By Jola Chudy
Restaurateur, author, TV chef and culinary demigod Marco Pierre White can't resist the lure of the UAE when it comes to launching businesses and his clients can't resist his offerings, which this month see the addition of a new restaurant at Abu Dhabi's Fairmont Hotel
Your global brand is making another step into the region – why did you decide to launch it at this time?
I’ve visited Abu Dhabi a lot over the years and know the country and people well. It’s an amazing place where I think the vast majority will like my philosophy of what eating out is all about.
When the opportunity for Black and White Hospitality came about to work with Ramal Hospitality and the Fairmont Hotel, it was more a case of when, not if, so it’s great to be open.
The people here are very honest and down to earth, a bit like me I suppose, so I’ll be delivering something that sits comfortably with the people and way of life here and which I can completely relate to. It’s not about fancy fine dining, it’s about honest food, with great service.
What about the region is attractive for restaurateurs?
Abu Dhabi is a thriving, exciting part of the UAE that presents plenty of opportunities.
At Black and White Hospitality, we tend to operate within hotels, so we’re constantly looking at this sector. If you have a restaurant in a hotel that has, say 300 bedrooms, then you’ve already got a market. There’s also a foundation and infrastructure. I’m also a great believer that you employ the right hierarchy who then build their own team.
Is the F&B market here tougher or has it gotten easier?
The restaurant sector is forever changing with people’s tastes and expectations also changing. I’m in the business of feeding people where service is excellent.
My menus offer a fresh alternative, where authentic, uncomplicated food is served promptly and I think is what people now want. I want groups of friends and couples to come in to enjoy lunch or dinner or to celebrate a special occasion or for parents to bring their children and enjoy a meal out together.
The problem with expensive restaurants is that you don’t become a regular because you can only go there on rare occasions.
The main thing for me is to ensure that the atmosphere is right. To me this sends a clear message to the diner that there is a strong passion for the food, quality of service and dining.
That’s the point of difference and where we’ve already been successful.
From a business perspective, what are the main challenges in setting up here?
Having my name associated with any restaurant should say to the customer that they can expect certain standards. In order to do that there is a team of people who make sure that everything is as it should be. That way any challenges are ironed out.
One thing that they won’t be however is fine dining. I’m in the business of selling a night out and feeding people well in a great atmosphere, not serving up 20-course taster menus that are cold by the time they get to your table.
My whole ethos is not about being pretentious. It’s more about good food, served in a great environment and that’s what I think the public here want and deserve.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a composer, thinking up new ideas, dishes and designs all the time and get totally immersed in the development of any new venue and brand. From menu development, interior design and uniforms, I’m involved all the way.
What’s the concept for the restaurant and why was it chosen?
The New York Italian has been inspired by my Italian heritage and love for New York. It will reflect the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple as well as my passion for classic, simple and authentic food.
Customers will be able to look forward to enjoying a mix of Italian-inspired dishes and American classics from a menu created by myself while feeling they’ve been transported to the diners of New York.
What’s important is that people understand that we’re not just selling a meal. It’s a night out with friends, a family lunch. To me the atmosphere, the environment in which we sit and service is just as important as the food and that is what people can expect here.
Do you think that the restaurant scene here is oversaturated?
I’ve spent the best part of 40 years of my life in restaurants and a lot has changed in that time and opportunities always exist as long as the offer if right.
To me, the most important aspect of eating out isn’t the food – it’s the atmosphere, the environment, the lighting, the service.
Often a person’s favourite restaurant doesn’t serve the best food in the world, but if it is somewhere you are a regular and you get to know the staff and if there is a problem you forgive them.
If you have to wait 30 minutes instead of 20 minutes for your main course, it doesn’t really matter - they know you and can explain they are very busy and the Maitre D’ will give you a glass of wine.
New York Italian is a refreshing change from the norm and I hope people will enjoy their time here.