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Mezzanine Bar & Kitchen's Paul McGee on opening a new venue in Covid times

Words by Nathan Irvine

New digs

Opening a new venue - at the best of times - is a risky affair. Doubly so in somewhere like Dubai were F&B outlets come and go in the blink of an eye. But this didn't stop Paul McGee, CEO of Mezzanine Bar & Kitchen doing exactly that.

We spoke to him to find out exactly what it was like to launch during Covid times.

Supplied There are five different areas to the venue

Supplied Mezzanine CEO, Paul McGee (right)

How was it to set up during Covid times?

Setting up a new business always has its challenges. You have to say goodbye to any social life and make sure you are ready from the moment you open your eyes at 4 or 5am to falling asleep with exhaustion at the end of the day. Dubai is showing the rest of the world it is open for business and the authorities are very welcoming and helpful in understanding the pressures of investing in the country.  The key is to making friends along the way because you will need that guidance and assistance at every turn. All the systems and processes have now gone digital so it is very difficult to go and see people when you become stuck. Although I found everyone was so keen to see me succeed and they became as excited about the project as I did over the weeks and months.  A lot of what I was doing was for the first time.  I have run and been part of some of the biggest hospitality heavyweights, although nothing can prepare you for opening your own business.  The pressures become very very difficult at times and I had moments when I thought I couldn’t do it, but I looked at my team and knew I couldn’t let them down. They were counting on me and that gave me the drive to make sure we opened no matter what.  

Did you ever consider it a risk to open right now?

Opening a new business at any time is a risk.  I believe that Covid has tightened the belts of many investors in the region although there is no better time for opportunities. We all know that there is nowhere else like Dubai in the world. Where else can a lad from Liverpool arrive as an event manager of a beach club, run the biggest nightclub in the city and go on to open his own restaurant at a landmark site like Souk Madinat Jumeirah - all in the space of five years. It is mind blowing. Dubai truly is the land of opportunity and we are all very lucky to be given the chances we have available to us.

What's Mezzanine Bar & Kitchen all about?

It's an original Dubai creation with its family tree well rooted in the UK. The offering is an elevated gastropub as it provides those homemade British classics you remember your grandmother and mum making back home with a modern look. Vegan Bangers & Mash, Chicken Puff Pastry Pie, Vegetable Shepherd's Pie and a Signature Sunday Roast Burger. Those hearty British dishes that recapture fond memories in an absolutely stunning location at the waterside overlooking the Burj Al Arab. Inside you can expect to see traditional art on the walls with a funky twist.  Inside we have relaxed big tables for friends and colleagues to get together after work or even hold a few business meetings at lunch that quickly turn into a few drinks and bites as the day comes to a close. We have five different areas of the venue that give a completely different experience from one visit to the next.

What does Mezzanine bring to Dubai that you can't get elsewhere?

The restaurant business has come into its own over the last 18 months due to the forced circumstances of Covid. People are going out to dine more and enjoy themselves with friends and family. At Mezzanine we offer great food and amazing drinks in a setting that is one-of-a-kind. The tagline of "good food, great drinks" can be seen as a cliché, but this is what patrons demand. In Dubai, is it not cheap to eat out and the competition is fierce so as restaurateurs we all have to up our game. In my case I have to ensure if we are a British gastropub we have to be the absolute best on the market. Location is one of the biggest selling points in Dubai and nobody can take that from you although you need to ensure you are offering excellent service in a relaxed environment with the best product from food to drinks to music. The guests will let me know if we are doing ok or not and that is the beauty of this industry. Only time will tell.

Mezzanine Bar & Kitchen is open now at Souk Madinat Jumeirah

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