Tom & Serg’s placement in trendy warehouse district of Al Quoz fits them like a glove, as does the décor of industrial racking, whitewashed walls and simple furniture. The concept, inspired by the rising wave of ‘pop-up chic’ currently engulfing those cities-in-the-know such as London, Melbourne and New York is fast becoming the go-to of small scale homegrowns. Hailing originally from one of the aforementioned ‘hipstervilles’ I have a natural penchant for any concept that appears to have been opened with a budget less than that of a decent brunch.
Having been greeted by the obligatory shaved head cool girl, who despite, her obvious aloofness manged to keep a handle on being basically engaging too. We opted to sit nearer the kitchen, this was a lucky choice it would seem as I needed all the extra heat I could get. I’m all for authenticity but I feel that when taking direction from some of the colder climates in the world a good idea is not to bring with them their downsides also. Tom and Serg is COLD. Now I’m not talking the usual Dubai over-compensating-AC cold, we were actually visiting on a cloudier day so the air con didn’t appear to be running all that much. No what Tom and Serg have capitalised on from their SoHo/Fitzroy/Shoreditch inspiration is the downright draftiness of warehouses and other repurposed buildings. This is not an aspect of my homeland I ever wished to rediscover in the desert. The unfortunate effect of this draft is to make what otherwise would be quirky aspects downright uncomfortable. The chairs seem less inviting, the bare walls more hostile and the concrete floor more intimidating, which to me, is a great shame. I wanted a fire. And a blanket.
Once I finished moaning about how cold I was (and after ordering a warming cup of Jasmine Tea) I was able to direct my attention to the menu. Split into all day from 8.30 and lunch from 11.30 the menu naturally leans toward breakfast/brunch dishes. Being however as it was late afternoon we opted to choose from the lunch section. I’ll admit nothing jumped out at me, a few dishes seemed to be over tweaked versions of basics that didn’t need the updated adjectives and OTT add-ons they had been piled with. I noted also that the menu is fairly international, including dishes from Mexico, Thailand, Moroccan and Japan to name but a few, in AllMouthDXB’s experience a concept that attempts to cover too many bases inevitably covers them all badly. As opposed to focussing on one and executing it well. I was, however, more than be prepared to be proved wrong.
The service peaked and troughed throughout the visit, swinging wildly from keen and eager, to lazy and disinterested. I had the distinct impression we were eating at the change over of shifts (still not an excuse) only we saw no new faces. When I called over and asked a staff member what the soup was he was so unprepared for my question I had to repeat it several times before pointing out the soup on the menu, he then had to go and find out.
These long lapses in service however did give us a chance to concentrate on the bar/kitchen, what a shame we did. We counted no fewer than three members of staff eating behind the bar. Not controlled tasting of dishes before they left the pass but an apparent full staff meal being had sans cutlery in full view of the customer. Classy.
Our meals arrived quickly and with a smile and presentation was typically minimalist, though my guest’s burger arrived on a metal tray I was pleased to see my roasted vegetable wrap on a real plate! Thank heavens Tom & Serg have stopped short of bringing over such fashionable plating atrocities as mini shopping baskets and tennis shoes, kudos Tom and Serg.
Sadly, the vegetable wrap itself was a meh as meh can be, halloumi was listed as an ingredient on the menu but the quantity in the wrap was pitiful. One of the vegetables nestling along with the usual suspects was parsnip; albeit a seasonal offering, in keeping with the current availably and quality of the root vegetables in the market (A consideration that is usually vastly overlooked in this part of the world) it had no place in the wrap. The parsnips intense sweetness and fibrous texture overpowered the other ingredients and jarred with the floury wrap surrounding it. I appreciate the nod toward seasonality but sadly that root was a nod in the wrong direction.
The burger on the other hand was a very good example of simplicity done well; well seasoned meat, fresh and crispy garnishes and a bun that reminds us all why homemade bread will always win out. The chips, though obviously frozen and not homemade were nicely coated and had great crunch and flavour.
A trip to such an on trend café wouldn’t be complete without a cup of intensely detailed coffee, bad coffee is disappearing slowly thanks to passionate connoisseurs bringing decent single origins to the market, however this coffee menu might just tip the balance from detailed to complicated. I was subject to an eye roll from the waiter when I ummed and ahhed over my coffee selection and a sarcastic reply when I asked some questions. If you don’t ‘know your coffee’ be prepared to look a fool when ordering.
If I were being kind, I would say that coffee-snob waiters and seven-grain-everything only serve to make the experience more Brick Lane authentic. But I’m not kind and I’ll stick by the fact that draughty buildings and too-cool-to serve staff are at the bottom of the list of traits Dubai needs to adopt from the rest of the world.
As an affordable cafe bridging the gap between the ‘cool’ cities around the world and Dubai’s usual leaning toward slick, soulless offerings, Tom & Serg really isn’t bad, but then, it really isn’t that good either.
Tom & Serg
15A Street, Al-Joud Center,
Al Qouz, Near ACE Hardware and Burjeel Hospital, Sheikh Zayed Rd,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
971 56 474 6812