The Waldorf Astoria brand name comes with a wealth of heritage and history, and so does its signature restaurant at its latest Dubai opening in DIFC.
Coming with a storied reputation from New York, the original Bull & Bear was a steakhouse of much renown with the city’s financial elite. Now in Dubai’s financial centre, it is trying to replicate that success while offering a more varied menu.
The Wall Street vibes are immediate upon entrance with the symbolic hand-forged, iron-clad bull and bear sculptures – reminiscent of the famous bull statue outside the New York stock exchange.
Front-of-house is managed by Orsi Halasz who says that Bull & Bear aims to be a place for people to come for any occasion “whether it’s a casual business lunch during the week or a celebratory dinner over the weekend”.
Understandably with the amount of competition surrounding them, Halasz says it’s vital that the restaurant leads the way with what she calls “true Waldorf service”, but just what exactly is that?
“Throughout the recruitment phase, we focused on assembling a hand-picked team of experienced managers and personable line staff, then trained them to deliver true Waldorf service - the Waldorf Astoria brand's graceful, anticipatory service.
“Embedded in the DNA of all Waldorf Astoria team members is a philosophy of understated luxury which allows guests to dine on excellent food with impeccable service in a relaxed yet chic environment. The diverse front-of-house team hope to deliver to the neighbourhood a favourite, go-to place for effortless yet luxurious dining,” Halasz explains.
The environment is certainly chic, and is what Halasz calls “a veritable Instagram paradise”. The interiors use a rich blue, gold, and black colour palette and incorporates a mix of timber, metal, and leather paired with contemporary furniture. In addition, the restaurant features floor to ceiling windows that wrap around the venue offering views of the city’s Downtown skyline.
Bull & Bear can seat 167 people at one time across its restaurant, terrace, and lounge space, and Halasz says the team have developed a playlist featuring jazz lounge music to fit the venue’s ambience.
To keep its offering fresh, says Halasz, the menu will be refreshed every season, while it offers a set business lunch menu for AED105 for two courses or AED135 for three courses, inclusive of tea or coffee.
It has also launched a weekend ‘lazy breakfast’ offering wich runs from 6:30am until 2pm and features a chef’s table selection of breakfast favourites as well as a variety of warm dishes from the a la carte menu at AED165.
The man behind the food at Bull & Bear is Italian chef Giovanni Pintore. While the concept takes much inspiration from its forebear in New York, while that could be classed as a more traditional steakhouse, Pintore’s restaurant has a much more eclectic menu.
He says: “At Bull & Bear, we have reimagined the traditional steakhouse menu from the original Bull & Bear once located at Waldorf Astoria New York into a more encompassing concept in Dubai featuring meat and more. Therefore on top of the classic grill elements, we offer a selection of imaginative interpretations of international cuisine using, as much as possible, the best locally produced ingredients. We are continuing the legacy of the original Bull & Bear by offering a variety of premium meat options and a fantastic wine list."
Among the dishes on the menu include the chef's take on dish-of-the-moment avocado featuring pickled avocado, cilantro, pomegranate, kalamata rice cracker, and gazapacho jelly. There's also a Sardinian fregola which Pintore describes as an "elevated pasta meets couscous" dish with cured beef ham, poached hen's egg, parmesan, and seasonal mushrooms.
Unsurprisingly with sustainability conscious Emma Banks as the Hilton VP, F&B strategy and development for EMEA above him, Pintore says he is committed to working with UAE-based suppliers to get locally produced ingredients whenever possible.
"We aim to get the best available ingredients in the market, from fruit to vegetables, seafood to cheese and a wide range of local organic products. For example, we offer Dibba Bay oysters sourced from the nearby Gulf of Oman, local organic tomatoes, local organic chicken, and micro herbs grown in a vertical farm.
"At the same time, we feel fortunate located in the centre of the world to be able to work with some of the most reputable suppliers from the east and west, who are able to source top quality ingredients from every corner of the world."
Pintore leads a brigade of 18 chefs representing 10 nationalities and says that the "multicultural and nurturing environment empowers each team member to learn from each other and hone their skills for continuous development".
Both Pintore and Halasz will be hoping that 2020 proves to be more of a bull market than a bear market for their concept.