Fresh From 'down Under'
When it comes to food trends and fads, the UAE's most populous cities - Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah - are quick to satisfy the demand. Al Ain, on the other hand, is a bit slow on the uptake with not as many eclectic options being available to its local foodies.

Take Jones the Grocer, for instance. There are two branches in Sharjah, fve in Dubai and fve in Abu Dhabi, yet Al Ain's frst opened a mere four months ago.

Nestled in the city's newest retail, recreational, and housing complex, Al Ain Square, the venue displays the same casual, contemporary vibe that its brand is known for. Patrons are quickly put at ease on arrival as they're enveloped in soft, warm lighting, friendly smiles from attending staff and, best yet, the delicious smell of freshly, baked goods.

The restaurant is spread over two floors, housing an enclosed walk-in cheese room, a gourmet charcuterie counter, a spot for cooking classes and its usual area of stocked grocery goods.

The menu offers enough of a variety to easily fnd something to satisfy your palate, but it is still limited in comparison to its other branches in the country. A useful feature is the icon identifers on the menu, listing whether a dish is vegan, vegetarian, dairyfree, wheat-free and so on. The kitchen is also lenient enough to accommodate special dietary requests if possible.

We kicked off our meal with a round of appetisers which included a nice selection of salads, the ingredients of which were as fresh as promised. Two stand-outs included the Roast Pumpkin and Feta Salad with Flaked Salmon and the Classic Jones Caesar Salad. The former presented an almost tangy taste thanks to the zesty, yuzu-marinated pumpkin. The latter, on the other hand, was overwhelming in taste with a number of its ingredients – poached egg, garlic croutons, smoked beef bacon, and a tad too much parmesan – almost fghting to be the dominant flavour.

One dish which made a lasting impression from the main courses is the Truffle & Mushroom Risotto which was of an extremely generous portion and surprisingly light. Creamy and done quite well, it was an all-around hit with helpings being spooned over and over. The juicy Jones Wagyu Burger also didn't disappoint in taste and is even worth returning for, although its price tag of Dh83 does give pause.

The Australian Striploin Steak also left an impression, but unfortunately, a bland one. With an option of two dry rubs available – chilli fnish and coffee – both ended up offering only subtle hints of the rub, so subtle that the palate couldn't even pick up on it. If considered a regular steak though, the striploin was of average taste.

The desserts, despite the varying selection on offer, were largely a miss with a few being undercooked and lacking the depth of flavour that one usually expects of sweets.

Presentation, however, was on-point throughout with special care seemingly given to the aesthetics of dishes, quite possibly to encourage quick photo shoots for social media. In fact, after images were taken, our food was at the desired eating temperature as if picture time was taken into consideration when preparing the dishes. The staff are attentive and friendly, but not as knowledgeable of the cooking/ prepping methods as one might hope.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the restaurant though was its prices, which raised quite a few eyebrows at our table as the food didn't exactly provide enough bang for the buck.

All in all, while highlights include great aesthetic – decor and food-wise - good service, fresh food, and an eclectic menu, there are still some major kinks that need to be worked out like focusing more on flavour and not charging Dh80++ for a simple burger. If this adjusts accordingly, this restaurant has true potential for becoming a foodie's hot spot.
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