It is easy to dismiss yet another big restaurant opening in Dubai as simply more of the same, but occasionally one comes along that gives diners something fresh and new.
Folly by Nick and Scott recently opened in Madinat Jumeirah, on the site vacated by Rivington Grill. The chefs behind it are Nick Alvis and Scott Price, previously of Table 9. Along with operations manager Viktorija Paplauskiene, they have created nothing less than a better way of dining.
The menu is split into three lists of eight based on the price of the dishes: Dh45, Dh70 and Dh110. The idea is you pick a couple from the lower-priced groups and one from the most expensive.
Like superior tapas, the portions are smaller than regular starter-main-dessert options, and ordering this way makes much more sense.
Of course, you can also splurge and order more than three dishes, effectively creating your own tasting menu.
While many places in the UAE still push the gratingly ubiquitous sharing concept – with which you are at the mercy of other people’s choices and whether or not the staff can be bothered to bring dishes out in any logical order – Folly’s approach feels more modern and is a far more enjoyable way of having a meal.
Of course, this would be a moot point if the food was nothing special – in fact it is rather great and, like the concept, modern and fun.
The dishes are simple, but not obvious, offering things you might spot on other menus. Crucially, they are not overloaded with too many ingredients, three or four at most, thus allowing the natural flavours to speak for themselves.
Monkfish cheeks with paprika and salted lemon (Dh45), Devon crab, basil and seaweed (Dh70) and their Stracciatella with tomato and aniseed (Dh70) all deliver a fantastic hit of flavour without overstaying their welcome.
The sage eggy bread with onion and spelt (Dh45) is the type of dish you will crave days later, while the sirloin of beef with potato gratin and leeks (Dh110) shows you can put together a smaller version of a traditional main and still have it be a filling hit.
Rather than hacking your way through half a cow, you get more than enough to satisfy, then move onto something else. It is a menu full of that sounds good-type dishes.
The dessert menu has six options, including the sublime raspberries and cream (Dh36), and rhubarb and custard (Dh36), which elevates the traditional British pairing into the realm of something special.
As for the venue, the interior decor of exposed brick and wood works in that it puts you in a distinctive space, away from the Madinat with its endless beige and dithering tourists. If you want the views, eat on the terrace or a “communal table” in a newly created area. There is even a lovely private table-for-two in the windtower outside with Burj Al Arab views – but a table inside adds to the feeling that you are not in a typical Dubai restaurant.
Speaking of which, many of them are accused of being wildly overpriced – often with some justification, despite the counterargument that most of food must be flown in and rents are sky high – but here at Folly, the prices are more than competitive. There is also a three-course weekday lunch menu for Dh110, which is notably good value.
Big restaurants open all the time and, often, the most popular ones are just the newest – we are fickle like that in Dubai – but Folly really is one of the best places to eat in the city.
It is fresh and inventive, with a concept that works, in a great setting and offering decent value for money which is an increasingly rare combination anywhere, let alone the UAE.
• Our meal for two at Folly by Nick and Scott, Madinat Jumeirah, cost Dh412. To book, call 04 430 8535. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito.