Top chef Nathan Outlaw reveals Dubai restaurant opening

The Michelin-starred chef consulted his pal Jamie Oliver about joining forces with Burj Al Arab.

Robert Chilton March 28, 2016

Nathan Outlaw was doing very well in England, cooking simple and critically-acclaimed fish dishes at his three restaurants and gastropub, with three Michelin stars safely tucked in his chef’s jacket. 

But then one day he got a call from the general manager of the Burj Al Arab and everything changed.

“I thought it was a hoax,” Outlaw tells EDGAR with a chuckle. The hotel’s GM, Tony McHale, had eaten at one of Outlaw’s restaurants in Cornwall and loved it so much he wanted to employ his skills at the landmark property.

Outlaw flew to Dubai on a secret mission to meet McHale. “We had to keep it secret which was hard,” explains Outlaw. “Someone spotted me in the lobby of the Burj Al Arab – they’d seen me on British TV – and took a selfie and put it on social media. Suddenly friends back home started messaging me, asking what I was doing in Dubai.” 

Outlaw, 38, is renowned for seeking out the freshest fish for his restaurants in England and had reservations about finding the same quality of produce in the UAE. But after learning Dubai welcomes three flights a day laden with fresh fish from the UK, the dream became a reality. 

The other reservation for an independent chef like Outlaw was teaming up with a hotel giant like Jumeirah. “That's one of the things I asked straightaway,” he admits. “I'm a one man band, I have no backers. To get into bed with anybody in business you have to be careful so I was honest with them.”

He also called on his chef pals for advice. Outlaw has the likes of Heston Blumenthal, Jason Atherton, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver on speed dial, who all told him to go for it. 

Outlaw still has no name for the restaurant, which will open at the end of September. He’ll return to Dubai in July to start work on the menu.

“I want to make it comfortable and accessible,” he adds. “It’ll be a four-course set menu, AED 450 for lunch, and AED 650 for dinner. There’ll be four sections – raw and cured fish, shellfish, fish main courses, and dessert – with six dishes in each section. There are no rules with my food. It just has to taste good.” 

He’s been impressed by the ingredients available in Dubai, especially oils, the freshness of the spices, tahini and cous cous. The Dubai restaurant scene has also pleased him; he picked out La Serre, Coya, and Jean-Georges Kitchen as highlights.

Outlaw, a gentle giant standing at 6’5”, admits to feeling nervous about the launch at such an important hotel. “There are always niggles when you open a restaurant and the first couple of services are always ‘interesting’,” he laughs. “But my cooking style is simple so it should be pretty calm.”