Social grazing

When Team TMN were invited to experience Michelin-stared British chef Jason Atherton’s first foray into the Middle East, we couldn’t wait to see how the venue lived up to Atherton’s extraordinary reputation… 

What: Marina Social Dubai

Where: InterContinental, Dubai Marina

When: Open for dinner everyday between 6pm and midnight. Open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays between 12pm and 3pm.

The Promise: “Marina Social is Dubai’s hottest new restaurant by acclaimed Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton. Situated in the InterContinental Dubai Marina, the restaurant celebrates deformalised dining within a relaxed, social atmosphere and offers stunning panoramic views of the waterfront, overlooking the buzzing marina.”

Did it deliver: The entrance to Marina Social wouldn’t be out of place in a modern art gallery – with bright, angular walls and bronze statues that tower up from the ground to the walkway making the space bright, minimalist and interesting. The intrigue evoked by the entrance continues into the warmly lit restaurant, with its cleverly used open space, dotted with intimate dining areas, dotted with interesting objects, towering wine cabinets and service trays brimming with unique drink ingredients and utensils. The atmosphere in the dining room is incredible; cosy and welcoming but also stylish with a buzz of conversation blending with the noise from the huge open kitchen.

Settled into our table in front of said kitchen, Team TMN were immediately offered drinks by our charming sommelier, who was happy to recommend tipples based on our tastes and preferences. We were then left to peruse the restaurant’s substantial and well-varied menu, which included snacks, as well as raw and cooked starters from land and sea, pasta and rice and a selection of mains. Our knowledgeable waiter took us through the ingredients, flavours and cooking methods for each dish. Staff in Marina Social are very friendly, with an excellent knowledge of the menu and ability to cater to personal tastes – something to be commended in Dubai, where many high-end eateries rely on pushy staff to sell more expensive dishes.

Our starters of wood-fired garlic flat bread with caponata, pistachio and feta, Italian beef tomato with burrata, 25 year aged balsamic and tomato salt and Hamachi, mizuna salad with a citrus dressing all looked stunningly beautiful. The tomato, particularly, stood out as a dish that was pretty in its simplicity but with a wonderful depth of flavor – with a brilliant twist on the preparation of ingredients. The Hamachi, a type of fish similar to tuna, was also prepared in a way that demonstrated exceptional skill from the chefs. Main courses lived up to expectations set by their predecessors entirely. The squab pigeon proved a favourite with Team TMN – full of flavor and cooked to perfection, the dish combined unusual ingredients in a wonderful way. The Boston smoked lobster won major points for presentation, arriving at the table in a small chest with smoke still billowing out when opened, and the social dog was an exquisitely decadent take on a junk food favourite. Each of the dishes brought to the table were equally tasty – with unexpected flavor combinations and great use of ingredients.

Following such indulgent mains, we felt it would be rude not to sample just a tiny bit of dessert, and so we found ourselves ordering the Bergamont and lemon verbena with olive oil conserves and a lemon sponge, despite our already full stomachs. The dessert did not disappoint, with a refreshing lemon flavour that was strong but not overwhelmingly acidic, and a standout lemon granita offered on the side. The size of the portion also meant that it was ideal for sharing as a sweet end to the meal. A cart of homemade sweets was rolled around, providing a wonderfully original (and very British) memento of a delightful meal.

The verdict: Marina Social is an excellent restaurant that manages to stand out in a city rammed full of impressive eateries. The food on offer is thoughtfully prepared and presented, and the ingredients used are of the highest quality. While not the cheapest of venues, this is the place to go for a celebratory dinner or romantic night out, and the excellent use of space as well as attentive staff mean that couples and small groups are catered for as well as large parties.