x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Gordon Ramsay comes off the Dubai menu

Celebrity chef ends partnership with Verre in Dubai, his first international restaurant.

Celebrity chef ends partnership with Verre, his first international restaurant which opened in 2001 at the Hilton Dubai Creek hotel. Charles Crowell / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Celebrity chef ends partnership with Verre, his first international restaurant which opened in 2001 at the Hilton Dubai Creek hotel. Charles Crowell / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gordon Ramsay is terminating his partnership with Verre in Dubai, the British celebrity chef's first overseas restaurant.

The move follows the closure of several Ramsay restaurants in recent years, including in Cape Town and London, after losses for Gordon Ramsay Holdings during the downturn pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy.

"After a regular review of our commercial operations, we have decided, with Verre, Dubai, that the time is right to end our consultancy agreement with them," Gordon Ramsay Holdings said.

The television celebrity chef, famed for his bad temper and expletive-riddled outbursts as much as for his culinary skills, opened the restaurant in 2001 at the Hilton Dubai Creek hotel.

The Verre restaurant will cease operating under Ramsay's name after October 28, the hotel said.

"If you go back in time, there was nothing quite like Gordon Ramsay here," said Stefan Bregof the food and beverage consultancy Tribe Restaurant Creators in Abu Dhabi. "He was the first, and after him came Locatelli, Rostang, Nobu, and Gary Rhodes. All these names followed him."

Location is likely to be a major factor in the decision to close the restaurant, analysts said.

"He's in Old Dubai," Mr Breg said. "Back in the day, that was a hot part of town and Dubai has changed. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him resurface somewhere else at some point. It's not an indication of Gordon falling off a cliff, or Hilton changing their strategy. It just makes sound business sense."

Rising food and commodity prices would not have helped, although profit margins are higher for fine-dining restaurants. "The food costs are an issue," Mr Breg said. "Transport costs are one of the main issues. We fly-in the vast majority of our quality produce here."

Restaurants launched by Gordon Ramsay Holdings just before the onset of the global economic downturn as part of an ambitious international expansion plan quickly ran into trouble, resulting in a loss of £4.3 million (Dh24.9m) in the year to August 2008.

Last year, Mr Ramsay's father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson, was fired as the chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holdings amid an ongoing feud.

Scott Price, Verre's executive chef, and Nick Alvis, the head chef, said in a statement: "Gordon gave us a fantastic opportunity to run Verre and we've been very grateful for his and his team's support. It's time for a new challenge as Dubai is a great place with a constantly evolving dining scene and we're now working on an exciting new project which will be unveiled soon."

A year ago, Ramsay was in town to launch a "chef's table" concept at Verre as part of a redevelopment of the restaurant.

Mr Breg said there was still scope for further development of celebrity-branded and upmarket restaurants in Dubai.

"If you were to draw up a world league of heavyweight celebrity chefs, Dubai has probably edged itself into the top towns," he said. "That league would be headed up by Tokyo, London, New York, so suddenly Dubai's a player in that field."

A Dubai branch of The Ivy opened this year and a Hakkasan restaurant is expected to open in the emirate soon. There has also been growth in the expensive restaurant segment in Abu Dhabi, with names including Marco Pierre White and Hakkasan opening in the capital in the past couple of years.

"The demographics are still positive for the industry," Mr Breg said. "The population is stable. Tourist numbers are growing. There's a long list of names that are interested in coming to Dubai and Abu Dhabi of course."

rbundhun@thenational.ae