Located in the heart of Dubai’s Media City, Verve Bar & Brasserie is a Nick & Scott headline act but with more beneath the surface
Front of house
With Folly by Nick & Scott, Nick Alvis and Scott Price fully established themselves on the Dubai dining scene. Eclectic and experimental, it was a departure from their years of fine-dining training under the likes of Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. Now Dubai’s dynamic duo have returned to their roots with Verve Bar & Brasserie at Grand Plaza Movenpick.
“It’s more of a classic experience, like what we used to do in London,” explains Price.
Looking around, it’s easy to see what he means. Verve oozes elegance, from the white tablecloths to the luxurious bar area, it’s befitting the five star status of the hotel — Media City’s first.
As with Folly, it’s a collaboration with Naim Maadad’s Gates Hospitality, with the three of them taking their time to select the perfect location for this next venture.
Unlike Folly however, it isn’t strictly a Nick & Scott joint. While they will be overseeing it, and have designed the menu, and been deeply involved, they’ll be taking as much of a backseat as they can, with GM Francesco Carbone and head chef Jorge Grande the main boots on the ground.
Carbone aims to introduce top quality service, in keeping with the surroundings, while allowing customers to also see Verve as somewhere they can come for a casual drink or snacks, rather than solely for a top-end meal.
“Our approach is polished,” he says. “We don’t want to have stiff service, we want to be very approachable, but with high standards. Tablecloths, yes, guerridon service, yes, just to take us back a bit to the classics.
“It’s a new area where we are located: Media City. We are surrounded by big companies and we have a lot of things happening. After work you can pop in and have a little bar bite, have a happy hour drink, then maybe come back the next day for a formal lunch or dinner.”
The 80-cover restaurant has plans to add an outdoor terrace once the worst of Dubai summer is over, while there are also private dining rooms available. Live music will be a regular occurrence says Carbone, with more activations including a brunch also lined up.
Having started his career in the bar, Carbone doesn't underestimate its importance, and believes Verve is in safe hands with Keagan Van Dyk as bar manager. “We understand each other and we work with the kitchen. Today it’s about ingredients, not just about on the rocks or straight up. You need to go a little bit further.”
Carbone hopes that a collaborative spirit across front- and back-of-house will steer Verve in the right direction.
Back of house
While Alvis and Price are always likely to garner the attention at a new concept due to their reputation in Dubai, Verve’s head chef Jorge Grande isn’t without experience of his own.
The Honduran worked under Gaggan Anand for the past three years, including as head chef of his Bangkok steakhouse Meatilicious, and worked in Peru before that.
He’s coming into a concept where the menu has been designed by Alvis and Price, drawing of course on much of their past experience in the UK. So for Grande, Verve is as much a chance to learn the art of modern European cuisine as it is to show off his own talents.
“We’re not going to do over elaborate dishes,” he tells us. “We’re concentrating more on the flavour, the seasoning, and ensuring we have really nice produce, always fresh.”
Price confirms that the menu will look very familiar, saying it’s “more like what we used to do in London. We spent years working the classics, terrines, that sort of things. And we’re doing beef wellington. We spent years learning these things.” He thinks “people will struggle with what to choose because there’s a lot of dishes that people like, a lot of classics are in there.”
Simple and relatable, but done to the highest standard, is the ethos at Verve.
Price says: “There’s an elegance and a finesse to the food that fits the venue. It’s like traditional fine dining, so everything done is nice and clean.”
“It’s white china, shiny plates, it’s like where we started a long time ago,” adds Alvis. “It’s got to look simple but striking.”
With a strong support system in the UAE, there’s been no problem finding the suppliers required to get what they need for Verve, despite it being a departure from Folly and other venture The Lion. And attendees of the Caterer Middle East Conference, where Alvis and Price both spoke on sustainability, will note that Verve introduces a system to allow the production of drinking water which will be served for free on the tables.
It’s the first time that Grande has been responsible for a large kitchen team, and even with Price and Alvis overlooking things, the buck stops with him. But he’s excited about the challenge. Although it’s an international team, Grande says that “in a kitchen everyone is the same: same culture, same religion, same everything”.
The kitchen itself brings its own challenges. With the space fully designed before Gates Hospitality took it over, the Verve team had to make do with what was there — in this case two kitchens, one upstairs and one downstairs, with no means of communication other than a commis on the pass.
In the end Alvis sums it up by saying “people will have to come here because it’s better than everywhere else for the same sort of price.”