Meet the maitre'd about to make meals a little bit merrier
Restaurant manager Etienne Haro is right-hand man to gastro-hero Pierre Gagnaire at the Frenchman’s latest opening in Dubai, Reflets par Pierre. Becky Lucas quizzed him to find out why people across the world are already desperate for a table.
The grand opening is nigh – what have you got left to do? We’re completing final touches and waiting for deliveries to arrive. Then we’ll start taking bookings for May 15 onwards. The chefs arrive at the end of April. They include Olivier Biles and Sébastien Vauxion, who have both worked at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, as well as some of the world’s top places.
How long have the preparations been going on for? A little more than two years.
How does Pierre compare to chefs such as Rhodes and Ramsay? Rhodes is great at reinterpreting classical British cooking. And Ramsay brings a subtle British influence to great French food. It’s hard to categorise Gagnaire’s food. It most definitely is French – he uses the best French ingredients and masters classical French cooking. He’s all about substance, not just style. He’ll take an egg and make you dream about it for months.
Where would you say is your main rival? Tough question. I guess Verre, because of the consistency that Gordon Ramsay has brought to the market. The sign of a great restaurant is definitely consistency. Gary Rhodes’ place is too young on the market for us to judge. But overall the competitive thing is not relevant to us. We’re bringing something very different to Dubai – there is no category to describe Pierre’s food. You can’t call it modern French as that wouldn’t make sense, you can’t call it molecular gastronomy as that would be utterly wrong. You couldn’t call it fusion food because then he would get very upset. You can only call it ‘Pierre Gagnaire’s style’.
Does he have a signature dish? A dish has a life and therefore an end. When a dish appears on the menu, it evolves, it lives and by the end of that season it may be quite different. Once a dish has reached the highest of its potential it will be removed forever. The chef would say that his one signature dish is ‘attention to details’, actually.
Has the menu been finalised? Can you give us a preview? There will be a bit more tweaking, but it is finished now. I have a favourite dish, simply because it makes me very hungry when I read it! It is the best part of a beautiful beef sirloin served on a bed of melted sorrel, on the side we will present a slowly braised piece of Wagyu worked like a condiment with mustard, vinegar and pickles, a croquette of goose liver and banyuls and our ‘Club Dubai’. It’s a play on different textures, temperatures and flavours in the same dish.
Will there be any dishes named after Dubai? The Club Dubai will be something that we do as a garnish – but I can’t reveal how it will be different – it would spoil it!
Why did Pierre choose to set up in Dubai? Obviously, there’s a lot of demand for good restaurants here. He liked the dynamic in Dubai. It’s a great moment to introduce his food in a market where his level of restaurant hardly exists. He receives a lot of requests in different countries and refuses most of them. He doesn’t want to build an empire; he wants to have control and to be present in his kitchens as much as possible. He is always cooking, tweaking, giving feedback. He really is an artist, like a craft man. He doesn’t conceive opening something which is not at the top.
How often will he be over here? Every two to three months and whenever needed. The menu will change every season so he’ll need to re-implement it.
How about the design? Our interior designer, Christian Ghion, had something unique in mind. He wanted to create a space in perfect symbiosis with Pierre’s food. He expressed this idea of sublimation of the simplest materials with mother of pearl and Bisazza mosaics for example, two luxurious features that find their origins in the most modest things: oyster shells for one and sand for the other. The idea of reflection will be very present. There’s a lot of work on lighting as well.
As restaurant manager, can we expect anything radical from the service? My team is aware that we are running a show where the guest is always the main focus. People say that all the time – but who actually delivers it? Hardly anyone to be honest. People’s expectations will be high – due to the chef and the prices – and we want to exceed them.
Will it be the most expensive restaurant in Dubai? The price will be worth what we are doing. But we’re not planning to be the most expensive place in town, no.
Finally, what’s the first dish you’ll serve? [Laughs] The one you choose! Seriously, the chef will decide at the last minute. He works guided by intuition.
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire is taking bookings for early May onwards from April 1. Call 04 701 1128. The restaurant will be open for dinner only.