The venue The word ‘folly’ has several meanings in the English dictionary, but when it’s used to describe those whimsical, imaginative buildings originally conceived to create interest on the landscape, the new restaurant, Folly at Souk Madinat more than makes the grade. The creative force behind this concept is Nick Alvis and Scott Price (previously of Table 9 fame), together with Viktorija Paplauskiene, all of whom worked with their partners, Gates Hospitality, to bring an idea that had long been imagined to life. With influences from as far afield as the hip bistros of Manhattan to the botanical charm of secret gardens, the effect is both unexpected and exciting.
The design Visitors leave the busy passageways of the souq and ascend a quiet brick-walled stairwell, before entering a buzzing, lively space that would not be out of place on the edge of Central Park. A gleaming open kitchen looks out on to a tile and concrete floor area with mid-century-inspired furnishings, the walls punctuated by vivid squares of ‘living wall’ greenery.
A walkway to the terrace is defined by pots of tumbling herbs arranged on open shelves, while leafy plants trail over pergolas on the terrace, adding a contrasting rustic ambience. Effective details, including the specially made cutlery holders on each table in place of formal place settings, cocktail menus illustrated with beautiful botanical artwork, and clusters of glass lanterns that lend a magical glow as night falls, all work in harmony.
The various spaces for guests add to the unique feel: the generous Communal Table is set on its own terrace, while the Windtower – surely an Arabian take on the restaurant’s namesake – is an intimate spot for two. Not least, the chic roof terrace bar enjoys breathtaking views to the Burj Al Arab and beyond.
The experience As one would expect, the contemporary menu is daring and imaginative, and guests are encouraged to create their own tasting menu. We ordered dishes bursting with flavour, including monkfish cheeks with paprika and salted lemon, and lamb saddle with whipped pine nuts and salsa, before finishing with popcorn, honey and yogurt and blueberry cheesecake.
The word ‘folly’ also means silly mistakes…. Here, undoubtedly, the only one you’d make is not to visit this fabulous new venture – and make it soon!