Pierchic has long been known as one of Dubai’s most exclusive restaurants. However, recently appointed head chef Paul Lupton wants to shift the focus from the stunning sea views to the creativity and dynamism of the restaurant’s culinary offer. Crystal Chesters reports.
Given its location at the end of the pier at Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, and surrounded by 360-degree sea views, including the best vantage point in town for the Burj Al Arab, Pierchic has always been a restaurant for special occasions, and this is something that head chef Paul Lupton does not refute. “We’re a destination restaurant,” says Lupton, who joined the team in June. “You pay for the location; it’s a unique venue throughout the whole world so we make the most of that.”
That said, Lupton would like people to come to Pierchic not just for the views, but for the food. With nine years’ experience in the region, having worked previously with St. Regis Abu Dhabi and prior to that with Gary Rhodes for a decade, Lupton is convinced he knows what the market wants and emphasises the creativity and quality of Pierchic’s culinary offer.
“I did my training in London, but I’m a homegrown Dubai chef. I’ve been here 10 years almost and I know everyone on the market”
“We’re not a restaurant where the chef faxes a menu across every two years. We are the creative force behind this restaurant,” Lupton tells Catering News during an interview at the restaurant. “I did my training in London, but I’m a homegrown Dubai chef. I’ve been here 10 years almost and I know everyone on the market; I know the suppliers really well.
“One of the great things I bring to this restaurant is my innate knowledge of the market and the creativity I’ve developed through years of working at some of Dubai’s best restaurants and five years in the best restaurants in England. We’re doing something special here and I want people to come and experience it – and not just for their birthday or for a proposal.”
Prior to Lupton’s arrival, Pierchic’s menu hadn’t been updated in a while – not since 2014 when three Michelin-starred chef Laurent Gras was brought over from Chicago to work with ex-head chef Rosalind Parsk on the development of a menu to fit with Pierchic’s extensive refurbishment, which unveiled a contemporary new look and feel.
However, according to Lupton, the previous menu wasn’t quite right for the market and nor was it practical for catering to the volumes of diners Pierchic draws in each evening. “People vote with their feet and the Dubai market just want something piping hot and something they can enjoy that’s tasty; generally speaking, they’re not three-Michelin-star diners,” says Lupton. “If you’ve got a small 40-cover restaurant it’s fine, but if you’re doing 250 covers a night it’s not.”
“Once I got that foundation in the kitchen and the guys respected me, they were willing to follow me on the journey of what we’re doing here. It’s been about getting the chefs to trust me and understand that I’m here for their benefit to create something amazing”
Lupton spent the first few months of his new role cleaning up the kitchen, streamlining processes and training his staff in preparation for peak season. “Once I got that foundation in the kitchen and the guys respected me, they were willing to follow me on the journey of what we’re doing here. It’s been about getting the chefs to trust me and understand that I’m here for their benefit to create something amazing.”
He then set to work overhauling the menu and reinforcing the focus on seafood with a number of new dishes inspired by the ocean. Some of his signatures are Risotto Nero with cuttlefish ink, baby squid and gremolata and the Pearl by Pierchic dessert, the concept of which is a white pearl inside a cage, surrounded by driftwood.
Explaining the move to make Pierchic more seafood-focused, Lupton comments: “Some restaurants can be a Jack-of-all-trades. Here we’re a resort where if you want meat, you go to The Hide; if you want seafood, you come here. We can be flexible to guest requests but we focus on seafood and try to be excellent at that. Hopefully we succeed!”
While he is required to do tastings with Jumeirah Group’s head office to sign off on any menu changes, in general Lupton is delighted with the freedom and flexibility he enjoys at Pierchic.
“I can change things straight away whereas in previous properties it could take six months to change a menu,” he says, explaining that he updates the menu every two weeks. “It’s great to be in a restaurant where we have that sort of flexibility and dynamism, where we can act on seasonality and guest feedback. I’m changing the menu regularly so that the chefs are learning new items and are passionate about every dish. We never rest on our laurels and leave a dish on the menu just because it’s nice.”
Another luxury of Lupton’s new role is the strong reputation of Pierchic on the Dubai market. Having worked in venues where driving footfall was a challenge, the chef is enjoying focusing purely on the food. “I’ve worked in restaurants where it’s been a struggle; you’ve had to create business, drag people in. But here, they just come to us and it’s great to be in a restaurant where you can make money, you can use nice products, we’re not struggling to make food costs.”
That said, Lupton recognises an important balancing act: since the restaurant’s refurbishment two years ago, the team has been trying to make the atmosphere more accessible. “I think it’s definitely become more casual. The market has changed; fine dining is still alive but people like to be relaxed when they come for dinner. We don’t want to be a stuck-up place; we don’t want to be stuffy,” he says.
“I’m changing the menu regularly so that the chefs are learning new items and are passionate about every dish. We never rest on our laurels and leave a dish on the menu just because it’s nice”
Rather than lowering the prices, Lupton says the strategy is to manage yields with promotions and offers. For example, during summer, Pierchic hosted Shellabration, a six-week-long programme showcasing seafood dishes from around Europe’s seafood festivals, and this will run again in 2017. The team has also introduced a destination lunch from 12.30pm – 3pm Saturday to Thursday, priced at AED 199 for three courses. Meanwhile, to drive in more footfall in the early evening, a three-course sunset dinner is available Saturday to Thursday from 6pm – 7pm for AED 350, including a glass of champagne.
However, Lupton admits that ultimately, there is no real motivation for Pierchic to lower its prices when demand is so high, and he believes this is justified by the quality of the ingredients used. “We buy the best of the best; we import it and sell it at the premium rate it deserves. We buy the best Chilean seabass you can get, the best Canadian lobsters and vegetables imported from markets in France. It’s a great position to be in as a chef,” he says.
“It’s difficult because Dubai is a price-sensitive market and we don’t want to be known as an expensive restaurant, but we have the opportunity and the custom here already. People come back to us again and again.”