Complex Made Simple

Chef Jason Atherton brings casual fine dining to Dubai

Renowned English chef Jason Atherton has made his debut in Middle East with the opening of Marina Social, his first restaurant in Dubai and his 17th internationally.

Marina Social, located at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina hotel, brings to the region Atherton’s causal fine-dining “concept” – a word the humble chef dislikes.

“I hate the word ‘concept’,” Atherton tells Aficionado on the day of the opening. “It sounds like we are rolling out something, but the idea is really that you can just come in and use the restaurant for whatever purpose you desire. It is fine-dining enough for special occasions and casual enough just to come in after work.”

The form of ‘social’ dining, popularised by Atherton, is celebrated across his numerous restaurants in Hong Kong, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, and London – which is home to his Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social.

With all his international success, Atherton simply had to bring his culinary brand to Dubai. Explaining the reasoning behind the timing and the choice of Dubai, Atherton says: “I lived here from 2000 till 2005 and it was one of the happiest times of my life. I met my wife here, we got married here and a lot of my close friends today are from Dubai. Ever since I left, one of my dreams has always been to come back and open up my own restaurant; it took 18 restaurants to get there, but today we’re here in Dubai and I am very happy to be here.”

The restaurant serves tapas-styled dishes, inspired by a mix of British and Mediterranean cuisines. It is open daily for dinner and guests can enjoy their meals or beverages at the sophisticatedly decorated indoor venue or on the outdoor terrace overlooking the marina.

While Atherton will not be at the restaurant always – naturally – he has placed it in the safe hands of Tristin Farmer, the chef patron leading the culinary team, and David Vindis, the general manager of the restaurant. Farmer and Vindis are both already members of the ‘Social’ family and have previously worked at Atherton’s restaurants in London.

Despite coming from London, the gentlemen will adapt to the new venue, new menu and cultural characteristics of the city and the region.

“We are very respectful of where we are,” Atherton said. “We do not cook and we are proud to have a very rich vegetarian menu.

What to order on your first visit

While proud of the entire menu, Atherton suggests some standout dishes for the diners:

–       Lamb flatbread

–       Tomato burrata

–       Japanese rice souffle