The Guild in Dubai prepares to open second phase of restaurants

The new venue at ICD Brookfield Place has a cafe, lounge, pastry shop and dining hall

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The brief was simply to create a restaurant inside ICD Brookfield Place, the $1 billion office tower in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

But Tom Arnel, founder of hospitality group Eatx that is behind ventures such as cafe Sum of Us and Asian restaurant Hawkerboi, knew he had to come up with an elevated, multifaceted concept to match the opulence of the glitzy skyscraper.

The result is The Guild, an ambitious 15,000-square-foot restaurant that's been five years in the making. It's still not open in its entirety, though, with Arnel promising three "acts".

Each is meant to evoke a different mood through its unique design and menu. The first of these is now open and includes The Nurseries and The Potting Shed, primarily inspired by Tribeca, a rustic neighbourhood in New York City.

The second act, which includes two restaurants, opens for reservations next month.

The Nurseries and The Potting Shed

As the names suggest, these two areas are dressed in a mix of real and artificial plants. Potted greens are peppered across the dimly lit space, while trails of flora hang from the ceiling or crawl along the walls.

The Nurseries has a daytime pastry boutique, complete with an espresso bar and serves a selection of handmade pastries and cakes. Arnel explains it a "cafe and brasserie by day, and a lounge bar by night time".

Aside from brasserie-style breakfast, the area also serves lunch with mains such as confit duck leg, steak frites and lobster linguini. As the space transitions into the evening, the pastry boutique is cordoned off with a curtain and the music is amped up. It then turns into a lounge, with a range of curated beverages as well as an evening snack menu, with dishes such as steak tartare rosti, Brie de Meaux truffle toastie and minatare lobster roll.

The Potting Shed is a sunken lounge that looks like a private greenhouse and can seat up to 30 people. It is heavily inspired by the Ladder Shed in London's Chiltern Firehouse hotel and has the same architect, David Archer.

The Salon and The Rockpool

Arnel gives us a preview of the second act, which he refers to as "the main event". It will be made up of two restaurants, The Salon and The Rockpool, which will begin accepting reservations on September 8.

The Rockpool, which sits on an elevated space, is a "retreat for seafood enthusiasts". It features live seafood tanks, an oyster shucking station and a rock pool in the middle where live sea urchins and lobsters are housed. It has an adjoining bar, as well as a private dining room that can sit up to 16 guests.

The Salon evokes images of grand dining halls in Europe. All the food is cooked over open fire and charcoal, and instead of a stage for performers, the area features open kitchen islands where chefs can be seen in action.

"The idea is to make people feel they are part of the kitchen," says Arnel. "Instead of having a cabaret show, we have chefs doing their craft, cooking quality ingredients in open fire only."

The illusion of separating the first and second acts works well, despite the two arenas only being separated by a curtain. Walking through The Rockpool and The Salon transports guests into another world, strikingly different from the vast greenery of the The Nurseries and The Potting Shed.

The Aviary

The third and final act, The Aviary, will be a luxurious lounge with a central bar and cigar room, as well as a grand piano at one end of the space. This is tucked away at the rear of the venue and an opening date is yet to be announced.

"There are so many great restaurants in Dubai. The proof is all around the city," says Arnel, who moved to the UAE in 2010. "But I think there is still a lot of room for really creative concepts."

With The Guild, he hopes to strip back the dining experience by removing the "distractions".

"We could've easily turned this into a big nightclub," he says, adding that The Salon and the decision to create an open kitchen, is his attempt to put the food first.

The Guild is open from 8am-10.30pm daily; ICD Brookfield Place, DIFC; 054 279 6826

Updated: August 30, 2023, 7:34 AM