Outlet 360°: Joe’s Backyard

Joe’s Backyard is bringing meats from all over the world to Dubai’s Festival City
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Sporting Chance: Relaxing chairs allow you to watch the football in comfort.
ITP Media Group
Sporting Chance: Relaxing chairs allow you to watch the football in comfort.
Big Braai: At 2.5m, the imported South African Braai can handle anything.
ITP Media Group
Big Braai: At 2.5m, the imported South African Braai can handle anything.

Front of House

Being away from Dubai’s more popular areas, such as Downtown, gives Joe’s Backyard the advantage of being able to give its customers breathtaking views of them instead. The Burj Khalifa glistens in the distance as general manager Lucian Rosu tells us how he believes the new Festival City concept will prosper in uncommon surroundings.

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It has been in soft launch mode for three months but now the word is out. Rosu says: “We kept it soft because a lot of things needed to be put in place. Now the people start coming because they are hearing about us. People are already booking for New Year’s eve which is amazing as we still haven’t gone full force on social media.”

Seating 200 across both indoor and outdoor areas, Rosu says it’s like “two separate venues” with people able to sit inside and watch sports on the big screen TVs or “go outside on the terrace for the rooftop experience”.

Even for those sitting inside, the excessive greenery means you still feel as though you could be sitting in a garden for the true ‘backyard’ experience whether indoors or out.

The centrepiece of the venue is a 2.5m braai, which will have a starring role as Rosu rolls out the Braai Brunch in the coming weeks. With a focus on traditional South African meat dishes, and lots of them, it aims to be just like having a barbecue in your own backyard, right down to the relaxed clothing and good music.

Rosu tells us he has no restrictions on the DJ who will have free reign to feel out the crowd and build up the atmosphere as he sees fit. It’s a venue-wide policy for the Joe’s Backyard staff, with Rosu encouraging them to be themselves with the customers.

“The staff needs to respect their personalities because it’s an amazing thing when they are interacting with our guests. It’s not the usual service from fine dining or something, it’s a place where people need to feel comfortable.”

Back of House

It’s not hard to find the aspect of Joe’s Backyard that sets it apart from other barbecue joints. Indeed, at 2.5m long it’s exceptionally hard to miss. Imported from South Africa, just five minutes in front of the braai was enough for Caterer Middle East to be scarpering from the intense heat. For executive chef Andrea Way Grandville, it’s a tool that allows him to create dishes superior to those in a normal kitchen

Having worked with French and Thai cuisine which Grandville says helped him to “open my palate”, he moved on to Australia, Texas, South America, and South Africa, all countries which play a big role in what he’s doing at the newly opened concept, with both meat and techniques coming from these nations.

He says: “Joe’s Backyard brings a little bit of the best all the countries I’ve been to. We select mainly the top quality but the secondary cuts. Other restaurants concentrate on the top cuts, we do the opposite, we bring back the secondary cuts that people don’t use and we concentrate on the techniques.

“With secondary cuts if you don’t have the technique and skills to cook it then usually they’ll tend to be dry or not the most tender. I bring the best out of them and I am able to give you a nice piece of meat with great flavour and you don’t pay a big price for it.”

Grandville points to the braai’s ability to bring out the natural smoky flavour of the meat, while his experience in Australia taught him the differences in using certain types of wood to cook with. “When we are smoking the fish and the meat we use two different kinds of wood. One is oak and one is olive tree. Olive tree is more delicate for fish especially.”

Pointing to his vast experience in countries well known for their barbecuing, Grandville says he brings “quality, authenticity, and simplicity” to the role and this will be evident in the just launching Braai Brunch with “typical South African dishes including potijekos, boerewors, the desserts, all traditional from South Africa. We’ll even bring the beer from South Africa and we’re making our own biltong”.

It’s not all international fare at Joe’s Backyard however, with Grandville engaging the support of local outfit The Mattar Farm for fresh sausages including lamb and zaatar, beef chorizo, and chicken and cheese. Grandville even speaks of hosting a collaboration brunch between the two of them.

For now though Grandville is working with a multi-national team at Joe’s Backyard, something which hasn’t always been easy but he feels he’s found the right mix.

He says: “So far it’s been very challenging to find the right stability within the team in the kitchen. I’m actually really happy because I have a mix of nationalities within the team in the kitchen. It’s better because everyone brings new ideas, everyone brings the best out of each country.”

Plans are afoot for future Joe’s Backyards already, with Grandville saying expansion plans are part of the reason why the menu is simple in its nature — so it can be easily duplicated at each concept.

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