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m i l l i o n a i r E T R AV E L

Water’s edge

Tales of

love and caviar

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m i l l i o n a i r E T R AV E L

Chef de Cuisine Martin J Grabner presides over what is arguably the most romantic restaurant in Dubai. A visit to Pierchic is the equivalent of a journey of gastronomy and history all rolled into one


text Shalini Seth

urely, Dubai is more about the future than about history. Even so, a pier – with or without Meryl Streep standing at its edge – evokes legends. As you walk along the wooden wharf leading to Pierchic, at Jumeirah’s Al Qasr, you are already dredging up tales from the past. “There used to be a pier here when they built the new hotel at the site of the old Chicago Beach Hotel. I think it held some childhood memories for a member of the royal family, so it was never torn down,” someone tells us. Once-upon-a-time blogs about Dubai have their bit to add. And instead of the ‘French Lieutenant’s Woman’, it is about oil futures. Unverified legend has it that Pierchic stands at the site where the first oil pressure vessel, called a Hortonsphere, was first floated into the sea in the late Sixties. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel was built in 1997, in the shadow of the original Chicago Beach Hotel, which was later imploded. Chef de Cuisine Martin J Grabner is a perfect fit at what is perhaps the most romantic restaurant in Dubai. He thinks up innovative ways to present the ring for guests who keep proposing at the Pier, takes care of the regulars who order the same dish each time whether or not it is on the menu, and makes sure that the salad stays orderly. With food that is “modern French with my influence on cooking”, he keeps the chic in Pierchic. “Why should the salad be all casual-like. I like it neat, well laid out,” he says, showing us the sparsely laid-out creation. While daytime guests can and do wander in dressed in casual beach wear, at night everything, including the tables and chairs, are dressed up. The salad with Grabner’s dressing, though, remains the same.


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millionairE CULINAIRE

The wooden interiors mimic the sea

82 ) milliONAiRE

millionairE CULINAIRE

What changes constantly is the view. The day we visited Pierchic, it was cloudy and the colours of the sky were magnificent. You could stare at the Burj Al Arab at one side, or gaze into the distance out to sea. “At night when you look down at the blue underwater lights you can see all sorts of fish. Throw a bit of bread and there will be a hammour,” Grabner tells us. He gets his supplies from Europe. But certain guests will bring their own catch to Pierchic. “They go fishing on the boat and we cook it for them, if they ask, for a cover charge,” Grabner says. At night, the entire 300 metres of quay is lined with flaming torches. Cold towels welcome you at the end of the pier and you can opt to sit outside or indoors. The Arabic-style but minimalist wooden interiors have the bar area as a highlight. Themed on Dubai, the colour changes every 10 seconds or so. After all, not everyone wants to stare at the water, the sky, the beach or the Burj. Whimsical guests are rather the order of the day. Those who discovered Pierchic choose to return – again and again. “There are about four guests from Saudi Arabia who call and book about a week in advance. The request is always the same. They want wild sea bass with skin on,” Grabner says. Roasted John Dory is another favourite. And even though he proposes to change the menu again by March, Grabner promises that there will

Chilled lobster salad with seared scallops and soft poached quail egg

Food with a view

With food that is “modern french With my influence on cooking,” he keeps the chic in pierchic

always be cold and hot platters at Pierchic (trout, crab, prawns marinated in raspberry, and poached Atlantic lobster, amongst other delicacies), along with a seafood cocktail he is planning. The Arabian chilled seafood platter comes with Iranian caviar and traditional accompaniments. It won’t do to be distracted by food at Pierchic. Often there are proposals. “Sometimes guests want to propose and take us into confidence. Once we created this smoky arrangement with dry ice and rose petals to keep the ring in and sent it to the table,” says Grabner. While he doesn’t keep track of how many proposals are accepted, he has been a part of four or five in his two years at Pierchic. And those are only the ones who wanted help.


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