Inside The Guild Dubai: new 'dining room' big enough to fit a plane inside

Tom Arnel of Eat X exclusively tells The National about his new dining room, which will open in March 2022

After eight years at the forefront of the Dubai dining scene with his company Bull & Roo, times are changing for Tom Arnel.

The hospitality brand, which is behind the likes of Tom & Serg, Common Grounds and Sum of Us, has a new name – Eat X – a new focus and new ideas, the biggest of which is to open the most electric dining room the city has seen, says Arnel.

In March 2022, The Guild will open its doors on the ground level of the $1 billion ICD Brookfield Place building, a concept that took five years to bring together, designed in Dubai, for Dubai.

Describing The Guild in DIFC as a "dining room" is perhaps underplaying the sheer size of the space.

“You can literally fit an airplane in here,” Arnel tells The National, the first publication to see inside. “It’s one of the biggest restaurant spaces in Dubai.”

Inside this huge space, guests will be guided through a unique dining experience.

From welcome drinks in ornate bars, enjoying small seafood plates around a living rock pool and dinner at the chef’s table as you watch the kitchen staff at work, to after-dinner drinks in an intimate piano bar until the early hours, The Guild aims to provide an experience for its guests that will last the whole night.

“I had three main rules for this space: no bad seats; I wanted my heart rate to really increase every time I walked in here, like that was a huge thing; and three, I wanted no dead ends. I wanted the space to really flow,” Arnel says.

“It's split into five different experiences. So it's almost like five separate rooms that do different things, but there are no real walls, so it all sort of feels like one succinct place.”

Those five experiences are a brasserie at the front of The Guild, known as The Avenue, lined with huge ghaf trees, where you can grab coffee, lunch, bar snacks and casual drinks, and a champagne-tasting bar, where you’ll be able to enjoy regular live music.

Next you’ll find Potting Shed, a greenhouse-esque intimate space, again filled with greenery and foliage, where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, as well as drinks.

The third experience is the Rock Pool. “We're building a big pool in the middle of the restaurant where we'll have all our live king crab, lobster, sea urchin and oysters, that sort of thing, living inside this pool,” Arnel explains.

“This is literally a world first. There's nothing like that in the world.”

The Rock Pool will open into The Salon, The Guild’s main dining area, where you’ll find three open kitchens, with chefs preparing fresh and seasonal ingredients.

“This kitchen is entirely powered by fire – no gas or electricity, which I think is another first for city, which is very cool,” Arnel says.

“There's no rules to the cooking, there's nothing forced. I'm not saying it's French, I'm not saying it's European, I'm not saying it's Asian – I'm not saying anything.

"I'm saying that we're just using fire and the best ingredients and we're just going for it.

"We're taking more risks with the cooking and we're being pretty rebellious with it. It's going to be unorthodox and have character.”

And finally, hidden away behind the salon, you’ll find what Arnel describes as a nightclub experience, with a piano bar and lounge spaces.

“What I was sick of was going to restaurants in this area and getting a table at 8pm and then being kicked off at 10pm and them having nothing else for you,” he says.

“So the idea is that we want to bring the art of hospitality back and give people an experience that is really worth the money that they pay in Dubai.

“When you arrive, we'll ask you how you're feeling. We'll ask you what sort of night you're looking for. And then we'll guide you through. We want guests to experience everything.

"So the idea is, if we have somebody who booked a table in The Salon, we might invite you to have a drink in the Potting Shed beforehand.

"And then for dessert, we might get you a table in the Piano Bar. Or you might have your starter in the Rock Pool, then you come over to the dining room for your main course.

Quote
Whether you are spending Dh300 of Dh5,000, we want to welcome everyone and make sure they are having the best experience
Tom Arnel, founder of Eat X

"We want to turn the tables in a way that gives people an experience rather than just makes you feel like a number that gets kicked off a table.

"It’s about making sure people feel like they've had the one of the best nights of their lives, you know? Making them feel like they're being looked after by us. That’s a huge thing for us.”

Arnel says The Guild will also ensure everyone feels looked after by having a mix of bookings and spaces for walk-ins, so whether people are coming for an occasion or just fancy popping in after work, there will be space for them.

“Whether you are spending Dh300 of Dh5,000, we want to welcome everyone and make sure they are having the best experience.”

When it comes to the food, Arnel will continue the concept that has made his other venues so successful, ensuring all produce is as freshly and sustainably sourced as possible, with a creative and ever-changing menu.

He has also called in some favours from people he’s met along the way, putting together a team from across the world.

It’s a hugely ambitious project, with 150 staff and space to accommodate more than 430 diners, but Arnel believes there is no better city than Dubai for a space like this to open now.

“We just got so confident in this city because it's sprung back to life so quickly [after the pandemic] and now it's packed and everyone's doing well and there's a lot of positivity around," he says.

"I feel like in the last year and a half, it's gone from a really good global city to a great global city. I think you can now compare Dubai to London or New York or Paris or Melbourne. It really can be in that same conversation.

"I don't think there's anywhere else in the world doing what we're doing right now. I’ve been here for 11 years and I really thought about what Dubai was missing, and we think this is it.”

Before The Guild opens its doors, however, Eat X has seven other new openings in the pipeline, including: new Common Grounds locations; an Encounter Coffee site; The Park in JLT, which will be three restaurants in one, including an Asian restaurant and a rooftop pizzeria and bar; and Byron Bathers’ Club, a casual seafood restaurant that will take over the space previously occupied by Bidi Bondi.

The decision to rebrand as Eat X, Arnel says, is the start of a new chapter for the company.

“This represents all the hard work that me and my team have been doing over the last eight years," he says.

“For me, Eat X represents everything we are doing. X to me is infinite and there are infinite opportunities in Dubai.”

Updated: November 11th 2021, 12:47 PM