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Nick Alvis & Scott Price

Between them Nick Alvis and Scott Price worked for Gordon Ramsay for fifteen years in London, Paris and Dubai, before launching their own restaurant, table 9 by nick and scott, in 2011. With Viktorija Paplauskiene in charge of Front of House, they won a string of awards and accolades leading to today with ‘folly
by Nick & Scott’

Where did the idea for Folly originally come from and how did that concept evolve into the restaurant you have today?
Nick: What Folly is now is us; it’s a mix of lots of ideas that we’ve had over the years. Scott, Viktorija (the general manager at Folly and third business partner) and I were always looking to create something special together, but as to what that something was, well, we all had our own opinions.
Scott: I think we’ve ended up with a real reflection of the three of us: a blend of our personalities, the different elements we all bring to the table and also what we felt the region needed – and wanted – restaurant wise.

Folly is the first restaurant that you can truly call your own. Does the change the way you feel about it and is there added pressure because of this?
N: We made a conscious decision to put the kitchen bang in the middle of the restaurant, so that when people come to Folly they see us and we see them. This is our house. We’re incredibly passionate about it and we’re here cooking every day, putting ourselves out there. It’s very personal. So there’s definitely added pressure and that pressure comes from us.

What makes a great restaurant (in generally, not just in reference to your own place)?
S: It certainly doesn’t all hinge on the food; you have to deliver the whole package. Some of the best experiences I’ve had eating out have been when the music is great, the staff are really knowledgeable but not pretentious and you’re made to feel welcome and relaxed. At Folly we want things to be the best they can be every day, in every single aspect. From the booking procedure and the way you’re greeted when you walk through the door to the music, the food and drinks, the service. Each part is so important.
N: It’s about how your customers feel when they leave the restaurant, really. If they leave wanting to come back, then you’ve done it – what more can you ask for?

“This is our house. We’re incredibly passionate about it and we’re here cooking every day, putting ourselves out there.”

That leads on nicely to my next question. How do you want your guests to feel when they arrive?
S: We designed Folly so that you walk up the stairs and immediately you’re deposited right into the heart of a busy, bustling restaurant. The first time people visit it almost takes them by surprise: the music is playing, you can see the chefs cooking, there are people sitting at the bar. Straightaway you’re involved, you’re part of it all.
N: I don’t think there is really anywhere else in Dubai where you can do that – there’s no pomp or fussing about being led through the restaurant to your table. When we first saw the space it was one of the things that we really liked about t.

How do you want guests to feel when they leave?
N: I hope they think: “That was great, I’ll definitely be back”.

If I had a budget of $55 to spend at Folly and 45 minutes to spend it, what should I order?
N: Personally, I’d go straight for what I think of as the highlights on the à la carte menu: the crab with basil and crispy seaweed, the sweetbreads and the veal tongue. Done. Actually, that would cost you $56, but it’s worth the extra dollar.

If I had a budget of $200 and three hours to spend it, what should I order?
S: For a really special occasion, book the Windtower. It’s a secluded table for two, set right out on its own over looking the Madinat waterways and the Burj Al Arab. The whole experience is designed around your preferences, right from the moment you ring up and speak to Nick, Viktorija or myself. We’ll create a menu just for you with matching drinks, the area can be filled with candles and you’ll have your own private waiter.  The idea is to make the entire thing as personal and memorable as possible.
N: Or, if you’re after something more interactive, you can book the Kitchen Bar. The seats look directly into the kitchen itself, so you can see exactly what’s going on – you can’t quite feel the heat of the stove, but almost. We’ll talk you through each dish on the seven-course tasting menu as you watch it being made and our sommelier or bar manager will pair drinks with the dishes. It’s a true Folly experience and gives a real taste of what we’re about.

“We want things to be the best they can be every day … from the booking procedure and the way you’re greeted when you walk through the door to the music, the food and drinks, and the service.”

What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
S: For me, it’s the sweetbreads. The dish looks simple in execution, but a lot of work goes into it: there’s a really good-quality vinegar reduction, delicious roasted sweetbreads and a cep mushroom puree. It’s the epitome of what Folly food is about: three flavours on a plate.
N: Well, if you’re saying sweetbreads, I’ll go for the crab. It’s clean, simple, really nice to eat. The dishes on the menu truly are our dishes; they represent they way we like to eat. A huge amount of care and attention has gone into them and we’ve got a personal attachment to every single one.

How do you personally measure the success of your restaurant?
S: If we’re still open in five years time, I’ll call it a success. It’s all about being busy. That’s the mark of a successful restaurant: longevity and being busy, every day. Folly is a passion project for both of us, but it’s also a business that has to make money and we’re very aware that we’re in a tough climate.

Why does the partnership between the two of your work?
N: We’ve been mates for years and we trust each other completely. I think that’s very important, you need trust. When we first came over here, we’d constantly talked to each other about absolutely everything to do with the restaurant, but now there’s an intuition. We still do talk a lot though.
S: In London way back in in 2005 we’d talk for hours about opening a place together. There’s no other chef that I’ve spoken to about opening a restaurant. I don’t know about you?
N: You were the fourth choice (laughs).

If someone is yet to visit Folly, what’s the best way to experience the restaurant?
N: We have some of the most stunning views in the city and fantastic sunsets almost every night. So if it was me, I’d get here early evening, have a couple of happy hour drinks and a snack box on the roof while watching the sun go down and then enjoy a leisurely dinner either inside or out on the garden terrace.

What’s next for Nick & Scott?
N: We’re very proud of what we have. Every night when we look around and people are enjoying themselves, it’s a buzz. It makes you feel good. The immediate focus is on the next few months. I think that getting a busy season under our belts is going to be really integral to how successful we are.
S: Our investor has a plan too. He doesn’t just want one restaurant with us, he wants to grow the brand, as and when it’s ready to grow. At the moment Folly is our little baby and needs us both here to make it work, but we’re also both looking forward to the future and what happens next. www.folly.ae

“We have some of the most stunning views in the city and fantastic sunsets almost every night”

WORDS: SARAH PRICE

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