D U S K (Multi Cuisine) – Brentwood, Essex
You know a restaurant means business when it hires the skills of a 2 AA Rosette chef to head its kitchen.
In securing the molecular gastronomic talents of Executive Head Chef, Stephen Gomes, as well as the Michelin-experience of Sous Chef, David Dosoo, who’s worked under none other than Gordan Ramsey, that’s precisely what one restaurant in Essex has done.
Located in the open countryside of Brentwood’s Bentley Golf Club carpark, D U S K Restaurant and Lounge offers both a 100% non-alcoholic drinks menu and a fully Halal food menu, which includes rabbit.
Great food requires best of ingredients, great preparation and a family to eat with. – Chef Stephen Gomes (2 AA Rosette)
Nevertheless, while D U S K strictly maintains a smart to casual dress code (sans any caps, tracksuits or flip flops) for over 12s only, it does operate a bring-your-own-alcohol policy.
With nothing like it that we know of, Halal or otherwise, in the county of Essex, there’s simply no denying the ambition and the meticulous planning that’s gone into bringing this huge 450-cover eatery to fruition.
Not only does it boast luxurious modern decor, but also a large dry bar that proudly showcases a range of premium non-alcoholic wines procured from Azanti – a Halal beverage company advocating a “Sober Lifestyle”.
And while its official launch weekend ends tonight, we had the exclusive privilege of reviewing D U S K’s preliminary à la carte restaurant menu, which aims at providing a “multi cuisine dining experience” and whose ingredients are locally sourced.
For those unable to commute, fear not, for the restaurant is accessible from Brentwood Station via the 21 bus route.
Although the best of the bunch in this quartet of mocktails was perhaps the Lavender Lemonade, followed by the Virgin Mojito, this was only because the lavender helped dampen what was otherwise two fairly sweet concoctions (described by one Lion as “too soda pop” in character), which the Mojito failed to do, lacking as it did in lime to balance things out.
In spite of the sparkler, the Pornstar Martini was again a sweet affair exacerbated by a sugary rim, which even the squeeze of lime was unable to counter.
As for the Sour Apple flavoured Daiquiri, then this was a simple ice slushy and not much more.
The Vanilla Shake was a smooth milky one, with the vanilla coming through soothingly.
The Virgin Colada on the other hand was rather one dimensional, and required far more of the coconut milk and the vanilla ice cream – the latter barely discernible – to match the dominant pineapple.
But arguably the most sophisticated, and therefore the best of the lot, was the peculiarly named Viagra, which would have been a glass of watermelon with some sour lime running through the background, had it not been elevated to another level by the fiercely hot jalapenos-on-a-stick and the chilli salt rim.
All in all, these mocktails are good, but require far more thought and craft to make them worthy of their plush surroundings.
CHAPTER 1: SOUPS, SALADS & STARTERS
What we were presented with was an attractive selection of gleaming parcels that looked very appetising once the steam had cleared.
As for the prawn, then we were all agreed that it was far too salty for its own good, while also being on the dense side.
The chicken was a nice and meaty one, with the dough being thin enough to enjoy this dainty little morsel.
These were decent enough, but not quite in the league as the last ones we enjoyed at Fatt Pundit.
This one had the evident stamp of Gomes’ food science stamped all over it. What was clever here was the lemon foam, whose sour edge was beautifully neutralised by the natural sweetness of the soft and chewy, luke warm lobster meat.
Add to that the array of salad leaves immersed in a tangy tartar-esque sauce, with a slightly sharp aftertaste, and we all thoroughly enjoyed this one.RECOMMENDED
Grandmother would certainly have been proud of this exceptionally good Mirza Ghasemi.
There were essentially two factors that made this the standout starter of the review. The first was the delicate nature of the aubergine and scrambled egg amalgam, which was dreamily soft and tender; and the second was the precision with which the spices in the fresh tomato puree were balanced.
Masterfully done, and arriving with enough freshly made tandoori naans to make this a must have.
This Tuk Tuk won’t be pushing the boundaries of gastronomy anytime soon. And the reason we say that, is that we would be expecting more of a wow factor given the calibre of the chef behind the helm. In the end, this was well made; though quite underwhelming.
With an uber-crispy and thin pastry, this gently spiced vegetable samosa was nicely done, though nothing that’ll stretch the culinary imagination.
CHAPTER 2: MAIN COURSE
The glistening sheen on this beautifully carved duck immediately caught our attention and held it firmly.
While two Lions would have preferred this slightly rarer, there was no denying the quality of the game. It was deliciously deep in flavour, with just that right level of chewiness to have us masticating into ecstasy.
Couple the fatty richness of the duck and its tangy sauce with the sweetness of the apricot sauce, and this was a delicious eat.
The noodles were well executed and had enough there to impart some heat to the entire dish.
Accompanied with a jug full of tomato sauce, this beautifully cooked, moist and tender leg of chicken rested atop a bed of fluffy rice mixed with plenty of fruit and cashew nuts that did their intended job in counteracting the zingy edge of the sauce.
In the end, however, there’s not much more to say other than this Persian Zarish Polo being a satisfying eat.RECOMMENDED
This Prawn Malai Curry was another expertly cooked dish, and came with crispy tandoori naan and a bowl of white rice.
Sure enough, not only did those crustaceans retain that tender springiness of perfectly executed prawns, but the spicy mellow coconut curry was luxuriously smooth and creamy, and thus extremely addictive.
If you like your malai curries, then this requires ordering. If you’ve never tried one before, then ditto!
CHAPTER 3: SIGNATURE MAIN COURSE
The lifting of the lid revealed a well charred 250g piece of sirloin steak, but one which turned out closer to well done than medium as we’d requested.
In any case, it was topped with a knob of garlic butter, half-a-grilled tomato, and paired with roasted potatoes, a small salad bowl, and plenty of peppercorn sauce.
While the steak itself wasn’t much seasoned, the salad certainly was. As such, you’ll require the garlic butter and the salad to avoid what for us turned out to be a relatively dry piece given the nature of its cooking.
The potatoes were beautifully done, however, being ultra-crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the in, with the runny peppercorn sauce being deep in flavour and meaningful.
Be sure to smother the steak with plenty of that butter before generously covering it with said sauce to enjoy this plate for what it ought to be – a hearty meal.
The true test of a lamb shank curry for us (and an obvious one at that) is the flake-test… of course, i.e. how well does that meat come away off the bone.
Glisteningly pink on the inside, this was seriously moist meat which deserved better than the curry sauce it was smothered in, which, in our considered view, was rather flat being more tomatoey in flavour than anything else. We didn’t get much of the cinnamon coming through either.
In light of the quality of the lamb, this has serious potential though. All it requires is a curry sauce that can replicate the spices unabashedly utilised at the Indian railways this dish originates from.
This was served with two bowls of vanilla ice cream, a small jug of sweet sauce, and a trio of glasses of banana milkshake, that’s right, banana milkshake.
As you can imagine, the humongous apple tarte tatin was unashamedly sweet and sticky, with a thick and flaky pastry bottom.
We also enjoyed the ice cream, which provided that hot-and-cold contrast; although some may find this and the banana beverage a little much.
Needless to say, this was one heck of a sweet deal. But, a wonderful sharing dish nonetheless, and one that you’ll love to share no doubt.
A superbly conceived and crafted Chocolate Fantasy this, which comprised of: a lusciously smooth chocolate mousse topped with an even smoother scoop of raspberry sorbet sprinkled in nuts; a stunningly good smooth jaffa cake ice cream, all full with tasty little bits of biscuit and orange chocolate; a dainty Nutella-filled donught that rested in a smooth milk chocolate puddle; and a Chocomosa, or crispy samosa, filled with liquid chocolate.
All four elements were presented on a bed of chocolate soil, and all four were superbly done making this a fun-filled event.RECOMMENDED
This peculiarly named Baba was arguably the mama of all the desserts tried, with a large cylindrical sponge cake that was positively saturated in a subtly sweet-cum-citrusy, cold watery syrup, and resting on a bed of warm diced fruits that contrasted perfectly. Also balancing on top of the sponge was half a slice of a caramelised banana that had been blowtorched to give it a crunchy sugary top.
If that wasn’t enough, there was also a quinelle of chantilly cream that was as smooth as you’d want and sprinkled with tonka bean shaving.
On the other side, there was a wafer thin passionfruit-chocolate sugar tuile filled with a light mousse-textured foam that was just as light as its chantilly cream cousin – both not being overly sweet. Overall, a wonderful combination.RECOMMENDED
This trio of petite Eton Mess sandwiches are actually gluten- and dairy-free. They were filled with textured blackberry jam, covered in passionfruit, and surrounded by an assortment of blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and sliced grapes.
The sandwiches themselves were dazzingly good, being delicately crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the in, and contrasting nicely against the sharpness of the blackberry jam and the acidity of the berries.RECOMMENDED
And the hits just kept on coming with this Lemon Tart that was described by one Lion as the best he’s ever had!
With a pastry base that was as exquisitely thin as you’d ever want, the setting of the lemon tart, the level of its acidity and the ultra-thin sugar coating achieved on top, was just something to behold. This was topped with a scoop of smooth raspberry sorbet which itself rested on a wedge of something that appeared to be almost banana-like in taste.
That’s not all. There was also a compot of two types of fruits topped with what appeared to be dried-out shards of skin, which managed to add notes of sweet and sharpness to the whole thing.
In addition, there were two lines of meringue squeezed out in lines on opposite ends of the plate, which were, again, attractively blowtorched, before being covered in slithers of citrus.
- YES/ NO
- DISABLED FACILITIES
With that in mind, there was, as would be the case of any restaurant in the same position, particularly those aiming for high gastronomic standards like this is, room for improvement. Needless to say, however, with the calibre of chefs at the helm, i.e. Executive Head Chef Stephen Gomes and Michelin-experienced Sous Chef David Dosoo, not only is that a foregone conclusion, but, in light of some of the dishes tried, especially those unbelievably good quintet of desserts (some of which will definitely be in contention for our end of year dessert award), it'll be no time before this place is hitting the high notes.
In our considered view, there simply isn't anything like D U S K as a Halal establishment anywhere in Essex. And given the breadth of vision and extent of their ambition, they have all the ingredients in place to make waves within the UK Halal restaurant scene.
Most importantly of all, we've secured for you an exclusive 25% off their entire menu until the 25th of July; so go enjoy some exquisite food and dessert in plush surroundings.
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