“A pocket of London right in the heart of Dubai.” Jason Atherton
There has been an influx of British celebrity chefs dominating the Dubai dining scene over the past few years, Marina Social Dubai by Jason Atherton has been on my radar for a while and what better way to enjoy it than with visitors from home. The stylish Marina Social is located on the first floor of the very sleek Intercontinental Dubai Marina and is The Social Company’s (Atherton’s global restaurant business) first venture in this region. First impressions were good and things just got better and better as the night wore on, the restaurant was busy and buzzing with conversation which is always a good sign.
You may wonder why when friends visit from the UK we take them to a restaurant offering British-Mediterranean cuisine, but when you have a self-confessed foodie in your party, who’s tried to get into Michelin-starred Atherton’s London Pollen Street Social without success, every mouthful was worth the decision. I booked online, it was a simple process that was followed up by a confirmation call from the restaurant confirming all my details and noting the dietary request for one vegetarian diner, I liked the customer service before I even arrived. Upon arrival we were seated and given three normal menus and one dedicated vegetarian menu, I was impressed, it’s the simple attention to detail that so many establishments get so wrong, Marina Social are on the ball.
As a vegetarian it’s always a treat to get a whole menu to choose from (there’s even a separate vegetarian Friday Brunch menu) and not just a section. Even though I was spoilt for choice I was drawn to the burrata, one of the signature dishes and something that I eat regularly. Atherton’s burrata was something quite special and I’m so glad I ordered it, the menu description did not prepare me for the presentation or the deliciousness of the dish. Fully encased inside an Italian beef tomato with a base of dehydrated tomato salad drizzled with twenty-five year old balsamic served with optional tomato salt, this was hands down the creamiest tastiest cheese I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy, a must order at Marina Social.
Two of my fellow diners enjoyed the English Breakfast Tea & Toast served afternoon tea style which comprised of mushroom and parmesan milk tea served with sourdough toast, bone marrow butter and a side of old school gentleman’s relish. We also sampled the Confit turkey & foie gras terrine with cranberry compote and crystalised hazelnuts which, I’m reliably informed, had the perfect balance of flavours.
Main courses of lemon ricotta tortelloni with brown crab, BBQ veal short rib with charred sweetcorn and horseradish served with a traditional Yorkshire pudding and black Onyx beef ribeye with very moorish triple cooked chips were all devoured quickly which meant it was onto my favourite course, dessert. Although the caramelised Tarte Tatin of apples with madagascan vanilla ice cream that’s designed to share was delicious, it was immediately apparent that I had chosen wrong when the rhubarb and custard souffle arrived and hot Bird’s custard was poured into the centre. Luckily my friend shared and every bite evoked childhood memories of my mum’s rhubarb crumble, I polished off the remaining custard straight out the primary coloured jug which I’m sure we also had in our kitchen when I was growing up (not classy I know but good custard should not be wasted whatever the occasion).
The large space is divided into different areas with a show kitchen, a private dining room, an outdoor terrace with stunning Marina views and The Social Room, a separate bar perfect for pre and post dinner cocktails or a whiskey from its sizable collection. Five service trolleys serve champagne, digestives, cigars, teas and complementary social sweets where you select your favourites from glass jars that are then served to the table in an old-fashioned tin (the bakewell bites were my favourite). If you are a wine buff then Marina Social will fit the bill with over three hundred fine wines on offer from across the globe.
An abundance of glass, dark wood and huge statues give the restaurant its edgy style, you could easily be in a high-end London or New York establishment until you look outside. Unlike some celebrity chef spots Marina Social is not pretentious and does not embrace the stereotypical fine dining stuffiness, it has a relaxed vibe which Atherton describes as ‘deformalised’ fine dining where the food does all the talking.
Atherton and Marina Social executive chef Tristin Farmer contemporary menu has many choices from snacks, cold dishes, pizzas, pastas, meats, sharing dishes and even a separate kids menu. The ‘Feed Me’ section proposes a selection of chef’s favourite dishes, you can choose one of three options; Munchies (4 courses), Hungry (6 courses) or Famished (8 courses) with an additional wine pairing option.
Atherton is no stranger to the Dubai dining scene having opened Verre for Gordon Ramsay at the Hilton Dubai Creek back in 2001. With award-winning Marina Social he has managed to successfully combine contemporary interiors and reinterpreted traditional British flavours, a winning formula in my book. The decor is trendy, the atmosphere is relaxed, the panoramic views of the marina are stunning, the service was attentive and the food was delicious, overall verdict AMAZING. Really what’s not to love? Well, maybe the price but that’s expected when you are dining at a michelin-starred chef’s restaurant. I thoroughly recommend Marina Social Dubai and would be bold enough to say it’s one of the best meals I’ve eaten in the UAE for a long time, I wouldn’t hesitate to return for the burrata alone. I’m definitely ordering the rhubarb & custard souffle on my next visit and the Share & Social Friday Brunch has just rocketed to the top of my Dubai to-do list.
Marina Social Dubai
Location: Intercontinental Dubai Marina
Telephone: 04 446 6664
Opening Times: Daily from 7:00pm to midnight. (The Social Room is open Saturday to Thursday – 6:00pm to 2:00 am and Friday from noon to 2:00am).
Share & Social Friday Brunch – noon to 3:00pm.
All the views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. First photo used courtesy of marinasocialdubai.com/