of lunch, or even dinner. Or, dare I say it, dessert? The dessert counter at ‘Culture’ is a delectable feast of its own accord, and when it comes to the selection of tempting homemade ice-cream - you’ll even find flavours like ‘beer’ on the menu. Yes really. And if they don’t have the taste you desire, they’ll make it for you within 40 minutes if you ask nicely, and if they’ve got the ingredients at hand. On a separate note, it’s true that the mammoth, chocolate brownies cry out from the street as you pass in a taxi. Next time you drive by, listen. You will hear them.

At Counter Culture you can order off the menu or stroll past the deli counters and choose from what’s on display. Crispy topped meat and veggie pies, cauldrons of steaming soup, healthy, crisp salads and homemade sandwiches beckon New York style, as smiley chefs wait eagerly to offer you their recommendations. They even bake their own breads fresh every day � try the cheese topped rolls still warm from the oven and put the diet off for one more day.

Places like this don’t come around very often, especially not in Dubai. And in the UK, unless kept under control they can quite often turn into homeless shelters or scum-splattered after-party haunts for the intoxicated. You can’t help but think that all of this would probably be lost on a group who’ve just wobbled over the road from a certain well-known beach bar, too, so let’s try and keep it to ourselves for a while longer, shall we?

Counter Culture @ The Harbour Hotel - +971 4 319 4000.

Posted: 16 October 2008

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