Young, popular and Canadian. No, not Justin Bieber – we are talking about a restaurant chain that makes its UAE debut this week.
It is just one of a string of Canadian restaurants set to open in Dubai in the next two years, thanks to Icon Legacy Hospitality, a Canadian business with 10 food and beverage brands in Toronto.
The first to arrive in Dubai is Weslodge Saloon, which debuted in the Canadian city in 2012. Its distinctive yellow doors will swing open at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai’s Business Bay on Thursday. The 4,500 square-foot space, which includes a partly open kitchen, can accommodate 140 diners.
For the decor, Canadian company Navigate Design was brought in to create a Deadwood-style, North American saloon feel, complete with giant antlers on the walls, alongside monochrome photographs of pioneers. But the panoramic 68th-floor view – looking out at the Burj Khalifa – gives the vintage decor a 21st-century twist.
Executive chef Ben Heaton, also from Toronto, proudly boasts that Weslodge’s US$60,000 (Dh220,000), four-metre grill – built by Grillworks in the United States – is the largest in the Middle East.
“We use hardwood and charcoal to achieve a flavourful balance and maximum heat,” he says. “There’s nobody in the Middle East or Europe with one of these grills right now.”
The food on offer at Weslodges sounds ideal for the “gutfoundered” – a Canadian term meaning “very hungry”.
“We’ll be using the grill to prepare lots of loud, brash cuts of meat,” says Heaton. “We will be butchering our own meat, so different cuts – large porterhouses, rib-eyes, striploins, all bone-in.
“We also have a rotisserie on the grill, so we’ll be doing whole chicken, legs of lamb brined in mint, whole cauliflowers brined and roasted.”
The meats will be served on large sharing-style platters and accompanied by small raw plates such as Loch Fyne salmon and beetroot, fennel, maple syrup and lime, or Ahi tuna ceviche, avocado, celery, yuzu hot sauce and sesame crackers.
Although officially the Weslodge theme is “contemporary American”, Heaton has sneaked a few Canadian favourites onto the menu. One of them is poutine – the traditional Quebec dish of French fries, gravy and cheese curds.
“We’ve ‘premium-ised’ ours a little bit – it’s a Dh95 lobster poutine,” says Heaton. “But I think we’ll eventually do a classic poutine, too, given how many Canadians are living in the UAE [about 45,000 at last count, according to their embassy – compared with about 40,000 Americans].”
Also on the menu are Canadian beef and bison – “from Alberta, very lean and tender” – and, of course, “lots of maple syrup”.
“We’re getting some really good-quality maple syrup from Quebec, with a very high sugar level,” says Heaton. “As well as desserts, maple syrup lends itself well to vinaigrettes, meat and fish.”
Weslodge’s mixologists will serve up some unique interpretations of classic drinks.
“It will be bespoke, very 1920s-style beverages,” says Maher Murshed, Icon Legacy Hospitality’s managing partner. “We’re embracing that whole rock ’n’ roll-chic lifestyle.”
• Weslodge Saloon at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai’s Business Bay will be open from 6.30pm to 2am. Call 052 869 7868 for more details