Exclusive: Restaurant talk with Serge Becker
Miss Lily's is coming to town
Serge Becker is no stranger to the F&B business. For more than 30 years, he has helped establish some of the most iconic dining concepts around the world, from Lure Fishbar in New York to La Bodega Negra in London. Now, one of his most successful projects, Miss Lily's, is set to open in Dubai, bringing its Jamaican vibe through a combination of authentic flavours, bold colours and relaxed décor.
As Dubai gets ready to experience Carribean flair with the launch of Miss Lily's, including some exclusive regional offerings such as Jerk BBQ Short Rib Steamed Buns, and Jamaican Pepper Ribeye Steak, Buro 24/7 Middle East had a quick chat with its high-profile owner for some insights into the unique Middle Eastern project.
Miss Lily's is a successful franchise in New York. What is the premise behind bringing it to Dubai?
Two local operators approached us and wanted to bring Miss Lily's to Dubai and felt that Dubai was ready for that kind of place. There are two outlets in New York and so we took some elements from the both of them and came up with new stuff as well for the place here. It's a pretty small scale space for the Dubai market but we think that's good because there are lots of large spaces and I think smaller spaces are going to come in. And this will be one of them.
What's unique about the space here as compared to the ones in New York?
It's really the combination about how the spaces flow. In New York, you have smaller real estate but here it's a reasonably larger space and we broke it down into smaller spaces. That way, we can really orchestrate how each space relates to one another whereas in New York that is already a given. Here the spaces flow and interact with each other much better. It's a give and take; in New York, we're on the street and we have an outdoor space which is nice but here we have a bigger area.
Would the vibe change given that one is on the streets while the new one in Dubai is situated within a hotel?
We'll see when it opens but hopefully, we can still recreate a certain level of relaxed intimacy but a lot of that is based on staff and performance service.
Do you see a trend of more smaller boutique restaurants popping up?
I haven't seen many small spaces but it seems only natural that they will come because there are already many big places. It's going to move in that direction. I cannot imagine that everyone will be opening 400-seat mega eateries. It's a bit like the movies; you have all these big franchises and then you have the small art house movies and this is the moment where we will have more indie movies created.
Yes, Dubai is about scale and what it's known for but there have to be pixels that make up the whole picture. It will go both directions in that it will continue to grow on a grand scale because it's the DNA of the place but there are always nooks and crannies that most cities have, those that are tucked away in a corner. It's cool for me to come here and maybe be able to introduce something that goes the other way. It's more humble but it can also certainly be a part of it and hopefully enriches the culture as well.
You've been in the business for a long time. What is the secret to a successful restaurant?
A place becomes successful when it becomes a living organism. It has a life and it's moving, more like an interactive theatre. The script is not set and every day you have to write it but it's very much alive. The staff is the most important element, more than the décor. I can sit on an uncomfortable chair as long as the people are right. Also, when it comes to the design, there is no one way of doing things. There's not a right or a wrong, sometimes it's juts a personal point of view. Every project I've worked on, almost half of the criticisms or rather suggestions get incorporated. It's always a collaborative effort.
Miss Lily's is located at Sheraton Grand Hotel and is set to open in July.