You know what they say – nice guys finish last. That’s certainly not the case, when it comes to Dubai’s mafia-inspired restaurant.
Another Los Angeles import known for its exclusive door policies and celebrity clientele has landed in Dubai. The only problem is that we don’t have the same calibre of A-listers strutting the streets of our fair Gulf nation to warrant the steely stares of the door staff when we approach.
Already popular with celebrities and critics in the United States, the reservations-only restaurant promotes an air of exclusivity, with the Dubai venue clearly looking to capture that same success with its new venue at Emirates Towers.
As we enter (thankfully, we do have a reservation), we’re informed both verbally and via ample signage that this is a no-photos venue. Another nod to exclusivity that we’re not too bothered about, but it does become a problem when the dining room is so dark that you require the light from your phone to read the menu. “No phones,” we’re told as we try to illuminate the simple menu with its gold fonts and playful imagery of a monkey wearing a tuxedo and a bowler hat.
Despite the name, The Nice Guy draws inspiration from an unlikely source: bars and restaurants beloved by the mafia. The result is an intimate and sultry venue that’s homely enough for an Italian gathering, whether with your mob family or real family. Designed like a Martin Scorsese movie with a central bar, discreet lounge, nostalgic decor and raised booths, we could easily be on the set of Goodfellas.
The Nice Guy boasts Indochine-style vibes, which if you know me, equates to huge brownie points. A mixture of handcrafted cocktails (don’t miss The Godfather Sour or The Goodfella) and a live singer belting out seductive renditions of Bruno Mars, Marvin Gaye, and Lauryn Hill tracks to the packed dining room results in an effortlessly alluring atmosphere.
Whilst the food is perhaps a little more casual than expected, the selection of Italian favourites is certainly appealing. So, whether you fancy fried mozzarella (AED 65), Mo’s meatballs (AED 80) or saffron arancini (AED 60), The Nice Guy delivers casual comfort food in spades.
We’re immediately taken with the spicy shrimp scampi (AED 95), which certainly lives up to its namesake, offering a spicy hit of Calabrian chilli to the plump shrimp. Follow our lead and ask for extra grilled sourdough, as the white wine reduction these shrimp swim in is undeniably moreish. Whilst we’re not sure what a green goddess dressing is, it certainly adds a burst of flavour to the butter lettuce salad (AED 70) laden with asparagus and spring peas.
Main courses feature a selection of pizzas (unsurprisingly, there’s burrata, but surprisingly no truffle – are we even in Dubai anymore?), pasta and large plates dedicated to meat, fish and poultry. Friends had raved to us about the lobster pizza (AED 150). However, we opted for the shellfish with pasta instead. The rigatoni vodka (AED 125) is a heartwarming plate of al dente pasta piled high with lobster, shrimp and calamari that shows off simple cooking anchored around premium ingredients. The whole grilled branzino (AED 250), also known as Mediterranean sea bass, was light, flaky and complemented by a yuzu kosho herb salad and a generous drizzle of tangerine oil – plated perfection.
For dessert, seven options are offered, including a surprisingly dense bread pudding (AED 60), fantastically gooey chocolate chip cookies with cold milk (AED 45) for a hit of childhood nostalgia, and a generous slab of perfectly layered tiramisu (AED 55) that’s unafraid to go easy on the coffee.
The Nice Guy is a place where dining hours transition into nightlife, and you’ll want to linger long after dinner is over. So take a seat at the bar, enjoy a tipple, or move into the lounge and party with Dubai’s night owls until 3am.
Dubai’s only mafia-inspired venue is currently the talk of the town, but during a time when Instagram reigns supreme, how will people even know we were there if we’re not allowed to take pictures? Taking cues from the FACT Award-winning Indochine, the restaurant offers a handy onsite photo-booth to capture your Nice Guy memories for the gram.
In fact, we enjoyed The Nice Guy so much that we returned the following night for a drink and dance.
Yes, more Mister Nice Guy.