Over the last decade, Jason Atherton has been a very busy man. Within the first six months of his flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social opening in London, the British celebrity chef was awarded his first Michelin star. Clearly not one to rest on his laurels, Atherton has, over the years, successfully expanded his social dining concept across the globe, from New York to Sydney. Fast forward to the present and the culinary star now has a staggering 17 restaurants to his name worldwide.
Showcasing his “deformalised fine dining” to the emirate is Marina Social, a sleek venue tucked away within the glamorous surrounds of InterContinental Dubai Marina. Since it opened in 2015, the haunt has wasted no time in becoming a city favourite and is now a firm fixture on the emirate’s dining scene. In fact, you’ll often hear that visiting Atherton’s Marina Social is like a rite of passage in Dubai. And if you haven’t been yet, we suggest you make it a priority.
Every time the chef is in town, it’s culinary magic waiting to happen. Atherton is known to visit his Dubai outpost every few months to revamp the menu, adding an exciting new British classic or two, or even host a social gathering for foodies in town. And so when he visited last month, we decided to check out what’s new and were mighty pleased. Safe to say, when you visit, you’ll see why.
The moment you step inside, you’ll find yourself greeted by the buzz of fellow diners. Even on a weekday evening, you’ll spot a good mix of couples and groups enjoying a fun night out on the town, tucking into some of the finest European flavours you’ll find in Dubai, all in an extremely laid back setting.
The venue lends itself to a variety of occasions, so whether it’s date night, a birthday celebration or you’re simply looking for a reason to enjoy quality conversation over great food, Marina Social is the place to be. A sprawling terrace overlooks the waterways of the Marina and makes for a great spot during the cooler months. But when it’s too hot to venture outdoors, the cosy ambience inside, complete with mood lighting, is the ideal setting. And while we could go on about the interiors, it’s the food that’s undoubtedly the star of the show.
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous and would like to be surprised with what’s on your plate, we’d recommend the Feed Me set menu, where the chef takes his pick of menu favourites for your meal. But given that we were in to try Atherton’s greatest hits, our server for the evening suggested going à la carte. And so we did, getting our taste buds going with bites of wood-fired garlic flatbread as well as puffed sage and onion crackers, perfectly paired with a glass of crisp Prosecco. Served with a variety of cheesy and flavourful dips, it’s almost impossible to stop nibbling. But with the venue’s two most popular items set to grace our table next, we decided to save room.
No visit to Marina Social is complete without trying the pulled lamb pizza and the social burger. Far from the general idea that pizzas fill you up with tempting ingredients first and deep regret later, Atherton’s Italian specialties feel surprisingly light and pack in a blend of exciting flavour combinations. Sitting on sourdough bread, the melt-in-the-mouth pulled lamb was perfectly complemented by the creaminess of the buffalo ricotta, making every bite irresistible.
Our wine sommelier for the evening paired these decadent treats with a fine red port, which he promised would go extremely well with the blend of tender beef and veal bacon that makes up the delicious social burger.
On to our mains for the evening, the hand-rolled linguine, topped with fresh parmesan and autumn truffle is every pasta lover’s dream. Incredibly fresh yet indulgent, it’s sure to keep you coming back for more.
Given the sheer array of options, you are likely to go overboard while ordering your mains and might be half tempted to skip dessert. But when you’re at Marina Social, that’s not an option. So, we decided to share the apple crumble white chocolate cheesecake, which looks so much like gastronomic art, you’ll hardly want to cut into it. But when you do, from the moment the first bite touches your lips, you’ll be hooked.
While the remarkable cooking coming out of the kitchen was on point, it was definitely meeting the chef himself that was the highlight of the evening. Incredibly warm and down to earth, Atherton said, for him, it’s all about the experience and making sure every diner leaves with a wonderful memory. And we sure did!