It was growing up in Melbourne, Australia as a teenager that Stuart Cameron first got a taste for food from the Mediterranean and Middle East.
“I used to go to this local Turkish store … there’d be all these amazing dips and Turkish breads and stuff,” says Cameron, the executive chef for Canada’s Icon Legacy Group. “It was always around me as a kid.”
Cameron completed a four-year apprenticeship programme at the Box Hill Institute of Culinary Arts in Melbourne, working in fine dining there and in Vancouver, Canada, before working his way through some of Toronto’s top eateries and landing the top culinary spot at the fast-expanding Icon.
The 40-year-old’s background speaks to the influences behind the company’s successful Byblos in Toronto, Byblos Miami (earning raves from the South Florida foodie press) and very soon Morah, which is located in the JW Marriott Marquis hotel, above its sister restaurant Weslodge.
Although copyright issues prevented another Byblos in Dubai – Morah, on the other hand, means “star of the sea” – there is nothing to stop Cameron from building on his attention-getting menus for “Byblos 3.0”.
At Morah look for an assortment of pide, a long, thin Turkish-style pizza as well as steak, lamb and lots of seafood, including a cosy-looking vine-wrapped cod and whole seabream.
New to Dubai? Among the offerings are saganaki with fig and walnut dressing, orange blossom honey and sumac; 48-hour Wagyu short ribs prepared with carob molasses, pickled turnip, green schuss, fennel and onion bhaji and wood-fired bay scallops with an olive oil hollandaise.
Being so much closer to Europe and the Mediterranean gives Cameron access to a whole range of meat and seafood that are not available in North America, not to mention what is available from Turkey and Lebanon.
“With the European seafood everything is better,” says Cameron. “You can get whole scallops from Scotland, brill from Europe, oysters from France … we got some local cauliflower yesterday that is amazing.”
Located on the 71st floor of the hotel, the two-storey Morah is round, allowing for spectacular views of Dubai – and the Burj Khalifa. Decorated in warm corals and light greens, with wood and fern accents, there are a mix of tables and banquettes surrounding a gorgeous curved staircase on the interior that connects the upper and lower floors.
“I think the menu is really approachable,” says Cameron. “Basically you can have a totally different meal each time you come. It’s not like the menu’s small or anything like that. You have three to four dishes per person, shared. So you can really have a create-your-own experience. It’s definitely a restaurant you can eat at two or three times a week and have a different experience each time. It’s really great like that, breaking bread with different people at the table, sharing.”
The restaurant is too elevated to connect to a gas line, meaning the fluffy flat barbari bread is baked every morning in a large wood-fired oven after fermenting in the refrigerator all night.
“In the morning we come in, we roll it out … we make a fire like you’re camping,” explains Cameron. “You light it up, then you put out all the coals, you bake the bread in the oven.”
Morah will begin its soft opening early in the new year. For more information or bookings call 04 443 0285 or email [email protected]