From bangers and mash to fish and chips, Catering News Middle East speaks to the leading British cuisine restaurants in Dubai on what’s hot on the English plate.
How popular is British cuisine in Dubai?
Daniel Hillier – Executive chef, Dhow & Anchor: British cuisine is extremely popular in the Middle East due to the large expat community, as well as British tourists travelling to the UAE. Not only does the United Kingdom boast a host of high profile chefs that are recognised globally in the culinary world, but London is also known for being one of the most influential cities in the world when it comes to food.
Martin Cahill – Executive chef, Dukes Dubai: Here in the UAE, customers really do love variety when it comes to dining options. One day they will eat Indian, the next Chinese, the following Italian and so on. They are very much spoilt for choice. However, with the number of British expats living and working in the region traditional dishes from the UK will always stand the test of time. We also find that a large number of tourists love to sample and indulge in classic British dishes.
Tom Hammond – Head chef, Reform Social & Grill: With the high number of British expats living in Dubai, British cuisine underpins the food scene. It is the food that makes people from the UK feel at home and give them a slice of nostalgia, especially the famous British roast or full English breakfast.
Have you adapted British cuisine to suit local tastes? If so – how?
Daniel Hillier: At Dhow and Anchor (D&A) we try to stay as close to British cuisine as possible, customers visit our restaurant because they know they’re getting simple British dishes that they know, love and enjoy.
Martin Cahill: At Dukes Dubai we have always wanted to stay true to our British roots and this has become an important selling point for us. Combining authentic dishes with modern presentation and training the team to keep the consistency will always be one of my focuses.
Tom Hammond: I don’t think you need to, British food is quite homely and the flavours are not too wacky or out there for people to understand, sometimes this makes it harder though, the simpler the dish the easier it is to get it wrong so it’s all about preparation and making sure each element is cooked well.
What are the key trends emerging in British Cuisine?
Daniel Hillier: The fine dining scene is slowing down and consumers are looking for a more casual and relaxed dining experience, not just in this region, but globally. We’re seeing more and more restaurants growing their own produce which I think will continue to be a key focus, as well as the health movement which is huge.
Martin Cahill: Casual dining concepts are hugely popular in Dubai, and I believe they will continue to be so. Dubai is currently attracting renowned chefs from all over the world as well as encouraging young talent to create and introduce new food trends in the region. The emergence of more British chefs in the UAE is leading to an increase in awareness of delicacies from the UK.
Tom Hammond: I think vegetarian and vegan is becoming a trend, especially in London this is a real hot area of growth, when we have looked at our new menu launch coming soon we have added extra dishes as people are demanding for it.
Where do you source produce for your menu and what are the challenges?
Daniel Hillier: It is important to us that we embrace local suppliers and produce where we can. However, being a British restaurant means we do have to import some of our produce from the UK to offer our guests a truly authentic experience. Fruit and vegetables are quite challenging, especially as we strive for the highest quality in both flavour and freshness of the produce. Just recently, we have actually partnered with a farm in Oman to help provide the chefs with the best possible local ingredients.
Martin Cahill: We use a mixture of both local and imported food. When our menu specifically mentions Dover sole, Atlantic cod or Irish beef for example, then clearly we have to import. However, we do cultivate our own herbs, source our vegetables locally and squeeze our own juices in-house. Taking these steps goes a long way to helping both the environment and the local economy. Imported items with a short shelf life are the most challenging to source. Distributors require a three-day lead time which means we always need to plan well in advance when placing these orders. Incidentally, I would love to see the import restrictions on British beef lifted.
Tom Hammond: We use our trusted relationships to work with a few key suppliers to make sure they understand what we need and the quality we expect. It is easier to do this so we can be picky about provenance of our menu. I don’t think it is so much produce that is the challenge, but great produce at a sensible price so we don’t have to charge the world for a great dish using the very best produce that back in the UK we could buy off the local farm for a fraction of the price.
What is the future for British Cuisine in the region?
Daniel Hillier: I believe places like D&A will have to continuously look at new and interesting ways to keep customers coming back, as the competition is fierce and is continues to grow. It is up to us as a restaurant to keep evolving with the demands and needs of our customers and continue to offer guests an honest and memorable experience.
Martin Cahill: With a constant influx of expats and tourists from the UK and an increasing number of young British chefs moving out here for work I am confident that the future will be bright for British cuisine. However, irrespective of what cuisine is on the menu, customers will always vote with their feet, returning to the most consistent, lively establishments time and time again. It is down to us to ensure that our customers receive a warm welcome, high quality food, a convivial atmosphere and unbeatable value.
Tom Hammond: When you talk about nostalgia and memories people often come back to it as a safety net, especially in times when economy is hard and money is tight. For me it is about keeping the principles of good honest British food that people recognise and resonate with us. Guests will always know that there will be choice in Dubai with the number of restaurants opening, but home is where the heart is and that is what we see Reform Social & Grill as, your local, the place you know and always go back to.
What is your hero dish?
Daniel Hillier: It has to be the Corn-fed chicken and mushroom pie with charred leeks and raisins. This dish embraces the D&A philosophy, taking British cuisine and putting our own unique twist on them.
Martin Cahill: British dishes tend to differ by season, as does the availability of produce – so what may be a firm favourite in winter, may not be so popular in summer. Food types and trends are continuously evolving so this also makes it difficult to label one dish. We always take on board feedback from our guests and work to make every dish a hero.
Tom Hammond: Our mixed roast is epic, we have a choice of meats and serve it with duck fat roast potatoes, all the trimmings such as carrot and swede mash, red cabbage and green beans, two Yorkshire Puddings and lots of gravy.