Near+Far’s best restaurants explores the very best culinary options in the Middle East and the world. The series offers top restaurant tips and reviews for those looking for the best restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and further afield. Here we visit The Guild, Dubai’s most beautiful and ambitious new dining destination.
The Guild Near+Far Rating: 9/10
Why book The Guild
As far as new restaurants in Dubai go, few are as impressive – and long-awaited – as The Guild. The stunning new space opened its doors at ICD Brookfield Place this summer, elevating the towering DIFC skyscraper to new heights and cementing it as a world-class dining destination. Hidden behind a wall of greenery and thick red velvet curtain, The Guild takes guests on a journey through multiple dining destinations under one roof – akin to wandering the cobbled lanes of New York City‘s Tribeca or London’s Soho. This London-meets-NYC vibe is partly down to its head-spinningly fabulous interiors – the work of Archer Humphryes Architects (the team behind London’s perenially cool Chiltern Firehouse). Like Firehouse, The Guild is whipping Dubains into a frenzy: creating an insatiable buzz among the city’s well-heeled crowd and pretty young things.
The concept comes from ambitious Australian chef Tom Arnel and his Eatx group – a homegrown powerhouse famed for its concepts like Tom&Serg, Common Grounds, Hawkerboi and Byron Bathers Club. The Guild makes a new era of fine dining for the group, and while a far cry from its casual concepts, there’s a delightful slice of taste of this in the all-day spaces (think freshly roasted coffee and baked sourdough). The Guild unfolds over three concepts – known as acts – and various ‘scenes’ within them, like a scarlet-hued espresso bar and sultry cigar lounge. As far as this reviewer can say, all acts receive a standing ovation.
The Guild interiors: 10/10
Venturing behind the theatrical curtain, guests enter into a dramatic, fairytale-esque world of 300 plants, dazzling lights and cosy corners. The entire venue is as big as an aeroplane hanger, and the experience seems to forever unfold – giving you an excuse to return again and again. The first stop is The Nurseries – a brightly lit all-day cafe and brasserie filled with greenery where a taste of Eatx’s coffee shop empire can be sampled – albeit an impossibly glamorous one. A polished espresso bar serves the brand’s house-roasted beans, and dishes include egg dishes, salads and sandwiches. Refreshing for such a high-brow space, there are acai bowls, oat milk, matcha and freshly pressed juices.
The journey continues to the Potting Shed – a sunken greenhouse-inspired spot with mood lighting, cosy corners and hodgepodge Victoriana furniture – tended to by white-tuxed staff. It’s the perfect spot for an intimate date, contrasting to the more vibey, high-octane bar just outside – its own enchanted forest with nooks and high tables for groups to gather over champagne.
The Guild’s towering greenery lines a path guiding you through the space, and next on the journey is The Rockpool – a nautical moment with living pool home to Atlantic lobsters, oysters, brown crabs and sea urchins. Glass tanks with king crab and crayfish and a colourful catch of the day stands make the space feel like an upscale coastal hangout. It’s the more casual of two dinner spots, the shiniest of them being The Salon.
The star of the show, and giving serious main character energy, The Salon unfolds across a mood-lit dining room where chefs delight guests with roaring fires and impeccably dressed waiters flit between white-clothed tables. Headed up by chef Paul Gajewski – an alumnus of Noma, Guy Savoy and L’Atelier in Paris – the seductive space is reminiscent of American grill rooms with plenty of theatrics to match. Soon to open is The Aviary – a hidden spot with retro-vintage allure, a grand piano and a dedicated whiskey and cigar alcove whisking you away to NYC’s subterranean jazz or timeless hotel bars.
The Food: 9/10
The Guild’s menus span international dining and comfort-food classics with a focus on indulgence. Eatx has made a name for itself for its highest quality produce and foodie experience – and this same ethos transfers to The Guild. The brand’s house-roasted coffee is served alongside its freshly baked sourdough and hand-churned butter. Breakfast is a delightful mix of the indulgent and the virtuous; think eggs en cocotte, pancakes, Valrhona chocolate porridge and organic avocado and eggs. Lunch sees a ‘menu du jour’ delight with brasserie dishes like Caesar Salad, quiche, club sandwiches and burgers, while a ‘menu rapide’ business lunch (from AED119) is one of the most affordable in the city (a real treat given its allure). Bar bites are on the heavy side – juicy sliders, lots of deep-fried delights and interesting creations like polenta cacio e pepe, and cocktails are flawless, thanks to a meticulous beverage programme headed by Vitor Lourenço (of Rosewood London acclaim).
The Salon and Rockpool share the same menu, set to delight meat and fish lovers. Crab, salmon, oysters, caviar, razor clams, langoustines (and much more) are available, alongside stand-out dishes like beef tartare – mixed tableside – and vitello tonnato. Mains include – arguably – the best steak in Dubai (choose from USDA Prime and Japanese or Australian Wagyu), and plenty of moreish sides like roast potatoes, duck fat fries and lobster mac and cheese. Vegetarians and those after something lighter are also well catered for – with a selection of stand-out pasta dishes and flatbreads baked in the roaring open ovens. Make sure to leave room for the Campfire Cheesecake…
The Vibe: 9/10
Buzzing and high-octane, yet intimate, exclusive and peaceful – The Guild manages to encapsulate the effervescence of modernity of Dubai but with a sprinkle of European and old-world American glamour. By day, creatives and smartly dressed types come for meetings, work from cosy nooks and sip on its famous coffee, while come evening, a shiny after-work ICD crowd descends to create an intoxicating buzz, which ebbs and flows throughout the night. The Salon remains vibey whatever the day, so don’t think twice about booking on a Monday.
The Guild is what Dubai has been missing – something so impossibly beautiful and well-designed, rivalling venues in the world’s coolest cities and creating its own fairytale world beneath a curtain. Whether after a coffee, cocktail, or nightcap, with a laptop, on a date or catch up with friends, it will undoubtedly delight and keep you coming back for more. This set a new era for Arnell and his Eatx team – and shows that anything they touch, does turn to gold.