Sheer menu folly by Nick and Scott?
My initial reservations about having to traipse through tourist-laden Souk Madinat Jumeirah are banished as the convivial atmosphere of a new Dubai restaurant, Folly by Nick & Scott (on the first floor of the former Rivington Grill) entices me in. Nick Alvis and Scott Price are former Gordon Ramsay protégées and whether you are fans of their cooking or not, they are well versed in Dubai’s food scene thanks to their culinary journey that took them from Verre and Table 9 at Hilton Dubai Creek, to Spinneys and Taste Kitchen.
A friendly welcome takes us to the roof-top bar for a sundowner where I choose a refreshing, quirky Patron Passion from an innovative cocktail list. Soaking up the stunning views over the Madinat waterways and the Burj Al Arab is a must before dinner whilst the weather allows. The relaxed greenery of the outdoor terrace is complemented by the easiness of the service team, who are a mix of charm and knowledge. The hustle and bustle of the ‘souk’ below is nothing but a vague memory as we sip on a British beer and a Bordeaux red. The atmosphere, harmonised by suitable background music, becomes more vivacious as all of the tables outside fill up. The inside of the brick-walled restaurant is empty though, but the dining room has a contemporary feel and offers the best view of Nick and Scott who add the finishing touches to dishes at the open-plan kitchen pass.
The menu is the big talking point of the night as we are initially confused by Folly’s attempt to induce you to create your own tasting menu. There is discussion as to whether it is easier – and better – if we can just pick three courses. The three-page menu has dishes priced at AED45, AED70 and AED110; and we are encouraged to select four to five savoury dishes each, including one from the AED110 ‘mains’ page. The knowledge of the waitress ensures that we understand the concept and we settle on seven savoury dishes between us including two mains. It could easily feel as if the staff are upselling to hike the price point but it is only after we ask for recommendations that the number of dishes are gently suggested.
The Ramsay style and influence is still evident in the food at Folly, yet is entwined with their own enthusing broader European philosophy. Ingredients are kept to a maximum of three or four per dish, with a drive to use local produce and herbs. The first round of dishes cleverly serves monkfish cheeks with paprika and a salted lemon mousse that I can eat all night; and a sage eggy bread with onion and spelt that is rustic in nature, but inventive and modern in taste. The second round is probably the lowest point as we order a beauteous Stracciatella (buffalo milk) cheese, tomato and aniseed dish, as well as octopus, charred cucumber and fennel. The dishes are overpowered by flavours of aniseed and fennel respectively. The team is surprisingly happy to hear our feedback, who explains that this helps get the finer details right. An impressively humble philosophy that makes diners feel highly valued.
Our third course is a modest sounding barbequed pigeon with tarragon succotash. The aniseed flavour of the succotash pairs brilliantly with the delicate pigeon and the tarragon undertones elevate the whole dish. The ‘mains’ from our self-constructed menu are sirloin of beef, potato gratin and leeks for my dining partner, and lamb saddle, whipped pine nuts and salsa for me. These two dishes are unquestionably the high point of our meal and are the perfect vehicle for Nick and Scott to display their technique, finesse and balance of flavours. The lamb saddle is complemented by a mixture of pine nuts and salsa to take the dish on a modern, Middle Eastern bearing that obviously fits our surroundings. Both cuts of meat are cooked medium-rare and the flakes of salt that sit among the pink flesh point towards skilled cookery and an understanding of how to season meat.
Finally, we order three desserts (priced at AED45 each) due to my sweet tooth but in hindsight, only two are needed. The service team are well acquainted with the desserts as they excitedly make their recommendations. The chocolate and hazelnut is smooth, bitter and decadent. The popcorn, yoghurt and honey demonstrates modern techniques and exciting flavour combinations of sweet, sour and salty, cocooned in the crispy popcorn cylinder. The star of the dessert show is the rhubarb and custard, as the tartness of rhubarb plays with the smooth, vanilla-laden custard packaged between buttery layers of a classic millefeuille.
Does the self-construction of the tasting menu work or is it sheer folly? With a little guidance from the service team, whose teamwork and awareness of each other is exceptional, I believe that the menu is well engineered. Some may argue though that it should speak for itself without requiring explanations from the waiting staff. For normal appetites, I think that three dishes each, followed by a dessert is sufficient. I start the meal somewhat cynical about the menu but I am certainly converted by the end.
The price point of AED340 per person (without alcohol) is impressive for five dishes each, and the flexibility to reduce this cost to eight, or fewer, dishes will be welcomed. For instance, you could order two dishes from the AED45 menu, an AED110 main and a dessert, all for a total of AED245. I understand that some diners might prefer the comfort and familiarity of ‘standard’ three course menus but the opportunity to enjoy the range of cooking from Nick and Scott is not to be missed in such a picturesque location. The number of dishes means that there might be one or two that do not hit the right notes for you personally, such as with the octopus and the stracciatella cheese in my case. However, here’s to an impressive 4 out of 5 FooDiva knifes for the undeniable quality of the overall experience.
Would you try the interactive menu at Folly? Or, do you prefer a standard three-course a la carte menu?
Until next time,
Who is guest reviewer Matt? A newly-married author and teacher with an obsession for French wine and fine dining, he loves nothing more than trying new restaurants and dishes with his wife and friends. Travel plans are always made around food and he can remember what he was doing on any given day by recalling the meal that he ate. His favourite chefs are Michel Roux Jr. and Nathan Outlaw.
Sheer menu folly by Nick and Scott? Guest writer @finediningmatt reviews @follydubai at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, which replaces the top level of Rivington Grill. Do you like choosing from an ‘interactive’ menu or do you prefer a typical three course menu? Review now live on www.foodiva.net (see link in profile). ?? #foodivareviews