Bar manager of the new Scottish bar in Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Matthew Wakeford tells us what the new venue brings to the UAE market.
A simple and cosy venue, Makar at the new Radisson Blu property is everything you would expect from a Scottish bar, from their whisky collection, to the interiors and their Scottish bar manager, Matthew Wakeford.
“Makar is an intimate bar, with whisky, cigars, snifters, good food, good drinks and the right atmosphere,” Wakeford says.
“In a traditional Scottish bar, you would expect to have a good Scottish whisky selection, some decent Scottish hops and draught and we have given the menu a Scottish twist as well but generally a Scottish bar would be very casual, it is all about the atmosphere, you will always feel welcome at a Scottish bar,” he says.
Keeping up with its Scottish roots, Makar’s beverage menu includes a wide range of whisky based cocktails.
“Our menu is quite heavily based on whisky, with a wide range of whisky based cocktails to choose from. We have added many big names from bars back home that you would not usually find here along with the usual Manhattans and old fashioned but we have also tried to introduce a few lighter cocktails with a twist. For example we do a smoky whisky bloody mary, savouring the spice of the bloody mary with a gentle taste of whisky,” Wakeford says.
“A lot of people think that whisky is a bit intimidating but it is not. There is this perception that a whisky is a man’s drink that should be consumed neat by the fire with a cigar but it is actually a very diverse flavour.
“There are a lot of light, floral and fruity whiskys apart from the dark and heavy ones. There is a taste for everyone, whisky can always be used in cocktails if having it neat is not your choice. From an old fashioned you gradually move to on the rocks and then graduate to neat but eventually at some point you can find your profile,” he explains.
The key to securing your market share in a highly competitive city like Dubai is to simply offer good hospitality, according to the bar manager.
“It is hard to say what is trending in Dubai at any point of time because the customer base is so diverse. At any time, if a customer wants to experience something, there will be a few places already offering it and a few doing it exceptionally well, so as a bar the best thing to do is avoid what is currently trending because trends wear out really quick,” Wakeford says.
“Any brand continuously following the latest trends will probably be out of the market soon too which is one of the reasons we are staying away from being gimmicky.
“Makar is the only over 21 place in the hotel where you can smoke. It’s an adults escape to relax with some good food and drinks, this never goes out of fashion. Good service and good hospitality will never fail and if you try to go somewhere that does not have good hospitality but may look trendy it would be the only visit to the venue. Good hospitality never goes out of fashion,” he adds.
Being a Scotsman himself, Wakeford has tried to bring the essence of a local bar from back home to Dubai.
“There aren’t many authentic Scottish bars in Dubai. What I have tried to do with Makar is to create such an ambiance that when I walk into it, I think I am walking into a local bar back home,” he says.
“Authenticity is the main part of a Scottish bars profile. It’s all about keeping things simple and making sure your guests walk out of the door with an experience that will make them feel comfortable and make them come back.”