Meet me at The Pangolin

I hate carrots.

Hear me out.

I don’t like the taste… I almost always feel like gagging when the distinct taste of raw carrot floods into my taste buds.

And then I tasted a carrot dish at The Pangolin which I have ordered every time I’ve been.

That says something.

The Pangolin opened its doors in October 2020 at The Els Club Dubai Sports City, and I headed there for the first time that month for a friend’s birthday. If you’re a longtime UAE resident who enjoys eating out, then you’ll have heard of Sergio Lopez, the restaurateur behind The Pangolin, and Troy Payne, the Australian chef who heads up the culinary team.

Troy Payne, the chef behind the menu at The Pangolin.

The menu is eclectic, and creates this inexplicable desire within you to try everything. From your usual soups, salads and sides, diners are also presented dishes under ‘Boasties’, ‘Savoury Pangolins’ (no, not the animal), and Meats, Ocean and Meatless highlighted under the ‘Over Embers’ section. But then there’s the whimsical ‘Paper Bag’, through to the ‘Iron Pots’ and ‘Bunny Chows’, all of which gets you asking questions to find out more. The influence for these dishes are wide-ranging: from South African, to Asian, to Australian. I haven’t tried all the dishes yet, and certainly not even all the sections, but it’s something I’m keen to explore.

Now, for the food. For someone who had to be force fed vegetables at a young age (I have since reformed, thank you), let me wax lyrical about some of the vegetarian dishes at The Pangolin. Take this salad, the ‘mountain tomato, oregano, candied olives’. A tomato is a tomato is a tomato. Right? Not really. Under Troy’s aegis, the humble tomato’s full flavour is brought out by the creamy olive ice cream, sat atop the candied and hardened olives, adding this burst of extra sweetness to that of the tomato. Or why not look at the ‘ginger confit carrots roasted in honey butter, with pistacho crème fraîche’? The very carrots I mentioned at the beginning of the post. The carrots are soft, extra rich with the honey butter it floats in and the unlikely pistachio pairing just giving it that extra zhuzh as it melts in your mouth. Or you could order the coal roasted mango cheeks, dried lime and Aleppo chilli, where spice meets sweet in an earthy marriage.

But a meat eater I have always been, and barring unforeseen circumstances, one I shall remain. So, easily one of my favourite mains at The Pangolin so far is the ‘slow roasted lamb neck ‘Dolmade’, white anchovies, seeded mustard and sage’. The meat fell apart with a poke of my fork (on both occasions that I’ve ordered it), and I genuinely encourage you to try it when you visit.

A shout out to one item on the dessert menu in particular: I’ve tried the ‘poached pear and pistachio cheesecake, calvado jelly centre’ and please, please, please make sure you’re not already stuffed before trying this. While I firmly believe there’s always room for dessert, this one is decadent, and you will need a crazy sweet tooth to handle it.

I’ve only been to the ground floor, but recently the terrace, called The Highlands, has also opened its doors and I look forward to nabbing a seat there at some point. I recently discovered that it has launched a ladies night at The Highlands, which I am totally interested in checking out… FYI, it’s every Tuesday from 7-11pm, for AED 129 which involves the restaurant’s signature platter of home cured meats and cheeses and four drinks.

What I also love about The Pangolin’s menu is its dedication to sourcing local ingredients as much as possible; Troy’s unwavering support to local farms is commendable. Another highlight is items that are made on-site, from the bread to the meat cured in-house, to cheese (yep!) made right there.

So what are you waiting for? Pop over the The Pangolin and let me know what you think! I really hope you enjoy your experience as much as I have mine!

Find someone who looks at you the way I look at cheesecake.

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