Where to eat and drink at the Marina Mall hotspot, floor-by-floor
Where to eat and drink at the Marina Mall hotspot, floor-by-floor
It stood dormant for an age, casting ominous shadows over Dubai Marina. We thought the fabled eating and drinking hub, oh-so-conveniently attached by a bridge to Marina Mall, was just a myth. And then, in the second half of 2013, something started to happen. One by one, Pier 7 began sprouting venues.
Fast forward 12 months and, with the recent opening of hyped fusion concept Asia Asia, the last of Pier 7’s seven plots is officially filled. It’s no secret that in the intervening months the gleaming cylindrical structure – and its idyllic views of bobbing water and twinkly lights – has become hotter than a proverbial hot potation. Why? Pier 7’s many charms include the fact it hosts both an array of hip new venues under a single roof, and that said roof is in the heart of Dubai Marina, walking distance from tens of thousands of hungry and thirsty expats.
Whether the product of meticulous planning, nifty competitiveness or sheer blind luck, Pier 7 offers something for everyone, with most of the major global cuisines and crazes covered in just a handful of venues – count them: Arabic, Asian, British, European, Latino... the list reads like an eating out guide. Moreover the pace ranges from relaxed restaurant to lounge bar, right up to nightclub, making it possible to climb the organic beanstalk growth of a normal night out without stumping up a cab fare once.
Floor one: Fümé In a tweet: ‘Carbocide heaven – gourmet American comfort food, Southern-style smoked meats, slaws and a few Asian touches’ As the name suggests – it means ‘smoked’ in French – Fümé is a southern American-style smokehouse. As such, uniquely, the restaurant even advertises that it is closed from 4pm-6pm daily to engage in a little in-house smoking.
Unlike other venues in Pier 7, there is no outdoor terrace, but views from the dining room are virtually the same. The restaurant itself feels vast in size, styled in bare and industrial tones, with plenty of exposed fittings, concrete walls and even construction-like stickers in hazard-warning white and red stripes. It feels understated, edgy and modern, the space flanked by a few kitchen counters, where diners can chose to sit at the bar. While the restaurant has a ‘no reservation’ policy, you’ll probably find the place bustling with life in the evenings, as is the bar.
Yet it’s the menu that makes the restaurant memorable. The food at Fumé displays an utterly American sense of Southern, smoked and soul food, alongside intermittent touches of Latin or Asian fusion. Don’t expect high class or accomplished service here. But, as Fumé evidently believes, with this kind of predominantly excellent and gourmet comfort food, at decent prices, you probably won’t care that much anyway.
Second floor: O Cacti In a tweet: ‘This Mexican themed bar/restaurant may be Pier 7’s most controversial opening’ Judging by the way the rest of the scene in Dubai has been developing, when Pier 7 launched some bright spark must have thought, ‘what this place needs is a Latin restaurant.’ And along came O Cacti, a new Mexican concept, and one of the first venues to open in the waterfront building.
The walls are a dusty ochre colour, the furniture is all deep wood, and the restaurant is so darkly lit you may slightly struggle to read the menu. While the place is spacious, it feels dim, smells smoky and despite being a new venue, already looks dated, dusty and actually like a very old-fashioned approximation of a Hispanic eatery.
O Cacti, it seems, is yet to find its niche, and – dare we say it – has perhaps been outclassed by some of its neighbours thus far. However, with the growing popularity of their Saturday ‘Sunset Brunch’, and serving such universally loved cuisine (who doesn’t love Mexican on a night out?), there’s still time for O Cacti to make its mark as a lively nightlife venue, if not a food fanatic’s haven.
Click here for our full restaurant review of O Cacti.
Third floor: Cargo In a tweet: ‘Hoxton chic has made this the most talked-about nightspot in Pier 7 so far’ Though it certainly isn’t the ‘never before seen lounge and dining concept’ once promised by the website, Cargo is a stylish, relaxed and exceptionally welcoming nightspot with a superb view – and better yet, it’s no more expensive than some of the less impressive venues in this neck of the Marina. It’s exactly the sort of place the city has been crying out for after a host of uber high-end openings at both ends of town. As a result, it’s hard to shake off the faint feeling of wonder as you pull up a chair at the very edge of the terrace.
Though it may be the outdoor seats that prove the biggest lure in cooler months, it’s the beautifully designed interior featuring marble-topped tables, wooden floorboards and an arty, warehouse vibe that we love most. If you haven’t guessed by now, Cargo has well and truly won us over.
Fourth Floor: The Scene In a tweet: ‘British gastro pub recipes, with an unexpected twist, devised by telly chef Simon Rimmer’ The only Pier 7 restaurant to come with an in-house celebrity chef, oh-so-catchily named The Scene (and it’s rampantly recurring hastag #BeSceneNotHeard – see, we repeated it right there), looks set to bring a touch of class to this Marina complex. We said celebrity? Sorry, it’s the brainchild of chef Simon Rimmer – you know, one half of the Something for the Weekend team off UK telly – who promises a menu of ‘heart-warming British classics’. But it’s waaaay more than stuffy Brit dining – the venue also packs a large lounge area, open plan dining for up to 300 guests and a purpose built Funktion-One sound system. The venue was still waiting to launch the full drinks menu at the time of writing – so expect us to report back with more soon.
Fifth floor: Abd El Wahab In a tweet: ‘Dubai’s third incarnation of this brand is a sure-fit hit for visitors to the region’ Uninspiringly, the first venue to open in Pier 7 was a chain. Sharing its name with the Arabic eatery set astride the equally pristine waterside of Souk Al Bahar, Adb El Wahab serves authentic Lebanese fare – so expect the usual, with copious grills, hot and cold appetisers including houmous, mutabbal, kibbeh and the like. It stands out like a sore thumb against Pier 7’s more-nightlifey venues, but marks a clear hit with tourists and casual mall visitors. And did we mention the view? Oh yes, we did.
Fifth floor, Pier 7, next to Marina Mall (04 432 5772).
Sixth floor: Asia Asia In a tweet: ‘Asia, yes, but by way of the spice route – the obligatory Oriental restaurant-lounge looks to be as cool as they come’ Every sensible restaurant cluster needs a forward-thinking, chic Asian lounge-restaurant, right? It’s something Dubai does sooooo well, and Pier 7 would be missing a trick without one. Asia, yes, but by way of the spice route, so expect big fusion ideas such as North African teriyaki and Malaysian tagine – this, we’re told, is where Far East-meets-Middle East. ‘Inspired by’ Dean and Geremy Lucas’ renowned Spice Market in Melbourne, Asia Asia is the final venue to open in the complex, following a recent sneaky soft launch. We’ll be waiting to see how this one comes together, but all the signs point to this being an effortlessly cool eating-drinking-lounging hybrid.
Seventh floor: Atelier M In a tweet: ‘A vast three-tiered space of Gatsby-esque glamour and an elegant modern French fusion’ The biggest of the lot, mixing a restaurant, lounge and club all rolled into one. Set across multiple levels, with one vast floor dedicated to a posh French-Asian fusion restaurant, saunter up a spiral staircase and you’ll find an enormous bar, with amber hues and plush furnishings. The look is completed by a glitzy Great Gatsby-looking centre feature, where glass explodes dramatically from the centre of the bar.
There’s a small lift to the rear of the bar, which takes guests up yet another level to the roof terrace. As vast as downstairs, this place looks like it could potentially become a hot party spot in its own right, and with regular live DJs, bands, and club nights, this is the definite party spot of the complex.