On Saturday, September 24, renowned British chef Nathan Outlaw will make his culinary debut in Dubai, taking the helm at the Burj Al Arab's Al Mahara restaurant. Until now, the restaurant has been closed for extensive renovations and will open under Nathan's guidance this weekend. It's a huge coup for the hotel, and the region's fine dining scene, and it's his first location outside of the UK. Bazaar exclusively stole five minutes with the Michelin-starred chef ahead of the opening this weekend to chat about what diners can expect when the doors open...
Harper's Bazaar Arabia: Why did you decide that now was the right time to open a restaurant in Dubai?
Nathan Outlaw: It was an incredible opportunity that got put to me. Anthony McHale, Burj Al Arab’s general manager ate in one of my restaurants in Cornwall before he moved here. The hotel opened 17 years ago and he told me he wanted to jazz up the dining scene – make it more accessible, more affordable, and seafood restaurant Al Mahara was a key focus. When he rang me up afterwards I thought it was a hoax. He said “I think you’re the right guy to come over and have a look at the restaurant. Knowing your food and how you operate, you’re level headed, you know how to run a good restaurant, so come have a look.” As soon as I saw the place and saw what could potentially be, I knew I had to do it.
HBA: Why did you choose Dubai as the first location outside of the UK to open a restaurant?
NO: Dubai itself has very much claimed its spot on the world food map - and can definitely play with the big boys. As a chef it is one of the places you want to be. The city has attracted top talent from across the globe and offers world-class hospitality. I have been pleasantly surprised and found Dubai to be a lot more down to earth than I expected and extremely welcoming.
HBA: What cuisine will you be offering up?
NO: I want to bring the best of seafood to Al Mahara. My style of cooking is my signature, not necessarily the dish itself. However, saying that there will be dishes on the menu that are typically ‘Outlaw’, including the Lobster Risotto which is one of my oldest dishes. I introduced this dish in my first restaurant when it opened 2003 and it’s proven to be a firm favourite. I also love to serve raw, pure seafood too, so raw scallops and of course, oysters. Turbot with a seaweed crust is also one of my favourite dishes to cook.
HBA: How would you describe your cooking style/method?
NO: My style of cooking is one of simplicity but with complex flavour combinations using local, seasonal, responsibly sourced ingredients. I work predominantly with seafood which is why the collaboration with Al Mahara at Burj Al Arab is perfect. What I like to do with my dishes is let the seafood shine and allow the impact to come through in the taste, I don’t like to play with the fish too much…I like to hook it and then cook it - simple and uncomplicated.
HBA: How are you incorporating local Middle Eastern flavours into the menu?
NO: I’m looking at using local ingredients in the menu, as I am a big fan of supporting local businesses and products. I’d love to be able to introduce local sustainably sourced seafood in the future too. In terms of fusions, British style food has a lot of global influences and spices already so introducing Middle Eastern influences is definitely something I’d like to do.
HBA: Any special dishes we should definitely try?
NO: I’m introducing some really typical British puddings, such as Eaton mess, sticky toffee pudding and a treacle tart. They won’t be typically traditional though, they will have the ‘Outlaw’ twist and be served with lots of theatre so you should definitely leave room for a dessert! The sticky toffee pudding on the menu is actually my daughter’s recipe. She’s 11 years old and won Sticky Toffee Championships with it. It was a blind tasting and she was the youngest entrant by far, so I’m very proud to have it on the menu.
HBA: What do you hope to bring to Dubai’s culinary scene with your restaurant?
NO: I’ve visited Dubai four times now to check out the scene. There’s really good cooking here. One of the things that really excited me about the opportunity, as well as being at Burj Al Arab, was the fact that it’s a buzzing scene now.
Casual dining restaurants are doing well at the moment but I think people will get bored with it. People want value for their money, but still want to get looked after. Even with casual dining, it can get a little bit relaxed on the service and on the standards. For me, classic good cooking, looking after your customers and great hospitality will never go out of fashion so that’s the aim with Al Mahara.
When we re-launch Al Mahara it will be celebrating a British style of cooking, however, we do not want to loose any of the charm of Al Mahara, we just want to add the ‘Outlaw’ touch and take it to the next level – a more down to earth style of hospitality, with a fun and buzzing atmosphere.
Nathan will be in the kitchen from September 24 until October 3. The restaurant will open for lunch from 12:30-3:30pm and for dinner from 7-11:30pm. The set menu is priced at Dhs450 for a three-course lunch and Dhs650 for a four-course dinner. To book your table, visit Jumeirah.com or email BAAReservations@jumeirah.com