Dubai has another new dining venue, and you certainly won't go hungry at Grand Beirut, which recently opened in Silicon Oasis. Because, as guests are waiting for their meal to arrive, they can check out its olive oil and vinegar tasting display.
Touted as a first of its kind in the country, an entire tasting wall stocks a range of unique oil and vinegar flavours, from avocado to lemon and basil-infused creations to more niche varieties such as white truffle and raspberry. The virgin olive oil has been brought in from the fields of El Koura in northern Lebanon.
Eighty per cent of the infusions are done in-house, says Danny Kattar, general manager at MBT Restaurant Management, the group behind the enterprise.
“The olive oils are heated to a specific temperature, the flavours are added in and they are kept at said temperature for about 45 minutes,” he explains.
“We then keep it in room temperature for about a day to let the flavours sink in properly. Guests can have a taste with our speciality bread or add a little to a salad.”
Olive oil wall aside, there’s plenty more to this restaurant, from the colourful wall murals to the greenery and the hand-painted musical instruments that hang from the ceiling. Even the chairs feature an avant-garde mishmash of colours.
Niveen Ibrahim, the parent company's chief operating officer, says no expenses have been spared when designing the interiors for the home-grown brand. “We went with the trend of something that is out of the ordinary, Instagrammable,” she says.
“But also, it pays tribute to the art, culture, music and greenery of Lebanon.”
The menu also pays homage to the Levantine country. As Kattar puts it: “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is not a fusion restaurant. But what we will be doing is looking at traditional Lebanese dishes and finding ways to enhance the flavour.”
Take for example the mkhattara, a dish of poached eggs on spiced hash brown halloumi, or the shanklish fondue, with oven-melted cheese and roasted tomatoes.
Dessert is another indulgent affair. The Grand Beirut mille feuille offers a blend of melting muhalabiyeh over crispy kunafa layers, while halawet el jibin comes topped with Lebanese ashta ice cream.
Meanwhile, purists will be able to find all the classics, such as hummus, moutabel, hot and cold mezze favourites, salads and mains. Kattar says the idea is to have something for everyone, including traditionalists.
Grand Beirut is still in its soft opening phase, but there are big plans ahead for the brand.
Ibrahim confirms there will be three more openings this year. The next branch is scheduled to open in The Galleria, Abu Dhabi in August, while another outlet is planned to launch in time for Expo 2020 Dubai, and a fourth branch will open in the capital's Al Qana in December.
Each outlet will offer a unique feature; the olive oil and vinegar wall is exclusive to Dubai Silicon Oasis, but customers can expect something new in the other branches. While there will be subtle changes to the interiors as well, “the DNA of the brand will remain the same”, says Ibrahim.
It’s all in line with their lofty goal: to franchise Grand Beirut and open branches across the world.
“We are big believers of homegrown brands in the UAE," says Ibrahim. "We want to introduce this concept to other markets in the future."