As my Uber driver signals that we have reached our location, I am a little confused: We are on a dusty street surrounded by numerous auto shops and grey metal warehouses.
Then I look to my right, and there it is. “The Courtyard,” It sticks out like an oasis in the desert (quite literally), with tall green plants obscuring the entrance of this hidden gem. My destination — Cassette — sits right at the beginning of this walkway, which features a theater, and other cafés and specialty shops.
The recently opened French bistro really is a delightful space, with high ceilings, chic furniture and a welcoming layout. The staff — quick and warm with their greetings — are equally welcoming as they usher visitors to their tables. Underneath the stairs leading to the administrators’ office is a cozy corner, with vinyl records, books and artworks, all of which are for sale. The overall vibe is very work-friendly — power-plugs and USB ports line the couches and the not-too-loud music and comfortable seating are inviting.
Cassette was designed by H2RDesign, the award-winning interior design firm behind a few other distinctive food and beverage establishments around the city, including Parker’s in Dubai Mall, Tom & Serg in Al Quoz, and Clinton Street Baking Co. in City Walk.
“Cassette is actually a French word, and the reason why I chose Cassette is because, one: it describes the French cuisine, and two: infuse that with music and art, which makes it a modern Parisian,” Haider Madini, the café’s owner, tells me as we sit on a long couch that runs behind several two-seater tables.
Before ordering, I was recommended an orange-infused cold-brew coffee, which hit all the right notes. The freshness of the orange complemented the bitterness of the coffee and emitted an intoxicating blend of aromas as I sipped this refreshing brew.
The menu, Madani says, “caters to all consumers.” And his claim appears to be true. From the meat-heavy options to vegan selections, Cassette really does seem to offer something for everyone, no matter what you’re dietary requirements may be.
There are actually two menus on the go at Cassette: One is fixed, while the other is available only on weekdays and changes at the beginning of every week.
The Atlantic salmon was the first dish to catch my eye. A gluten-free option, the crispy, well-seasoned, orange-tinged charred fillet sat on a purple potato puree and accompanied by a green pea puree. At first glance, it’s a surprise this dish — intricately laid out with small dollops of diced tomatoes encircling the fish on a round, blue ceramic plate — even exists in a café as laidback as this. Madani explains that his chef, sous chef and pastry chef all have fine-dining backgrounds — something which is clear from the selection of food on offer and the stylish plating.
For dessert, I had been told in no uncertain terms by friends who had already visited that I had to — no matter what — try the pain perdu: French toast topped with pan-roasted strawberries, vanilla ice-cream, and maple syrup. This magnificent dish certainly ticked all the boxes when it came to flavor, although the ice-cream and strawberries do make the already moist bread even soggier, so the toasted top quickly loses its crunch. Not a huge problem, considering you’ll probably have demolished the lot in a few minutes. As a rule, I prefer savory food over sweet, but I can honestly say that I wiped the plate clean — something I rarely, if ever, do when it comes to dessert.
Cassette is the perfect place to kick back and relax while working on your laptop; to grab a coffee with a few friends somewhere different to Dubai’s usual hangouts; or even to indulge in some fine-dining that won’t break the bank. You will, I’m sure, rewind and replay Cassette over and over.