Dubai venues to look forward to in the next three months
It’s hard to believe that 2011, the year of worldwide austerity, was the year that Dubai’s restaurant scene exploded. London faves The Ivy and Hakkasan landed in Emirates Towers, Argentinian steakhouse Gaucho opened a sleek new venue in DIFC, Mexican maestro Richard Sandavol bequeathed us with yet another Latin American gem in the form of Toro Toro, and we said goodbye to Gordon Ramsay’s Verre and hello to Table 9. It will be a hard act to follow, but already things are shaping up nicely for 2012, and gourmands can expect a flurry of high-profile openings this year. Here we take a peek behind the scenes of five of the biggest venues launching in the first quarter.
Wheeler’s What’s the story? Getting information about Marco Pierre White’s DIFC restaurant is tantamount to getting blood from a stone – no one’s admitting they have anything to do with the project and we’ve been left staring at the billboard in hungry anticipation for months. However, we can tell you the basics. There are currently five Wheeler’s venues in London operating in Marco’s name, and it seems that the Dubai incarnation of the brand will be the first outside the UK. How involved the Michelin-star chef-turned-restaurateur will be with this branch remains to be seen – we couldn’t help eyeing the disclaimer on his website that he has no day-to-day involvement with Frankie’s at JBR, which he launched alongside jockey Frankie Dettori in 2007. No surprises there, then.
What’s on the menu? Matt Brown, head chef of Wheeler’s of St James’s – Pierre White’s flagship restaurant in London – has recently revamped the menu to include traditional dishes such gravadlax, fish pie and oysters, as well as a few meat options. A couple of dishes that caught our attention on the London menu were the grilled yellow-fin tuna à la Sicilienne with lemon and coriander, and grilled lobster with herbs and triple-cooked chips. Fresh fish and seafood is the name of the game when it comes to Wheeler’s, but we’ll have to wait to see whether the menu here will be ‘Dubai-ified’. Hammour, anyone? We hope not.
When can we tuck in? Marco’s face has been grinning back at us from the boarded-up windows of the DIFC venue for what feels like a lifetime, so surely the opening can’t be too far off. We’re going to guess mid-March 2012.
Why we’re excited… Frankie’s is fun, yes, but we’ve waited so long for Marco to open a ‘real’ restaurant in Dubai (and now he’s opening two – see Titanic later in the gallery), a wait made all the more galling by the fact he’s long been operating in Abu Dhabi.
Alfie’s What’s the story? Alfie’s (as in Alfred’s, as in Alfred Dunhill’s restaurant) will follow the blazing trail left by The Ivy and Hakkasan and open in Jumeirah Emirates Towers. With existing branches in Shanghai and Hong Kong, Alfie’s is described by (the wonderfully named) restaurant manager Gillian Feast as ‘a chic restaurant with a club-like atmosphere – a perfect setting for an executive lunch, afternoon tea and intimate evening meals. As night falls, it subtly transforms into the perfect destination for after-work drinks.’
What’s on the menu? In keeping with fashion brand Dunhill’s quintessentially British style, cuisine will be ‘classic British’, with dishes such as duck rilette, apricot chutney and toast for starters, and mains including roast sea bass with lobster mash gracing the menu. ‘My creative approach to cooking will be apparent in the unique combination of flavours and key ingredients, transforming the most basic of dishes into a gourmet meal,’ promises chef de cuisine Christopher Driver, formerly of the Carnegie Club in Scotland and the exclusive Hurlingham Club in London’s Fulham.
When can we tuck in? Though we had been promised a February opening, Alfie’s is likely to open by ‘spring 2012’. Tenuous, yes, but that’s the best they’ve given us.
Why we’re excited… Alfie’s received solid reviews from Time Out in Hong Kong and Shanghai, so we’re hoping for more of the same here.
Roberto’s What’s the story? Italian chef Roberto Rella is a true stalwart of the Dubai dining scene. Having been operations manager of beloved Italian venue BiCE for almost 10 years and part of the BiCE group the past 15, he’s now taking on the city’s dining scene himself. As well as taking its founder’s good name, Roberto’s will doubtless benefit from its location in DIFC – the undisputed focal point of Dubai’s flourishing dining scene. Can it go toe-to-toe with the likes of Gaucho, La Petite Maison, Zuma and Wheeler’s (see left)? Keep an eye on this space.
What’s on the menu? Though Roberto is lending his name to the sign above the door, he won’t be in the kitchen. That honour will be left to executive chef Andrea Mugavero. With more than 25 years of experience in the likes of Marbella and Istanbul, Mugavero promises to bring something a little different to Dubai by introducing the region’s first ‘crudo’ (raw fish) bar, offering fresh Mediterranean seafood. Signature dishes will include grilled green asparagus with seared sea scallops and black truffle, lobster carpaccio with fresh artichoke in tempura and caviar dressing, and black-ink spaghetti with baby squid, red shrimps, fennel emulsion and orange-scented oil. ‘Also featured on Roberto’s menu are “free from” options, such as gluten-free pasta, in an effort to please the special needs of our guests,’ says Mugavero. ‘We’re even planning to introduce unique gelati flavours such as chocolate and Earl Grey, white truffle and Langhe hazelnut.’
When can we tuck in? The venue is scheduled to open on Tuesday February 14, aka Valentine’s Day (assuming the alcohol licence is processed on time).
Why we’re excited… We’ve made much of chefs Nick Alvis and Scott Price making a name for themselves by transforming Verre into independent venue Table 9, so it will be satisfying to see an independent restaurant in the heart of DIFC, alongside La Petite Maison et al.
Titantic & Signature What’s the story? Very little has been seen, heard or said about the new Melia Hotel in Bur Dubai, though there’s plenty of buzz thanks to restaurants by two especially talented gentlemen: Titanic by Marco Pierre White and Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor. We managed to get our hands on the graphic renditions of each restaurant, but we’re more excited by the fact that 2012 will be the year that the world’s best restaurateur (and former Michelin-star chef) Marco Pierre White takes on Dubai (he’s also opening Wheeler’s, see left), not to mention the return of Sanjeev Kapoor, South Asia’s answer to Alan Yau (of Hakkasan fame).
What’s on the menu? Unsurprisingly, representatives at Melia are keeping tight-lipped about what to expect from either restaurant, simply stating that each will serve ‘contemporary European’ and ‘revisited Indian’ cuisine respectively (as if we couldn’t have told you that ourselves). However, what we do know is that, executive chef Frederic Kulczak will be overseeing proceedings in both kitchens, which bodes well – the Frenchman was chef de cuisine at Le Chateau de Lignan in Béziers, France, when it won its Michelin star.
When can we tuck in? We’ve been told the hotel’s restaurants will open at the end of the first quarter of this year, but we’ll make a conservative guess of early April, just to be on the safe side.
Why we’re excited… DIFC has been hogging the headlines as far as restaurant openings are concerned, which is why we’re pleased that these two big hitters are putting the emphasis back on Dubai’s old town.