For months, the wonders of The Guild were concealed behind a charming illustrated hoarding that offered an intriguing glimpse of what lay inside this highly-anticipated spot at the base of the towering Dubai skyscraper, ICD Brookfield Place. Two years after work first began on the space, the curtain has been raised, and Dubai’s grandest – and most ambitious – new dining room is finally ready to reveal all.
The brainchild of Australian chef Tom Arnel, whose company EatX is also responsible for the likes of Tom&Serg, Hawkerboi, Byron Bathers Club and Sum of Us, The Guild marks the company’s first foray into fine dining. In doing so, Arnel has pledged to rip up the rule book, creating a venue unlike anything the city has seen before.
The Guild is at once several venues under one roof and one big, free-flowing, coherent space. Inside, there’s a patisserie, a brasserie, a champagne bar, a seafood restaurant, a grand dining room, and a piano bar. Oh, and a chocolatier.
Separated into three concepts, or “acts”, as this theatrical venue refers to them, The Nurseries was the first to open at the end of July, and the first thing you see when arriving at The Guild. Flanked by heavy red velvet curtains, which stay open during the day, and are firmly drawn at night, this foliage-filled boulevard is inspired by the cobbled streets of New York’s Tribeca, filled with cosy corners and indistinct chatter. More than 300 plants, from towering Birds of Paradise and Ficus trees to hanging ivy, fill almost every surface of this space, creating a pathway through to the rest of The Guild beyond. Within The Nurseries, you’ll also find The Potting Shed, a conversatory-esque nook, filled with mismatched floral seating and hanging plants. During the day, this is a spot for breakfast, Bloody Marys, and leisurely lunches, while after-dark, you’ll find ICD Brookfield’s afterwork crowd sipping champagne cocktails and enjoying indulgent evening bar snacks, served by white-tuxedo-wearing waitstaff.
Turn the corner at the end of this leafy boulevard, and the full scale of The Guild (all 20,000 square feet of it) is revealed. Directly ahead lies The Rockpool, which is as literal as it sounds. Here, diners will be seated around a living rockpool, housing North Atlantic lobsters, brown crab and oysters. You’ll also find a live shucking bar, the day’s catch displayed on ice, and glass-fronted aquariums stacked to the ceiling containing live king crab and Western Australian crayfish.
The Rockpool overlooks The Guild’s main event, The Salon, a vast dining room where white-clothed tables sit beneath crystal chandeliers, and chefs get to work from large open red-brick wood-fire ovens, inspired by the grill rooms of New York and Europe. The menu here, headed by executive chef Paul Gajewski, is designed for celebration and sharing, with cuts including Japanese Wagyu, USDA Prime and Australian Wagyu, as well as whole roasted chicken, roasted bone marrow and garlic snails, with caper and lemon butter.
“The Salon is my favourite space,” Arnel says. “I always wanted to have a big open fire wood kitchen that makes you feel like you're sitting around a campfire. And that’s what I feel here when I close my eyes, I could be outside sitting around the fire.”
Those familiar with London’s Chiltern Firehouse will see glimpses of it peppered throughout – no coincidence, as Arnel worked with the same architecture firm, Archer Humphryes Architects, on the project.
“David Archer was the perfect man to work with,” Arnel says. “He really understood my aim of becoming a food and ingredient-focused restaurant, where abundance of ingredients plays a key role. Instead of hiding the ingredients back, we're really putting them at the forefront. With the tanks in The Rockpool area, you can see what we're cooking with and all the kitchens are open. It's a really wonderful experience to sit in the middle of it all, you don’t know where to look – there's so much going on around you, yet it still feels intimate and cozy. I wanted to walk into the building and find something that made my heart race, and it does. It was a really big challenge, but I think we’ve pulled it off.”
Together, The Rockpool and The Salon make up The Guild’s second act, and are open for bookings from Friday, 8 September. Its third and final act, The Aviary, a concealed piano and cocktail bar at the back of the space, will open in October.
For Arnel, The Guild marks a new chapter for Dubai’s dining scene as a place where you can come for lunch, stay for a drink, move through to dinner, and end with a night cap around a piano.
“There is nowhere like it, where you can literally start at 8am and finish at 3am, if you want,” he says. “It's a destination for all occasions, which is really, really unique in this city.”