Review: Marina Social
It’s hard to pick a jewel in the crown of the Dubai restaurant scene. Arguments can be made for Zuma, La Petite Maison or Pier Chic, with fantastic food, a great interior or the ideal location, but when it comes to the whole package? It’s going to be a long argument.
Recently Esquire met up with Jason Atherton and while we were there, thought that it would be rude not to try out his latest venture, Marina Social at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. The only thing that we were unimpressed by was the knowledge that the aforementioned argument would now take a whole lot longer.
It became apparent very quickly that lessons had been learnt from Atherton’s last experience in Dubai, that of his work at Gordon Ramsey’s Verre by the Creek. The welcoming area invites you into either a quiet lounge for a pre-meal cocktail, or straight into the restaurant itself, past some eye catching statues on your right as you enter.
Having spoken to Jason to get the low down on what to order and been told “the tomato and burata. You’ve got to wait and see what it is exactly, it’s got to hit the table and make people go wow” our decision was made for us. It came, we saw it, it conquered our conversation. That is, until the next course came out.
Smoked lobster entered the arena. Presented as a full half lobster, with the shells smoked in oak wood before the lobster itself is cooked, the flavours really came through. A slightly smoky taste, perfectly cooked with a squeeze of lemon on the side, we’d made the right choice.
Following a debate around ordering the burata again, it was time for the Victoria lamb rump. At AED165 on a menu that had so far been so beautifully presented, the expectation was that a small cut of lamb would appear, not that we would have minded. What appeared could have fed a room full of brunchers on a Friday. Incredibly cooked to our taste, served with turnips, baby gems and mint sauce – if there’s one pick on the menu from our side – this has got to be it.
One of the concepts of Social is that you’re just as welcome when coming in for a dessert or a coffee as you would be ordering a full blown taster menu. With this in mind the desserts have to stand on their own two feet, or plates, or martini glasses, or slates. The salted hazelnut semifreddo with it’s smattering of complimenting sorbets and jellies certainly did. A most welcome cold dish following three hot courses, it suitably impressed everyone seated at the table, as well as those within eye-shot as it was being brought out.
The space itself, although set for a small re-do on the layout, really creates an atmosphere for diners. It’s an open space although slightly partitioned with semi-see through walls, meaning that atmosphere is there whether there are 20 seated for lunch or a packed out restaurant there for dinner. The views overlook the Marina, and with an open kitchen visible there’s something going on wherever you look.