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FACT Review: Gerbou, a “support local” supper club to get behind

The farm-to-table supper club at Gerbou speaks of the Emirati and Arabic spice trail, with more to come when the restaurant is complete.

With a weighty amount of personal shame, I pen these words looking back to ask myself: why don’t I write more about local restaurants? No, I do not mean your local restaurant. The small place on the corner, the homegrown brand or the mom-and-pop business trading in JVC. No, I mean an Emirati, Khalijji or vaguely of this region restaurant. 

The stark reality is that not that many “local local” places catch the zeitgeist these days. Gerbou aims to dent that paradigm. It is a collaboration between the Tashkeel, established by Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, and Atelier House Hospitality, the group behind 11 Woodfire, Mohalla, RSVP, and Morini in Riyah.

Here, Chef Ionel Catau, supported by award-winning pastry chef Sahar Parham Al Awadhi, articulates the story of Emirati and Arabic cuisine. Gerbou proposes a sustainable farm-to-table restaurant (for now, a supper club) drawing on the centuries-old spice route in this region. It’s a decidedly modern approach. The kitchen respects tradition and convention, but it is unrestrained by it.  


Gerbou’s interim eight-course supper club previews the kitchen’s intentions, while Gerbou’s permanent home in Nad Al Sheba is very much a building site due to open later this year. The restaurant will take advantage of this new, purpose-built location with firepits and tanoors, but it also aims to be a community space with art centres, gardens and more. In the meantime, you can join this supper club in Meydan. Yes, the march of the supper clubs lives on in Dubai. Remember when they were all hush-hush and word of mouth?

We are offered a welcome broth infused with saffron and warm spices, swiftly followed by a solid, geometric, family-style mezze board. On twee plates, we pile smooth hummus topped with slow-cooked lamb coated in an Emirati spice blend. There’s baba ghanoush laced with curry leaf oil and labneh folded together with Ghaf honey. Pillowy khameer bread is made with saffron sourced from Sharjah. I pop a crispy olive which I did not know was a thing, but now I’m glad that I do. 


So far, so good. Looking around the dining room, Gerbou’s partnership with Tashkeel finds touch points. From the art-laden walls to the craftsmanship of handmade chairs, tables and mezze boards. 

Chef Ionel presents and describes each dish. He comes across as humble, warm and curious. A safe pair of hands to shepherd a local story. Growing up in Turkish-influenced Constantia, his career eventually brought him to The Newt, now a World’s 50 Best Hotels property. Ionel ferments Hispi cabbage, chars, then layers it with feta and a sauce of labneh, dills and capers. 

Our tidy stack of aubergine Lamb Badanjan takes inspiration from Imam Bayildi with meaty lamb slow-cooked in Persian Badanjan, then crowned with a nest of crispy leeks, shallots and chillis. A wagyu beef kebab marinated in loomi is wrapped in buttery paratha and liberally dressed in sumac red onions. A fresh burgundy, brick-coloured endive and cherry salad is dressed and seasoned in a salt made from its own trimmings. 

Two standout dishes arrive. A U5 tiger prawn is all singed and smokey from the grill, then served with a pool of cashew and zaatar salsa verde. The chicken machboos is arguably the dish of the night (for those who still have room). A plated pile of chicken and rice makes for homely comfort food, served with homemade achar, kachkumber salad and yoghurt. You can imagine waiters carrying banquet-sized portions through the restaurant as customers look on. A homely Emirati tapioca pudding – easily shared between two at this point – arrives in an iron pot with a warming crust that begs to be cracked with a spoon and liberally dribbled with a vanilla custard with Habbat Al Hamra, a red seed usually used in warm drinks served at weddings or Eid. 


The Gerbou supper club brings together ten guests each evening and acts as a prelude to the restaurant opening. It’s worth a journey to Nad Al Sheba. There’s a capable chef telling a local story in what promises to be a unique, community-driven location. You, too can check out the supper club now as Gerbou is taking bookings through their website. Tell Ionel I sent you.

Go: Follow @gerbou on Instagram for more information.

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Liam Collens
Liam Collens is a reviewer and drone photographer based in Dubai. He is passionate about good food, restaurants, travel and drone photography.

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