Get ready for Rüya: Dubai's new Turkish restaurant

The star chef behind new Grosvenor House spot talks to EDGAR ahead of its September opening.

Robert Chilton July 17, 2016

On August 15 there will be a very excited chef firing up the gas cookers in the kitchen of his brand new restaurant.

The chef is Colin Clague, formerly of Zuma Dubai, Qbara and Jean-Georges, and now in charge at the upscale contemporary Turkish restaurant Rüya.

Set to open to the public on September 8 in Grosvenor House, Rüya will serve around 50 authentic Anatolian dishes using Turkish ingredients and recipes. The plan is to expand into London in 2017 and then across the world.

To research the menu for Rüya Dubai, the Irishman Clague spent two months eating his way around Turkey. “I put on 3kg, but it was great,” he smiles. “One day we had 40 dishes for lunch – 40!” 

Anatolia is the region in which Turkey is located and contains numerous cuisines, influenced by centuries of people and cultures passing through the area. Owner Umut Özkanca is from the Black Sea area of Turkey and his father, Rasim, provided much of the inspiration for the dishes on Rüya’s menu. “Umut’s father has 50 years of experience in the restaurant business and he’s been invaluable,” says Clague, 51. “He’s Turkish as the hills. All the recipes are in his head.” 

Özkanca, 39, says, “To the outsider Turkish cuisine is just kebabs, but that’s only two per cent of the cuisine. I thought, let’s do something rooted in the Turkish DNA but with an international perspective. We want to bring our food and polish it and make it look contemporary for Dubai.” Clague adds, “The food in Turkey is perfect. What it needs help with is the presentation. We’re going to make it look beautiful.”

Rüya’s focal point will be a huge wood-burning domed oven, visible to diners. “It’ll be manned by three chefs making pide, a flatbread with savoury fillings that’s folded over into a boat shape,” says Clague. Lahmacun – a dish of minced lamb and paper thin dough – will also be cooked inside the oven. Behind the oven will be the cag kebab station of lamb and chicken that will resemble a horizontal spit roast. Clague is particularly excited about the kuymak, a cheese fondue with corn bread for dunking that was traditionally a breakfast dish for fishermen before they went out on their boats. 

The restaurant will have an entrance inside the hotel and one from the street. Some of the décor touches include handmade tiles, 800 hanging rolling pins, and white marble from the Marmara region of Turkey. It’s the first project in the Middle East for renowned design company Conran & Partners, the firm from interiors legend Sir Terence Conran.

“It’s so exciting for me because I’ve learned something every day and that’s what it’s all about,” beams Clague. “I did Zuma for 10 years. Japan is quite a small geographical area so it was difficult to think outside the box. But the history of Turkey and its cuisine is so huge that we could go another 100 years and not run out of ideas.”

Clague is itching to get cracking in the kitchen on August 15 and put the finishing touches to his menu. “It always feels nice when you pull the plastic sheeting off the stainless steel surfaces in a new kitchen,” he smiles. “I get a nice new shiny kitchen to play with.”