A tour of City Social with celebrity chef Jason Atherton
The chef also reveals his Japanese-inspired speakeasy, Seven Tales, and dining-meets-jazz bar, The Restaurant with No Name.
Dubai loves Jason Atherton, and Jason Atherton loves Dubai. So, we were excited to be invited to a preview of his new restaurant, City Social, which is scheduled to open on 3 February. Located in Dubai Marina, it’s on Grosvenor House’s 43rd floor and has 360-degree views of the city. Cameras at the ready, as you’ll want to capture this gem.
Jason was born in Sheffield, England, and has been cooking up a storm in London, Greece, Hong Kong and, of course, Dubai. His first restaurant outside of the UK was Marina Social in Dubai in 2015, which closed in the summer of 2022. Since then, he has fallen in love with the region, opening Maraya Social in AlUla in 2021, and Marina Social at Jeddah Yacht Club in 2022.
Jason is in town to promote City Social, which serves his trademark modern European cuisine. It’s not often that a chef of his calibre explains the whole concept, not just the dinner but also the décor. Due to his accolades, including MICHELIN Stars, he could easily have an ego, instead he’s charming and chatty. Most of all, down-to-earth.
On our tour, City Social is empty, but it doesn’t lose any of its sparkle. We take unexpected turns, with a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen, and spot Jason Atherton’s wife, Irha, at the chef’s table. The venue spans three levels, and we start our visit on level 43.
The designers know how to make an entrance, as the centre piece is the seven-metre marble bar, dazzling chandelier and grand staircase (don’t worry, there’s also a lift). It oozes an understated elegance with touches of burgundy, emerald and gold – it is Dubai, after all.
Dressed in his chef whites, Jason opens up: “I am 52 years old in September. I don’t want to do more projects. I only want to do meaningful things. I want my legacy to be something more than just a number. Marina Social was a good restaurant – it won awards, the food was good and the service was good. I’m not an egotistical man, so it’s hard to say this – you don’t do what I do if you don’t have drive. I was making a restaurant where I didn’t have everything. We did this, we did that and guests were happy, but I knew I could give Dubai more.”
And City Social is definitely more. The view is the stuff of an influencer’s dream. Near the bar, guests can have a front row seat by the floor-to-ceiling windows. Take your pick from brown leather sofas to green and white high stools, which are placed under hanging foliage, and enjoy views over the Palm Jumeirah in all its glory.
A DJ is spinning tunes near the bar, and creates the soundtrack to the night. The vibe will change at 11pm, as the volume gets louder. Plus, it will continue that way until closing time at 3am. “People who are out for the night, we want them to enjoy themselves,” he smiles.
On the same floor are two sophisticated dining spaces, each boasting a different view of Dubai. Love Ain Dubai? Go to the left. Love Palm Jumeirah? Go to the right. Each side has tremendous terraces, making this a spot for all seasons. Plus, you don’t have to just book a table indoors or outdoors, as you can get the best of both worlds. “These windows are bi-folding and open up to these terrace spaces. You can book this table of eight, and this is your terrace for the night,” Jason Atherton explains.
Just when you thought the experience couldn’t get more exciting, on level 44, there is Seven Tales and The Restaurant with No Name. We were one of the first media outlets to be invited inside Seven Tales, a Japanese-inspired izakaya-style speakeasy bar. The menu includes Japanese gin, whisky, sake and cocktails, plus Asian-inspired bites.
Jason reveals: “On the entrance, there’ll be an infinity tube. You are in this black mirrored room, which casts a purple infinity circle. So, when you look in the mirror, it just casts you forever. It’s really cool and is based on the 1950s and 1960s Tokyo underground”.
As we enter Seven Tales, Notorious BIG is playing. The ceiling, as well as walls are covered in graffiti art, and there’s a negroni game table – roll a six and a three, and you get a drink for free. Plus, there’s also that view, this time of Dubai Harbour, Dubai Marina and beyond.
Seven Tales hosts DJs spinning Japanese hip-hop tunes, and is open from 7pm to 3am from Monday to Saturday.
The Restaurant with No Name
The Restaurant with No Name is a restaurant-meets-entertainment space, which has yet to have the finishing touches, as we’re told there’ll be tablecloths with tassels. What we do spy, however, are framed musical-inspired photos on the wall, and trollies ranging from a Caesar trolly to a Martini trolly.
Jason Atherton explains: “We want it to be a counter restaurant to all those restaurants that throw you off the table. You go to so many restaurants and staff start hovering with their iPad, basically saying, ‘get the hell out’. We just don’t want to do that. So, you can keep your table or move with ease from one space to another.
“It’s themed around New York, there’ll be Boston cocktails, steaks, fish and death by chocolate – all that type of good stuff. We have a live singer from Wednesday to Sunday. We’ll be playing swing and jazz. There’ll be guys with velvet jackets and dickie bows, they’ll walk about with a microphone and kick up a swing.”
The Restaurant with No Name will open in the next few months. Plus, on level 45, which has not yet been completed, is one final venue, which has not yet been revealed.
Jason Atherton is clearly focused on quality over quantity. The food menu pitches itself as affordable luxury, and the cocktail menu starts from AED 60. He enthuses: “We’re trying to get the numbers correct and we’re not here to do 1,000 covers. I don’t want to rip people off and I want to make it super friendly on the prices. Some chefs could make more money working six hours a day. When it’s just for money and numbers, the love falls away from it, and as a consumer you can feel that.”
If Jason’s foodie record is anything to go by, City Social should be on the MICHELIN inspector’s radar. His first solo project, Pollen Street Social in London, won a MICHELIN star within its first six months of opening. He concludes: “This is my dream. I just can’t wait for Dubai to see what I can do here”. Jason, we can’t wait, too.
GO: Visit https://jasonatherton.co.uk for more information.