I feel like I’ve been revealing all of my secrets and revelations recently. What I haven’t eaten, what I dislike and where I haven’t been. And I’m about to do it again. This is the first time I have ever eaten in a Jason Atherton restaurant. I know, you can wipe that shock horror look off your face. I don’t really have any reason as to why, especially given the magnitude of them in London but all I can say is that after experiencing his newest venture Marina Social in the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. I can’t wait to explore the rest.
Jason Atherton’s Social restaurants are all about deformalised dining. A mix of fine-dining and relaxed service. People are dressed up, all the glamour is still there – but somehow they’ve managed to remove all of the stuffiness. Even the entrance evokes that. Simple and casual but with a nod to design and something exciting, with those huge wooden doors and melting blue bench.
Those seeking expertly crafted cocktails can head to The Social Room where an army of mixologists are ready to whip up new creations and classic favourites. But the main dining room is where the magic really happens. A huge space with an open kitchen and absolutely stunning view over the Dubai Marina. Tables are quite literally perched on the edge overlooking the bright lights of Dubai.
We opted for the 4 course ‘munchies’ menu priced at 450AED (approx £90) which given the quality and location it seemed an absolute bargain and portion sizes were very large. First out was wood fired garlic flat bread with a side of slow cooked garlic for spreading and dips of caponata and pistachio & feta. A perfect and very enjoyable start to our meal.
One of Marina Social’s signature dishes was this Italian beef tomato. The large tomato had been peeled and blanched to give it its soft texture and then filled with creamy burrata. It’s then drizzled with thick 25 years aged balsamic and a sprinkling of tomato salt. It was utter heaven. I also loved the cold chargrilled octopus with piquillo pepper piperade and salsa verde. Very well cooked and packed with flavour.
One very lovely surprise from our surprise menu was the duck leg agnolotti with white onion purée, duck crumble and cooking juices. The latter incredibly rich and very meaty. I’d actually not heard of agnolotti before, but it’s essentially a form of ravioli I discovered. My least favourite dish was the cod loin with palourde clams, cauliflower, lovage and samphire. There was nothing particularly wrong with it and all very well cooked, but I felt it lacked a little excitement in terms of both presentation and flavour.
Star of the entire evening was the so-called main courses. We were so full by this point and really had to find the room, but I’m so glad we did. Three gigantic chargrilled tiger prawns covered in garlic butter and served with a side of pak choi and chilli crab dressing. Easily the best prawns I’ve eaten in 2017 and a reason alone for me returning to Marina Social. The same could be said for the Black Onyx beef ribeye. I’ve not been so lucky with good beef in Dubai if I’m perfectly honest – until now that is. I can still taste and smell that smokiness which ran through it like silk.
I must also apologies for my rather poor photos, but not wanting to spoil the experience for others around with my bright flash, I was battling with the darkness of the night. Though on the flip side it was very romantic. The Greek yogurt mousse with roasted pear and coco nib crumble was the most surprising of our desserts and one I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. A revelation if you will and one that I’d love to experience again. Better still was the Black Forest chocolate bar, sprinkled with cookie crumble and a scoop of cherry ripple ice cream.
A long overdue visit to a Jason Atherton restaurant, Marina Social has really cemented my enthusiasm and trust for this celebrity chef and I can’t wait to explore more in the Social Group. Dubai has many good restaurants but so far I think this may be the most impressive I have visited. The views are magnificent, the food is simple but perfectly executed and the service impeccable. While it’s not Jason cooking in the kitchen, chef-patron Tristin Farmer is doing wonders and I can’t wait to explore more of it again soon.
NB: I was invited to review and my meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.