The Menu: Joey Ghazal's recipe for success

The man behind The Maine Brasserie and Canary Club on how design can transform the dining experience

22 Apr 2022, words by Janice Rodrigues in The Lifestyle

Joey Ghazal
Joey Ghazal is a name that needs no introduction. Ubiquitously known as Dubai’s Maine Man, the Canadian-Lebanese restauranteur started his career as a busboy at the age of 17 before working his way up the career ladder. His work has taken him to London, where he waited tables in Soho House, and Beirut, where he dabbled in entrepreneurship. In 2015, he launched the first Maine restaurant in Dubai’s JBR - and there’s been no looking back since. With three  branches in Dubai, a thriving restaurant in London, and new concept Canary Club at the Banyan Tree Residences under his belt, he dishes on how design can influence the way we dine... and shares a favourite recipe.

What was your  inspiration behind the original Maine restaurant? 

I was looking around Dubai to see if I could identify a gap in the market and was proposed this location in JBR. I felt like it was the perfect spot for a seafood joint. I was very inspired by my childhood experiences of visiting Maine which is famous for its seafood - all manner of lobsters, shrimp and oysters - and so I called it The Maine. It started in a humble, accidental way.

 How would you describe the aesthetic of The Maine? 

I wanted to recreate that East Coast vibe, that sense of Americana. Anyone who has travelled to the area is familiar with that Skater aesthetic in terms of design, that sense of New England extravagance, and the big homes of the Vanderbilts and the Kennedys. I knew I wanted to tap into that aesthetic while creating an affordable brasserie. That grandiosity, that sense of opulence, I believe comes from putting polar opposite styles together. Materials like concrete and exposed brick against crystal, marble and leather create this sense of contrast. I’m also proud of working with materials that age well over time. I think a mistake a lot of people make is using materials that are too new and polished. It’s important to work with what you have – exposed concrete or ceilings - to create this sense of timelessness. 

How did you maintain this vision when you opened a branch in London? 

The Maine Mayfair is in one of the last surviving 18th century townhouses in Hanover Square. It’s in an area that was bombed during the second World War so there was a lot of pressure to retain the integrity of the space and restore the original architecture. I chose it because it had character. There was good lighting, a high ceiling, excellent size, and a terrace cover that could accommodate 100 seats. But most importantly, we had a very strong idea of what to do with the basement. Usually, the basement is difficult to work with but I had this idea of creating a performance space with live jazz, a cabaret and so on. And now, it’s the hottest ticket in London. I worked closely with designers Brady Williams who understood the vision and injected the Maine DNA while elevating it. The ground floor, terrace and dining area have one colour scheme, and it’s all very respectful to the house. When you go downstairs, there’s a subterranean sense of decadence, opulent chandeliers, vaulted brick ceilings, and everything is much darker and moodier.

The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill
The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill
The Maine Land Brasserie
The Maine Land Brasserie
The Maine Land Brasserie
The Maine Land Brasserie

Do these design elements contribute to the dining experience? 

Absolutely. When you go to a restaurant, you want to be transported. There are so many elements that have to come together to create that perfect feeling, whether it’s the lighting, the music, the décor, the chandeliers, the perfect Instagram opportunity, the font on the menu, the uniforms, the arrival experience and so on. When you speak of design, you’re not just talking about the furniture and accessories but every tactile thing that goes into the experience. And each branch, our design is evolving. We are getting more confident, bolder and daring in our approach.

 What’s next? 

We are working on a Maine Beach which will be a new direction for the company. And potentially another international Maine. But this won’t be for another six months at least. For now, we’re going to enjoy what we’ve created.

Canary Club
Canary Club
Canary Club

RECIPE FOR PARMESAN VEAL CHOP

Parmesan veal chop

INGREDIENTS

450 grams of milk fed veal chop Canadian veal chop
1 gram of salt
1 gram of pepper
10 grams of regular flour
1 whole egg
40 grams of panko bread crumbs
15 grams of parmesan cheese
1 gram of chives
20ml of canola oil

METHOD

For crumbs: Combine panko bread crumb, parmesan cheese and chives.

For the egg wash: Whisk the egg with salt and pepper until whisked properly. 

 For the veal chop:
- Pound the meat with meat pounder to make it flat. 
- Place the veal chop on a flat tray, season with salt & pepper and dust it with flour, removing the excess. Coat with egg wash.
- Crumb the veal chop with the crumbs made, making sure they are coated evenly all over.

- In a large pan, add some canola oil over moderately high heat for about 1 min. Place the crumbed veal chops over the pan and pan-fry over moderate high heat, turning it occasionally until the color reaches to golden brown. 
- Finish the veal chop in oven at 180 degree Celsius for 4-5 mins. Serve with a side salad.

Images courtesy: Diala Shuhaiber for photography of Joey & The Canary Club.