Greg Malouf's new restaurant in Dubai

Greg Malouf

Greg Malouf

Happy hummus, as Greg Malouf likes to say. In Dubai's heady hospitality scene, where the distinction between "restaurant" and "nightclub" is hazy at best and Middle Eastern food plays second fiddle to European cuisine, the Australian-born chef admits he is swimming against the tide.

Preparing to open a new restaurant he describes as "cool Lebanese, if that's possible" in the next couple of months, Malouf says it's this resistance to Middle Eastern food that has kept him in Dubai. "Good-quality Middle Eastern food with value doesn't really exist here," he says. "So many restaurants are pitched at the high end - and if you don't have entertainment you don't really cut it."

Such was the fate of the Cle Dubai - "it was turning into a nightclub" - which he joined following his Michelin-starred success at London's Petersham Nurseries. Malouf left Cle Dubai last year after his contract expired and has spent the past 12 months consulting, doing one-off dinners and working on a cookbook with former wife Lucy Malouf; their eighth release is an exploration of the vegetarian food of Beirut, due out later this year.

The new venture is called Zaahira, a 130-seat restaurant and bar in the five-star H Dubai hotel. The menu will include Malouf's famous take on bisteeya - most likely a duck version - as well as plenty of mezze such as wagyu basturma with house-made shanklish. Other dishes might include lentil tabbouleh, Gulf prawns with green chermoula, slow-cooked lamb shoulder, Egyptian-style pigeon, and calamari and scallops in a couscous and tomato stew.

"I don't really want to break too many rules for this menu," says Malouf. "The customers will primarily be locals and Arabs and they get wary of their cuisine being played around with too much." And there are a number of unwritten rules that must be observed - for example, meat shouldn't be served bloody, and whole fish is best avoided in favour of fillets.

"The edge we have is that there's Lebanese blood flowing in the kitchen and diners like the fact I'm in there cooking," he says. "The name Malouf is very strong in this part of the world. It comes from a town in Lebanon famous for its food, so people immediately associate you with good food."

Born in Melbourne to Lebanese parents, Malouf is best known in Australia for the various iterations of his award-winning Melbourne restaurant MoMo. In bad news for local audiences, the latest venture means he is likely to stay overseas for the foreseeable future. "I've always been interested in doing something in London," he says. "The restaurant's owners are keen to open something there eventually. It's my dream."

For the moment, however, the fate of the first Zaahira restaurant in Dubai hinges on the current building schedule. "We're due to open in April," says Malouf. "Or the way things run around here, maybe that will be May."

Zaahira Restaurant, The H Dubai, 1 Sheikh Zayed Rd, Dubai, UAE,


Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
What to order at Barangaroo House
Morgan McGlone to open a New York-style grill in Melbourne
Our favourite dishes: December 2017
First look: Bondi Beach Public Bar unveils menu – and a squish burger
Andrew McConnell is taking over NGV this summer
Eight new restaurants and an Art Series hotel opening on the Brisbane River in 2018
The Gourmet Traveller podcast

Each fortnight we round up the most interesting characters from the food world for your listening pleasure. We chat to chefs, cooks, authors, bar tenders and baristas - anyone who has something new and interesting to say about the way we like to eat and drink.

Recipe collections

Looking for fresh dinner ideas? Not sure how to make the most out of seasonal produce? Or do you need to plan the perfect party menu? Our recipe collections have you covered.

See more

You might also like...

Australian chefs to follow on Instagram in 2013

There are a lot of food shots on Instagram: the good, the ba...

Where our chefs want to eat

We asked Australia's leading chefs to name the restaurants t...

Hot 100 2015 - Restaurant news

The world is getting hotter and we’re not talking about glob...

What the hell is Gelinaz anyway, and why is it shuffling?

On the eve of the second outing of one of the world’s strang...

Nahm named best restaurant in Asia

The 2014 50 Best Restaurants in Asia were unveiled this week...

Restaurants cooking with seaweed

With its complexity in flavour and texture, seaweed is the c...

On the pass

Tell us about Tomahawk’s menu, Ali...

S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015

A mighty fine plate of beef short ribs with roast celery vin...

Dan Barber talks sustainable food

Farm-to-table is a neat catchcry but, argues Dan Barber, one...

Alessandro Pavoni, Ormeggio, Sydney

You’ve just released your first cookbook, a tribute to Lomba...

The 2016 GT Restaurant Guide Top 100

Here's the list of our 2016 Restaurant Guide Top 100. How ma...

First look: 108 at Noma, Copenhagen

Rene Redzepi may be headed to Sydney next month, but he's ba...

Dear Sainte Eloise to open in Potts Point

Sydney’s new wine bar is going back to basics.

Party-starting playlists

Music is a key ingredient that can turn your party from good...

Grant Achatz interview

Pat Nourse talks to the chef of Chicago’s Alinea ahead of hi...