We always have time for innovative ideas. Good or bad, at Esquire we are firm believers that the only way to fail is to not try at all. It's why the 'Canvas' initiative run by Marriott hotels is something that we cannot praise enough.
Encouraged throughout its global network of hotels, the idea of 'Canvas' is to take spaces that aren't working and give them over to young, idea-driven entrepreneurs who can come up with something a bit more cutting edge to (hopefully) give the space a new lease of life. At the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai, one of these Canvas projects is Garden.
Replacing the easily-forgotten Levantine restaurant Nawwara, Garden is a young and vibrant Peruvian restaurant that impresses from the moment you step into the dining room.
Wild, colourful, modern-Peruvian art work clambers up the pillars, as hanging plants circle the restaurant's water-feature centrepiece. It is certainly not what we expected to find, regardless of the name. The feeling is certainly edgier and younger than Dubai's other Peruvian offerings, giving it an inherently less formal feel. Despite the venue not being full, a good number of dinners (generally aged between 25-45), evenly divided into couples and larger groups across the banquet seating, were generating a bubbling atmosphere as we sat down to peruse the menu as compiled by Peruvian Head Chef, Edgar Hurtado (formerly of The Act Dubai).
Shortly after being served a couple of Garden's signature Pisco cocktails (it would seem rude not to, really), small sharing plates began to colonise our table.
Naturally, among the first things to cross our fork was a quintessential Peruvian ceviche dish comprising of Corvina, leche de tigre, red onions, chulpi corn and crispy calamari, that created a festival of contrasting textures and flavours that leaves no doubt this is a dish that plenty of thought has gone into. Elsewhere, spread across our table, the cuisine's usual favourites began to make an appearance with tiraditos, causas, skewered langostine and everyone's favourite health-food-du-jour, quinoa with asparagus and black truffle.
Considering the name of the restaurant, our ordering may have ventured a little too far into the seafood direction - with squid ink risotto and scallops; and some of the best calamari we've had - but we did our due diligence sampling a Canilla de cordero (lamb shank) and even some Lomo saltado (stir fried beef), before tackling a creamy sponge cake with 'tres leches' sauce and ice cream.
While creative dishes and supercharged fresh produce continues to prolong Peruvian cuisine's moment in the spotlight, the decision to transform a tepid Levantine restaurant into a vibrant and social space a short hop from Dubai's Downtown and Business Bay areas, is justification that the Marriott's Canvas initiative is very much a good idea.
To book, please visit Garden