Restaurants from London and New York often open in Dubai to much fanfare but it's rare they live up to the hype.
You can visit a fancy restaurant and it’s dead. No atmosphere, no life. I have experienced that in Gaucho, Okku, JW Steakhouse and Frankies to name a few. It makes you wonder, why is no one else dining here?
Marina Social at the new Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai Marina is a new concept by Jason Atherton. The former Gordon Ramsey protégé has nine restaurants in London, two in Hong Kong and others in New York and Singapore. Lovin Dubai like people with ambition, and Jason has heaps of it. He wants Marina Social to become ‘one of the best restaurants in Dubai’, by combining ‘a vibrant lifestyle scene as well as fantastic food’. If our evening, in week one of opening, is anything to go by, he is already well on his way to achieving that.
The place looks great, and has seamlessly integrated itself with the hotels slick contemporary interior.
We were greeted and led to the Social Room for a drink before the meal. It's a cool bar with a good vibe where you could happily spend an evening. Service was average here, our drinks arrived at different times with no explanation. Why would a red wine take five minutes longer to serve than a white?
We were then transferred to the main eating area. Our table didn't have a Marina View but it did look in on the open plan kitchen where we counted 13 chefs, including Jason himself who plated the food and watched each dish with pride as it left the pass. The lighting was dark, and relatively loud electronic music played all evening giving the place a good vibe.
From the menu we went for the 'feed me' option, choosing six courses rather than the four or eight course options.
- The first course was goats cheese croquettes with honey infused truffle. Normally this would be oil infused, but the honey added sweetness to start the meal. The perfect tasty start for the meal ahead.
- The second course was oysters with fennel infused apple sauce. This was a delicious way to eat oysters, the apple sauce was amazing and the fennel flavour came through nicely.
- Two modern dishes arrived for the third course. First, a large beef tomato with stuffed pesto burrata, it was drenched in aged balsamic vinegar, no 'gaps' in the tomato left us wondering how it was stuffed. Second was a steak tartare, prepared in front of us by the waitress, mixing egg yoke jam with brown salt and pepper.
- Fourth course and another two plates arrived. Lobster claw, and a gnocchi dish. The gnocchi was superb, cooked to perfection and very flavoursome.
- More food for round five. For a taster menu the portions are pretty big so we were quite full at this stage. The sea bream was cooked very nicely, while the pigeon tasted a bit like liver but I felt the sauce on it was a bit over powering.
- The sixth course was a combination of honeycomb with carrot and Swiss cheese, an unusual mix that worked really well.This was followed by 'Mr. Whippy' as they call it at Marina Social, vanilla ice cream with popcorn in a cone. Yum. Next up, a lemon sponge scone meringue with a coconut sorbet. Another exciting dish, it was light and tasty, and we soon discovered the rich taste of mango sorbet hidden inside. I should mention at this point that recently I have been following a strict paleo diet (which means sugar is a big no no), these desserts put an end to that and I can happily say they were well worth it.Followed by course number one million: a greek yoghurt with mango sorbet and a passion fruit sauce. Finally, for the road, we were treated to a take away box of sweets.
We were served attentively all evening by Tiffany and Mabli. Although the volume and flavour of courses may have been too much for one sitting, I could have happily stayed there all evening, such was the wonderful buzz in the restaurant. Marina Social isn’t cheap. Our bill for two six course meals with four glasses of wine came to 1,430 AED. Don't let that put you off however as the a la carte has more affordable options. In comparison with the Burj Al Arab, the Marina Social is a restaurant far superior in terms of food and ambiance. They are worlds apart and that’s the best accolade I can give. Marina social is contemporary in every way, and feels so ‘right now’ for Dubai.