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Dubai chef duo enjoy roaring success with The Lion

Words by Rob Chilton

The award-winning chef duo talk to EDGAR about their “proper” pub

Don’t mention the word ‘gastropub’ around Nick Alvis and Scott Price. The chef duo is the strike force behind The Lion, a pub at The H Hotel that is going back to British basics with football, fish and chips and no frilly stuff. “This is two British guys doing British pub food,” says Alvis. “It’s definitely not a gastropub. No purees, nothing flash, just solid pub food.”

His kitchen partner Price nods, “We’re not trying to create a gastronomic experience here. It’s a proper pub with friendly staff, solid food, sport on the TV – that’s where we’re at. We want to do something simple, nothing too confusing and no messing around.”

Rock star photos line the walls

The menu is filled with British pub classics, but all done with a touch of skill and careful craft learned from working at top-class restaurants in Britain and the UAE. For example, a traditional Scotch egg is made with a quail’s egg in the middle; chicken wings have been brined first and then slow cooked; chips have been triple cooked. Alvis adds, “The food is simple, but we put a lot into it.”

Price continues, “You can have good fish and chips or you can have really bad fish and chips and there are a lot of reasons for that. Frozen fish, for example, is bad. There’s none of that here, we only use fresh ingredients.” Alvis and Price are particularly excited about the steak pie on the menu. “It’s bang on,” smiles Alvis. “We started making pies two or three years ago and we finally got it right with the pastry. It’s suet pastry which is steamed then baked so it’s quite soft but crispy on the outside. It’s a winner.”

Fish and chips

Pubs have a special place in the hearts of the British pair. Alvis remembers The Dog and Duck, a pub in Northampton, England that was his dad’s local. Price, meanwhile, says “I sort of grew up in pubs” as his grandmother owned one called The Anchor in Cheshire, England. Later, after moving to London, he used to frequent The Latchmere in Clapham, south London.

As young, hard-working chefs in the kitchen of Gordon Ramsay's London restaurants, pubs were a place of solace for Alvis and Price. “It’s quite a lonely world being a young chef,” explains Alvis. “You’re working stupid hours and you get days off that no one else has off. So we ended up in pubs quite a lot, sitting on our own, reading the newspaper, watching the football.”

Price agrees. “When I worked in London I was knackered on my day off. You spend the whole week surrounded by people so you want to go and watch the football in the pub and have a bit of peace and quiet.”

Steak pie and gravy

Folly will continue as normal at Souk Madinat, but The Lion has been a pleasant and nostalgic project for them. “Folly was a dream for us, an ambition,” says Scott. “But The Lion has been fun. It’s more relaxed and casual, and we can have fun with it, it’s not so serious or regimented.”

The Lion Dubai opened around the time of the 2018 World Cup. Nick, an Arsenal fan, and Price, a Manchester United supporter, are having a big push for the new Premier League season with numerous screens showing games, a brunch and football quiz on Fridays, and a free drink for any fan who wears their club's shirt when their team are playing. These are two fellas who are ready for kick-off.

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