Phoenix Social Club is the latest food and beverage concept to open at the H Hotel, taking up residence in the first-floor space previously occupied by Okku.
The contemporary Japanese restaurant has been replaced by what can only really be described as a post-prohibition nightlife destination that blends a speakeasy bar and supper club concept, into something rather unique for the Dubai restaurant scene.
Entering past a wall illuminated in flames, we traverse a narrow stairway before reaching an elevated bar that fills the left side of the room. The bar is both striking and memorable thanks to the bejewelled ceiling it sits beneath and a seat here is a great place to soak up the vibe of the venue. A live duo performs a Jazz rendition of Mario’s 2004 hit ‘Let Me Love You’, filling the narrow space with an unexpected atmosphere that does not let up during the evening, an impressive feat considering our early dinner reservation. It would appear other guests have the same idea, for the restaurant is nearing capacity by the time we make our way into the dining room.
Snippets from retro black and white movies fill a large screen at the back of the room, while portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn adorn the walls. All help to create the feeling of modernized nostalgia that the venue is striving for. We sink into comfortable leather chairs separated by sleek marble tabletops and although the tables are perhaps a little too close together for our liking, the small space has been utilised well.
We begin with a selection of mixology from the expertly crafted beverage menu. In a city known for extravagant presentation and gimmicks, the team at Phoenix Social Club have outdone themselves when it comes to the drinks. The tobacco-infused island bootlegger features an artisanal ice cube with a cork, inside lies the majority of the drink which must then be syphoned out using a small pipet. Similarly, Monroe’s charm which is named after the iconic actress is a grapefruit and mandarin concoction adorned with candy floss.
As a nightlife venue, Phoenix Social Club feels skewed more toward bar than a dining destination which is a shame because the short menu selection offers some exceptional dishes. Broken down into small and large plates and several tandoor breads, key members of the kitchen team have come from the recently opened The London Project on Bluewaters Island and the innovation from the culinary team is evident across both venues.
Most interesting is Phoenix Social Club’s ‘trust the chef’ concept which puts your food entirely in the hands of the kitchen. We haven’t seen anything quite like this in Dubai before and it’s rather exciting to have each dish arriving at the table as a complete surprise. Our meal begins with the tandoor bread with burratina, a beautiful introduction to the cuisine at Phoenix Social Club that presents warm bread served with paprika truffle honey and a ball of creamy burratina topped with balsamic pearls and fresh truffle.
Alluring ingredients and textures continue with the chicken liver parfait. Plated alongside crème fraiche, caramelized yoghurt and endives, the inclusion of rose brings a hint of sweetness and colour to a plate which offers artistic presentation. The ceviche of hamachi should also not be missed, mainly due to the inclusion of burnt avocado and tiger milk which helps to elevate the flavour of the dish.
From the large plates, we enjoy the chargrilled octopus. Bringing an impressive cook to the protein, Japanese flavours are prominent, with the octopus tentacle sitting upon a nori powder and wrapping seductively around a miso foam in a dish of impressive construction. The beef cheek tortellini also fares rather well as me move from Asian into European cuisine, though we would have preferred more pieces of the pasta which is served a beautiful porcini beurre monte and parmigiano-reggiano crisps.
Only two choices are offered for dessert, compressed watermelon with textures of white chocolate and a saffron and pear sorbet with spiced caramel and brick pastry. Both are wisely light and executed well but with menu development at Phoenix Social Club still ongoing we would like to see a few more dessert options added in the coming months.
Inspired by the supper clubs of the 1930s and 1940s New York, Phoenix Social Club has captured the essence of a bygone era while managing to modernize and refine the idea of a secret hangout, into an exciting nightlight venue that combines dining, drinking and dancing. The venue looks likely to be a sure-fire hit for the Trade Centre area and injects some much-needed life into the F&B offering at the H Hotel.
Out & About UAE were guests of Phoenix Social Club. All views are our own.