Last Bite: Simon Rimmer
How involved are you with The Scene brand?
Originally it was a straight licensing deal where they would use my name but it has become so much more, I’m far more involved than that. It felt ridiculous that my contract was to come out twice a year, do PR, and oversee menu development and produce recipes. I wanted to do more so I became a much bigger part of it, and I still am. While in theory it is still a licensing deal, in practice I go far above and beyond my contract because I love it.
Why did you choose Abu Dhabi for the next The Scene?
We’ve been looking for three and a half years to find somewhere and Abu Dhabi makes sense. I think it feels almost like Dubai did ten years ago. It feels like its becoming a far more desirable place to live. The food and drinks scene is very embryonic, it’s still quite small there, but it feels like there’s good potential. Obviously the footfall is going to be smaller, but again there’s plenty of bars there and plenty of hotel catering but there’s that gap in the middle that we have in Dubai and I think the same is true in Abu Dhabi.
How will Abu Dhabi fare compared to Dubai?
I think you have to go into Abu Dhabi with a different mindset in terms of expectations. It’s never going to do the turnover [The Scene in Dubai] does, I don’t think it’s ever going to have that tremendous footfall and tourists coming to the same level, but I think that if you go in with that knowledge you can have a really successful business. You want to feel that the people have ownership of it and customers feel like it is theirs and if we can get that in Abu Dhabi that will make it a success.
How do you find the restaurant scene in the UAE?
It’s great. It’s far more advanced than I thought it would be. When I came out I assumed it was going to be very hotel based, and a lot of it still is, but there’s good diversity. Places like The Maine I think are cracking. They’re different to us but similar in that it’s kind of casual and fun and I think there’s a lot more exciting things going on there. I think [the UAE] is changing. In the four years that we’ve been here it’s upped its game a lot. I think there’s great variety.
Can we expect to see future The Scene restaurants around the world?
Undoubtedly. In our ideal world there are expat communities all over Asia, the Middle East, that we could do. If this little The Scene in Abu Dhabi is successful it maybe gives us the opportunity to do another one, maybe we could do more in the suburbs with different expectations. So wait and see.
If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
In the pretend world I’d be a footballer. I would have had a tremendous career being a Liverpool legend. But I always say if I hadn’t been a chef I would do what you do. As a kid I always liked the idea of being a journalist and I still think now what if all of a sudden I needed a new job? I think I’d do that.