By Isabel Tapp, Founder of Luxury Communications Council, GCC Collective
The GCC’s dining scene continues to grow from strength to strength, with Dubai now surpassing New York in number of restaurants per capita. The arrival of renowned dining guides such as the Michelin Guide and Gault & Millau have added their sizeable weight to the local restaurant landscape, shining a spotlight on the world-class food and drinks now being served across the region. From intimate supper clubs to immersive culinary experiences, here are five luxury dining trends to watch in the GCC.
Intimate Supper Clubs
It’s not surprising that we’ve seen a proliferation in Supper Clubs since the pandemic. In the face of lockdowns and dining restrictions, GCC Chefs brought the home-style restaurant experience into intimate pop-ups and permanent settings. One local success story is the evolution of Dubai’s Kinoya, which began as a ramen pop-up in the home of self-taught cook Neha Misra, and is now an award-winning restaurant, recognised with a Bib Gourmand in the latest Michelin Guide Dubai. Taking Kinoya to new heights, Neha’s homegrown ramen and izakaya bar is set to open a second outpost in London’s Harrods this year.
Also in Dubai, K’iin Supper Club is the brainchild of Chef Jon Collin, of LPM and Zuma fame, serving Mexican fare inspired by his family heritage in his Downtown Dubai apartment. In Saudi Arabia, Level 23 played host to a series of fine-dining pop-ups on the 23rd floor of the King Abdullah Financial District Complex in Riyadh, inviting emerging and Michelin-lauded chefs to the table each Friday night.
Immersive Dining Experiences
Diners are also seeking a sense of culinary theatre when they dine out in the GCC. Dubbed ‘the world’s most expensive restaurant’, Ibiza-born immersive dining experience Sublimotion recently popped up in the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira Dubai for its second season, taking 12 high-flying diners on a trip that included surreal light shows and performances alongside their AED 5,000 (GBP1000) tasting menu. In 2022, the masters of immersive gastronomy, Bompas & Parr hosted two multisensory dining experiences in Saudi Arabia’s World Heritage-listed Al’Ula, bringing the Kingdom’s history and landscapes to life in a vivid celebration of tastes, sights, sounds, and aromas.
Fine dining at home and at sea
As we bid farewell to summer in the GCC, we’re welcoming a return to alfresco entertaining. Elevating this to an art form are the region’s band of private chefs, who effortlessly translate the fine-dining experience to any location, whether it be the backyards of their clients’ villas or onboard their luxury yachts. For Dubai-based Private Chef Vanessa Bayma, her clients are seeking restaurant-style food without the weight. “Lighter seafood dishes, vibrant Mediterranean salads, and fruit-forward desserts are the tastes of the season, with clients favouring relaxed platters designed to share, rather than fussy individual platings,” she says.
The GCC has long been at the forefront of zero-alcohol mixology, a trend that is now taking the world by storm. In Saudi Arabia, Il Baretto Riyadh brings the best of Italy’s iconic cities and coastline to the capital, serving zero-alcohol cocktails infused with herbs and exotic fruits. Born in Dubai, Haus of Babylon is an alcohol-free alternative to Aperol, perfect for pouring refreshing spritzes minus the booze.
High-end Food Halls
Taking their cue from the great culinary institution that is the Harrods Food Hall, luxury food emporiums are springing up across the GCC, from shopping malls to five-star hotels. In Muscat, the newly opened Avenues Junction – The Food Hall at Oman Avenues Mall is redefining the mall dining experience, with seven chic restaurants in one sophisticated space.
In Dubai, The Guild has just opened its first of three phases, bringing serious culinary credentials to the ICD Brookfield Place with seven dining concepts under one roof. Just down the road, Arrazuna is set to open in One&Only One Za’abeel in December, with eight kitchens and gourmet retail from acclaimed Finnish-Turkish chef Mehmet Gürs. In Saudi Arabia, Via Mercato will set a new benchmark in the capital, with its luxury food market that plays host to everything from a matcha bar to a caviar lounge. It’s rich pickings for GCC residents and visitors alike, as the region’s chefs, restaurateurs and culinary entrepreneurs continue to put the destination on the global food map…. Dig in!