[L-R] Etienne Haro, Kieron Haro, Christian Knerr, Tom Lord, Tom Meyer, Olivier Biles, Steven Greenwood and Katerina Dixon. [L-R] Etienne Haro, Kieron Haro, Christian Knerr, Tom Lord, Tom Meyer, Olivier Biles, Steven Greenwood and Katerina Dixon.

The cream of Dubai’s F&B fraternity turned out for the Time Out Restaurant Awards 2009 last night, where the talk of the evening was top winner Reflets Par Piere Gagnaire.

Much to the team’s delight, the French fine dining restaurant — located at InterContinental Hotel Dubai Festival City — took home the award for Best Contemporary European Restaurant, as well scooping the two main awards of the night: Best New Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year.

Speaking exclusively to Caterer Middle East at the glamorous ceremony held at Park Hyatt Dubai, restaurant director Etienne Haro said the achievement was a reflection of the team’s dedication over the past 10 months.

“I guess it’s quite emotional in a way, because it has required a lot of work, a lot of dedication, a lot of rigour — and not much sleep,” he admitted.

“It’s really a whole team achievement though. We’re like a family there — it’s strange, because this really doesn’t happen in Dubai, but every single member of staff who opened the restaurant is still here and still working for us, and that’s because we are all driven by ambition, by determination, and by wanting to reach this level of excellence.

“But for us, all this work has been leading towards one goal, which is to provide quality. We’re very happy it’s been recognised, because we’ve basically worked for 10 months straight towards that goal. Not winning an award — that’s just one thing — but providing excellence to our guests."

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The restaurant’s chef de cuisine Olivier Biles added: “Pierre actually left today; unfortunately he had to return to Paris, to his kitchen there, but I think he’ll be very happy. He’s actually still on the plane at the moment, so we haven’t broken the news to him yet.”

Haro added that it was a pleasure and a learning experience to work with the three Michelin-starred chef.

“He’s a bit old school, which is how he’s taught us to be — not to expect recognition and awards, and not to be overly proud or chase awards, but rather to be rigorous. When guests come to us, our aim is to make sure they leave with a smile, thinking ‘wow, something happened tonight’.”

However Haro admitted that launching a restaurant with Gagnaire had entailed a great deal of hard work.

“Opening a restaurant for Pierre Gagnaire comes with a lot of responsibilities; it comes with a lot of effort, because he expects a certain standard,” he explained. “And we do our very best to surpass that every day.

“But still, we never expected to win these awards. You hope that people will recognise your work, but at the end of the day you just have to get on with it.”

Commenting on how the current economic downturn and descreased consumer spending would affect the fine dining outlet, Haro said he did not foresee any significant drop in business.

“I think the definition of ‘fine dining’ is totally relative; to label your outlet that because you’re an expensive restaurant can be one definition, but it’s not the right one.