Out with Gordon, in with Table 9; Meet Scott and Nick
Dubai; When this media invite landed in FooDiva’s inbox, my heart started racing. What were Scott Price and Nick Alvis up to? What about Gordon Ramsay? And why Mojo Gallery as the venue? A few days later, and two days before this press event, Gordon Ramsay announced he was pulling out of his Dubai restaurant.
In fact, his ten year contract with Hilton Dubai Creek for all the hotel’s F&B not just the flagship Verre, came to an end and he wasn’t renewing. So enter Scott and Nick’s new home-grown concept, Table 9 replacing Verre. With the restaurant opening tomorrow Wednesday November 9th, FooDiva caught up with Scott and Nick to find out what’s on the table:
1. Explain your new Table 9 concept.
Scott: A new experience. Very service-oriented. From what we’ve moved away from, it’s a nice relaxed atmosphere, a lot more fun. We’ve changed the décor – light, vibrant. We’ve got some quite funky music. We want to attract more people. And just make what we have been doing a lot more accessible. Instead of coming in for a three-course meal, you can come in for a couple of little tasting dishes and a glass of wine, or if you want to come and have a seven-course meal with matching wines then you can do that too. An enjoyable experience. We want people to come in and enjoy what we do, enjoy the service we provide and want to come back.
We have 20 tables in the restaurant, but Table 9 is the Chefs Table for ten people, with a direct view of the kitchen through a glass wall and via a video link.
2. Why two head chefs? How do you work together and who does what? Who’s the boss?
Scott: We’ve worked together for a long time. We met in 2004 at Claridges and worked together for three and a half years. There are people you can work with in a kitchen and people you can’t, and we’ve always found it easy to work together. And we’ve always wanted to go in the same direction. On our day off, we’d sit with a pint and talk about opening a place together. It’s weird it’s gone that way. Nick went to Europe and back. And I came to Dubai.
As far as who’s the boss, I am Executive Chef of the whole hotel, so I have other things to do as well. When it comes to the restaurant we decide everything together along with the restaurant manager. Nick is focused on Table 9. At night time both of us are in the kitchen.
3. Talk us through the menu.
Nick: The way the menu is laid out, light, salady dishes are priced at AED 80; we recommend you start with two to give you a different experience, and we then have dishes at AED 120 which are more your lamb, venison, halibut – and we suggest one of these. That’s how we look at a balanced meal.
Scott: People can come in and have a lot, or a light dish. If people want a more gastronomic experience we’ve got two set menus; one is the no fish and no meat, and the other menu shows off what we do best. We have a large selection of wines by the glass, and an amazing sommelier.
4. You are a strong supporter of fish sustainability. What produce are you sourcing locally?
Scott: The fish at Table 9 is sustainable but not local. I use the local stuff in Glasshouse. It’s a difficult one because we are a European restaurant so we are expected to provide European produce. As soon as we got here, we looked for two to three suppliers who we can trust to provide good quality, reliably and we are staying with them at the moment. People expect a standard.
Nick: Our root vegetables mainly are sourced from the Middle East. We would love to use more local produce, but we base our menus on the European seasons.
5. You’ve said you want to cater to non-meat eaters. Have you identified a gap in the market here, and what percentage of your dishes are purely veg?
Scott: If people have to ask for vegetarian you feel embarrassed, so we put it on the menu and we’re not hiding it. It’s a challenge to do really good vegetarian dishes and we’ve been working on it for months trying to get some nice things. The quality and standard needs to be as good as anything on the menu. There’s a big gap in price between the two tasting menus, but we still use top quality produce for the vegetarian dishes.
We are not trying to be niche. Any good restaurant in any country should always offer a good solid vegetarian menu or dishes. Approximately 30% of the dishes are vegetarian. It’s healthy. We also have gluten-free and coeliac dishes. If we are not ready for people with dietary requirements it’s harder on us, so we’re making it easier for everyone by having it on the menu.
6. How do you feel about your location on the ‘wrong’ side of the Creek? Would it not have been better to relocate the restaurant to Hilton Dubai Jumeirah?
Scott: I like it here. For us we’re next to the Creek. It’s where everything began, it’s the old part. We’ve inherited a restaurant with a big legacy, we want to carry it on. We’ve been busy since we got here. It’s worth the drive. We are very confident in what we are doing and the experience we are going to provide.
7. Or does the hotel need this new concept to drive its F&B revenue?
Scott: Well that’s the hotel. We saw this opportunity when Gordon left. And you know, it’s something unique to Dubai; a restaurant with the chefs names on the door with us cooking in the kitchen. There’s not a lot like that over here.
8. Describe the new interior.
Scott: As you can see, it’s not quite done. Verre has always been described as having hard lines and quite clinical. We’ve been given free reign as we see fit, but not with a massive budget. It’s a lot more relaxed now; uniforms and service are a lot more informal. We don’t want people to feel they have to eat quietly and whisper when they walk in. We want people to have a good laugh and enjoy themselves.
It’s a lot softer, some nice runners to soften it up. We are working with Mojo Gallery who will change the art every three months and that brightens the place up again. We want to show off what Dubai has; it’s not just about local produce but local art and talent as well. We are working with Homa Farley, the pottery artist and she is creating these special hand-made ceramic pieces for us. We don’t want to import everything.
9. Do you think Dubai is ready for Michelin ratings?
Scott: No. I think that one thing in a restaurant is originality. That’s my opinion. You go somewhere like London and there are chefs popping up everywhere whether it’s in a little church or down a backstreet doing their own thing. That on its own is something Dubai does not have. A lot of the things that come here are imported. That’s part of the reason we wanted to stay and carry on. What we’re doing is a bit new and fresh, and we really hope that people see that. It’s not our marketing angle at all; it’s the opportunity we had and we believe we can do something exciting here. And a bit different.
With regards to Michelin that’s not why we do our job. It would be nice if Michelin would come over but it’s not a nice pressure to work under. We’ve both worked in one, two, three-star restaurants and the pressure is immense to maintain that standard. But it should be your own standard at the end of the day. One of the nice things over here is we don’t have to worry about things like that. We can just be creative and enjoy it and we don’t have to stress out if Michelin’s in every night. It is a nice feeling. A Michelin star is obviously a great accolade for any chef but that’s not why we do our job. Otherwise we wouldn’t be staying here.
10. Fair enough, but do you think if Michelin was to start considering Dubai, it would help raise the standard of restaurants here?
Nick: Yes it would raise the standard, but we need more variety of chefs here.
Scott: You look at places like Japan which has more Michelin star restaurants than France. What we want to have is a busy restaurant with happy customers. That’s the first and foremost. That’s it and what we are concerned about. Anything else is a bonus.
11. Any final words you’d like to share with FooDiva readers?
We just want people to come and see us. We are really looking forward to it. To step away from Gordon is a big thing, it’s scary but it’s a chance for us to show what we have been doing is not just Gordon, it is us as well.
As FooDiva recently reiterated here in the Expat Telegraph, Dubai is hungry for a little more authenticity that home-grown restaurant concepts bring, so Table 9 perhaps you will attract a steady clientele, and play a driving role in the emirate’s development as a culinary metropolis…despite the location. Many foodie authors and critics have echoed the same, Anthony Bourdain included; ‘So it’s doubtful Dubai can be counted on to be handing free money over to chefs anymore…Chefs and restaurateurs will have to go back to their original business model; sell people food they like and make money doing it.”
Out with Gordon, in with the new. Table 9, Dubai’s dining scene really needs you. We’ll let you settle in before a FooDiva review. In the meantime, do drop us a comment with your own thoughts and experiences. The restaurant is booked out for opening weekend, so get your reservations in pronto.
Table 9 is located at Hilton Dubai Creek. Licensed. Open Sunday to Friday for dinner only from 6.30pm onwards. Average price per head without alcohol AED 350. Wines by the glass start at AED 42. E; firstname.lastname@example.org T; +971 4 2127551.
P.S – Disclosure; I worked for Hilton for six years.