Chef Chris Galvin opens up about the new restaurant Galvin Dubai

The Michelin-starred Galvin brothers are opening their second restaurant in Dubai this week

Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Photographer: Jason Alden 

Photographer: Jason Alden
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When chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin opened Demoiselle by Galvin at City Walk 2 in March, they already knew their second restaurant in Dubai was not far behind. Just over six months later, Galvin Dubai is set to open its doors a stone's throw away from Demoiselle, becoming the United Kingdom-based chefs' second international restaurant.

"In London, we were entrenched in French cuisine. We had just the one book to cook from – Le Répertoire de la Cuisine – and we couldn't seem to move beyond it; it was like being in handcuffs," Chris Galvin tells me as we settle in the upcoming restaurant's first-level lounge. "But when I went to work in the United States, I came to admire the melting pot that was New York.

A visit to Australia, and I began to value the freedom of cooking that chefs seem to enjoy there. And in the past eight years that we've had our eye on Dubai, we've noticed these similarities here. Along with that, Dubai has this swagger, this confidence in the clothes it wears, so it was very attractive to us."

Given that they run a dozen restaurants in the UK, the Michelin-starred chefs obviously have their culinary formula down pat. And yet, Chris admits there was one important lesson to be learnt from their first Dubai venture.

"Spice. We learnt the value that spice has to people here, and the importance of incorporating it in our food," he says.

Accordingly, Galvin Dubai will offer dishes from what Chris calls the "Mediterranean basin" and North Africa, all created under the watchful eye of Luigi Vespero.

The Napoli-born chef has worked with the Galvins for five years, and will oversee the new Dubai restaurant, serving up dishes he's perfected over the years alongside new, Galvin-approved creations.

"If you want to create memories, first you have to evoke memories," says Vespero. "Our aim is to keep adapting to local demands, so while we will have our crab lasagne and oysters and octopus dishes here, we will also do a Moroccan tagine of lamb alongside other Mediterranean dishes that we call 'food from the sun'."

Lamb tagine at Galvin Dubai Galvin Dubai. Courtesy Galvin Dubai
Lamb tagine at Galvin Dubai Galvin Dubai. Courtesy Galvin Dubai

Chris adds: "It's an evolution; you have to balance what the customers demand while retaining your own DNA."  

Fresh ingredients are a big part of that gourmet genealogy, and the chefs have already begun tapping local producers of fruit, vegetables and spices, and are sourcing poultry from a local farm. "Also, these days, there are a lot of people who don't eat a lot of things. There are many who avoid gluten, others are vegan and so on. But as chefs, it is our job to cook and feed people, and to be able to develop food for anyone. All I would say to our future guests is: come hungry."

Vespero's deep-seated involvement is a deliberate move by the Galvins. While Chris says he touches everything "from the art and the air-conditioning to the fabric and the food", he maintains that a big part of their restaurant empire's success is down to the executive chefs, who bring their own touch to the increasingly diverse menus.

"I can see the passion in Luigi's eyes when he talks about a particular strain of tomatoes he wants to source from Italy. We have a chef from Madrid who's trying to recreate dishes that use these beautiful beans that his grandma used to use, and another whom we went with to South Korea to learn more about the flavours there.

My brother and I will visit every so often, but we are not omnipresent, and it would be unfair for our guests to think that we are here all the time," says Chris. "Like us, Luigi is ingredient-driven, and of course, we are constantly in touch and offering our feedback."  

Galvin Dubai is opening close to the brothers’ Demoiselle by Galvin restaurant in City Walk. Courtesy Galvin Dubai
Galvin Dubai is opening close to the brothers’ Demoiselle by Galvin restaurant in City Walk. Courtesy Galvin Dubai

The retail offerings at the location were another driving force for both Demoiselle and Galvin Dubai, as the chefs realised that when people go shopping, they love to celebrate a purchase – and what better way to do that than with good food? It's the food, after all, that has earned Chris and Jeff their Michelin stars.

So, with rumours of the Michelin Guide coming to Dubai in the near future, what does he think is the winning combination?

"If you are sourcing and buying the best ingredients that you can, if you are cooking it as sympathetically as you can, if you can achieve great marriages in your flavours, and have a deft touch, simple presentation and serve the food in appropriate surroundings – and you do that every day, plate by plate, you won't go wrong," Chris concludes with a smile.


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