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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Meet the founders of Dubai’s new French cafe Bistro Des Arts

Within minutes of meeting Jonathan Vercoutere and Julien Pilard, the two French entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, it’s clear their passion for their home-grown concept is genuine.
Jonathan Vercoutere, left, and Julien Pilard at Bistro Des Arts in Dubai Marina. Sarah Dea / The National
Jonathan Vercoutere, left, and Julien Pilard at Bistro Des Arts in Dubai Marina. Sarah Dea / The National

If you love baguettes, crêpes and all things French, you are in for a treat when Bistro Des Arts opens its doors in Dubai this month.

Within minutes of meeting Jonathan Vercoutere and Julien Pilard, the two French entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, it’s clear their passion for their home-grown concept is genuine. In anticipation of the opening, the two are like children before the first day of school.

“Well, we are more excited than nervous,” says Vercoutere. “Really, we are so excited. It’s like showing the baby to the world.”

The two met while working as restaurant managers at Nasimi Beach in Atlantis, The Palm.

“We’d see each other once a week at the management meeting. We became very good friends,” says Pilard.

“Dubai has all this structure in hotels that we don’t like,” says Vercoutere. We wanted to be our own boss.”

Knowing there was an underserved niche for casual French dining in Dubai, they developed their concept and presented it to Naim Maadad, chief executive of Gates Hospitality, who was quickly sold on the idea.

Bistro Des Arts is in Dubai Marina – its entrance only accessible from the promenade (or a walk through Marina Mall, with a right turn out of any waterfront exit). There’s an ample, inviting terrace with small, round tables dotted under oversized red awnings that evoke memories of a quaint Parisian street. Inside, small tables are nestled close together for a cosy, French-­cafe feel: “Basically, it’s Dubai meets Paris,” says Vercoutere.

But the emphasis is largely on Paris. This is not a Mediterranean cafe and though there is an occasional offbeat item – such as American-style pancakes – on the menu, it’s nearly all French, all the time. You’ll find Provençal aioli; beef bourguignon; rabbit ragout; duck confit; ratatouille and so much more. The bistro will be open from 7.30am to 11pm every day and the owners insist that the breakfast here will be worth waking up for. Try the truffle scrambled eggs or the classic crêpe Suzette from the crêpe trolley, which waiters flambé table-side. “It’s a bit of a show,” says Pilard.

Bistro Des Art offers fine French food without the high price tags of Le Petit Maison or La Serre. Expect to pay about Dh250 per person for a three-course meal, including a classic French beverage.

“It’s what we think is missing in Dubai,” Pilard says.

Something else they believe in is a convivial vibe among staff. From the owners to the bus boys, “we sit together for lunch”, says Pilard. “We have a chat together. We brainstorm together. In Dubai, you never see this.”

Vercoutere adds: “It’s a family business. We are here together and if we like each other, we’ll do a better job. People say you are not at work to make friends. I’m sorry, you are. It creates team spirit and teamwork.” Guests will benefit from what the owners hope this kind of approach will lead to: unrivalled customer service.

“It’s a neighbourhood restaurant,” says Vercoutere. “You’ll know us.” By which he means himself and Pilard. Not only will they manage the restaurant, the two men will also welcome guests when they arrive, take orders, serve the food and even clear tables, if needed.

“We want people to be talking about this restaurant for the next week after they eat here,” says Vercoutere.

“We want them to leave with their head full of surprises. When you come here, you don’t feel luxury.”

“No,” says Pilard. “You feel at home. Home sweet home.”

• Bistro Des Arts is scheduled to open by the end of the month. Visit www.bistrodesarts.ae

sjohnson@thenational.ae