x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The 'good old days' of journalism are set for a comeback

A little bit of London's posh West End has come to Dubai, and what a good thing that is. Wheeler's, the 150-year-old fish restaurant in the British capital's swanky St James's, has opened up in the DIFC.

A little bit of London's posh West End has come to Dubai, and what a good thing that is.

Wheeler's, the 150-year-old fish restaurant in the British capital's swanky St James's, has opened up in the Dubai International Financial Centre, or rather "the culinary heart of Dubai's financial district", as its website says.

You shouldn't take it from the website, you should go and visit. The DIFC's Gate Village really is becoming an epicurean delight, and Wheeler's is a welcome addition to an area already bursting with gourmet attractions for lovers of fine food.

Back in the "good old days" of British business journalism, one of the real perks of the job was the fact that you were expected to entertain sources in a certain amount of style.

These sources were often financial professionals, captains of industry and other business leaders, and had become accustomed to some of the best food in the world in the course of their jet-setting executive lifestyles.

It was part of my job as a senior business journalist that these standards should not be lowered. You could hardly treat the head of an august merchant bank to lunch in the staff canteen, could you? It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it, and I had three favourite venues for this expense account-fuelled fun.

The old Savoy Grill - strategically placed between the big corporate HQs of the West End, the financial powerhouses of the City, and Fleet Street - was for power lunching. You went there to see and be seen, although the food was pretty good too.

Le Gavroche, farther west in Mayfair, was where I took sources purely to impress them. The food was exquisite, the setting impressive, and the bill invariably enormous. After three hours and hundreds of pounds at Le Gav, any tight-lipped source was guaranteed to be relaxed.

Wheeler's was where I went for good food and fun. Sparkling decor, great food and drink, and an eclectic mix of clientele that meant you seldom ended up sitting beside another boring business duo or, heaven forbid, another journalist.

If the one in DIFC gets anywhere near the standards set by its London parent, I'll be very happy. It hasn't been open long, and the masterchef Marco Pierre White (who runs the London venue) hasn't visited yet, so perhaps it's what they call a "soft launch".

But the few times I've been there for lunch have been intriguing appetite-whetters. It has all the makings of a regular venue.

 

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It was good to see Aidan Birkett back in the UAE recently. "The man who fixed Dubai", as I called him in print (not that he necessarily agreed with that title) in the dark days of 2010, when he led the restructuring of Dubai World, was in the emirate for one of his quarterly commitments as a non-executive director of Dubai International Capital, and what good form he was in (in contrast to that of his football team, Newcastle United, who recently lost to my team, Tottenham Hotspur.)

He's all geared up to celebrate his 60th birthday back in the United Kingdom this coming weekend. A big chorus of "happy birthday Aidan" is appropriate from all in Dubai.

 

fkane@thenational.ae