Gordon Ramsay protégé, Englishman Darren Velvick is the new chef patron at the renowned Dubai restaurant Table 9.
The new chef at the helm of Table 9 in Dubai
There’s a new name, of sorts, above the door. It’s still Table 9, but Nick Alvis and Scott Price have moved on and at the helm is a new chef patron and another Gordon Ramsay protégé, the 39-year-old Englishman Darren Velvick. Table 9 by Darren Velvick at Hilton Dubai Creek reopened earlier this month with a new menu promising a more relaxed and rustic dining experience.
Velvick’s CV is impressive; from head chef at Pétrus to the opening of The Gilbert Scott, a stint at Claridge’s working the chef’s table where he crossed paths with Price, before moving on to Marcus Wareing’s The Berkeley, a role that blossomed into executive group chef. Finally, the opportunity for a restaurant with his own name lured him from London to Dubai over a month ago.
“I am so excited. I keep on pinching myself. Is this real? Is my name really above the door? Wow, what an opportunity,” enthuses a humble, sweet-natured Velvick.
“It’s a big challenge for me to keep Nick and Scott’s high standards and excel. The key thing for me is to do something different.”
That’s exactly what Dubai’s foodie community eagerly awaits. Is the new Table 9 different and if so, how?
A quick glance at the menu shows dishes by ingredient with no indication of cooking style, similar to his predecessors, which Velvick says is a London trend to keep an element of surprise and one he sees no reason to change. However, he builds a menu around the vegetable first, by creating as many textures as possible – purée, powder, crumbs – and then pairs with protein. So for instance, a sea bass main course has broccoli florets grilled, the stem is peeled and poached and the crisp leaf is puréed; served with poached egg and hollandaise sauce.
“It’s a deformalised fine dining restaurant. My menu is a little more flexible. A little rustic. It pulls all the techniques I have learnt over the years. Food is broken down a little; deconstructing it and making it casual. Top produce, local where I can. Bigger portions. It’s not tapas style, like with Nick and Scott.”
He adds: “I want anyone to come two, three times a week. It’s not a special occasion restaurant and I will be changing the menu very often.”
There’s one dish on the menu that Velvick wants to become a Table 9 signature, and that’s a roasted cornfed chicken for two people, locally sourced, stuffed with foie gras and served with leeks and potatoes. Fans of La Petite Maison and La Serre will recognise a similar dish but one that is priced considerably higher than Table 9’s Dhs230. And one that doesn’t require ordering 24 hours in advance.
He’s playing with the desserts; a deconstructed carrot cake is inspired by his grandmother’s recipe, while he has reinterpreted the traditional breakfast of cornflakes and milk, adding honey. Cheese, mostly French, paired with garnishes, stands out prominently.
But even though the menu has changed, sadly the rather formal, austere decor has not. “I would love to make it more modern with wooden tables, wooden flooring. But it’s a big expense on a new chef. Possibly in six months to a year, the owners will invest. Meanwhile, we’ve lightened the room up a bit with new runners and I’ve brought in hand-painted blue plates from Churchill in England.”
The location in Deira is another hindrance, but Velvick is looking to attract in-house guests given the hotel’s high occupancy rates, while he hopes the affordable prices will draw residents across the Creek. “We offer really good food at a really good price. It might take you longer to get here, but hopefully the cost and food will make it worthwhile.”
Samantha Wood is the founder of impartial restaurant review blog www.foodiva.net