Review: Folly by Nick and Scott
It’s hard to believe that the Souk Madinat space formerly occupied by Rivington Grill stood empty for almost two years. Doubtless there are many reasons for that wait, but one obvious factor is its size: how do you create a compelling enough concept model to fill that multi-floor space?
If anyone can solve that puzzle you’d hope it would be Nick Alvis and Scott Price. The two chefs originally oversaw Gordon Ramsay’s Verre, in the Hilton Dubai Creek, and later relaunched it as their own concept Table 9, used to work for Ramsay in London. Their iteration received great reviews but that Deira location was always going to be a hindrance. Next came Taste Kitchen, a brand they developed with Spinneys that also got critical acclaim but had slightly random locations.
Now, along with operations manager Viktorija Paplauskiene they are finally in a prime location and rolling out their own concept, Folly by Nick and Scott. This is where they finally get their chance to put that experience to good use. So, before discussing the food, here’s what they’ve done with all that space. The ground floor has been given over to another venture, Publique (with its ‘interesting’ après-ski bar theme), solving one problem of having two gigantic floors before you even venture to the rooftop terraces.
The main area has an additional bar that overlooks the open-plan kitchen. It’s ideal for casual dining and making use of the inventive cocktail menu. Upstairs on the roof there’s another bar and they’ve also utilised the various nooks and crannies to provide a private table for 12 and another secluded table for two. This all helps to maximise the previously underutilised views and also makes it an excellent venue for sundowner drinks, especially since cocktails are only Dhs25 from 5pm to 7pm.
What about the food? Folly's contemporary menu is driven more by a desire to showcase quality produce rather than ape a particular region. Its other USP is the menu format, which consists of smaller dishes that forces guests to create their own tasting menu. We tried a range of fish dishes: the monk fish cheeks, paprika and salted lemon; the cuttlefish, Szechuan pepper and black bean; the Jersey oyster, potato and apple; (deep breath) the Omani shrimp, marjoram and lime gremolata; and stone bass, Asian greens and mussel tempura. Moving on to the meats, the barbecued pigeon with tarragon succotash was sweet, gamey and tasty while the lamb saddle, whipped pine nuts and salsa, was a near-magical combination.
If that sounds like a gout-inducing list, fear not. Portions are bite-sized, consisting of three or four key ingredients that don’t rely on rich sauces or comfort carbs for enhancement. The only downside is that it could also get pricey if you were to keep ordering, so a modicum of restraint is required.
We still had room for pudding: chocolate and raspberries, and rhubarb and custard, which were small but perfectly formed. I could smell the raspberries before the bowl was set down on the table, such was their freshness.
It would be remiss not to mention the wine list. Viktorija carefully curated a selection that owes much to her taste for biodynamic, zingy new-world wines that complement the food through every course.
Will all this be enough to get bums on seats? A range of well-priced offers through the week should make regular visits viable option, along with lazy Friday lunch that will be a welcome alternative to the usual Friday shenanigans. And the menu has more than enough surprises to encourage repeat visitors.
Given the sheer scale of the project, its ultimate success is by no means a one-way bet. Its founders must surely know this - the clue is in the restaurant name. But Nick, Scott and Viktorija should be applauded for their ambition and their refusal to play it safe. In a town full of copycats and trend followers, this is a genuine, high-quality addition to the scene.