Dubai: A peek into the Jameel Arts Centre

Local, beautiful and flavourful


Purva Grover

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 12:10 PM

If I were asked to pick the two strongest or rather the only elements around which life revolves or should, I’d pick arts and stories any day. It’s the pull of these two that draws me to art spaces in the city. This time I was in for a surprise, as I discovered the magic of both, uniquely. Join in for a quick tour and bite.

Minutes before I learn more about Plant De Tomates by Pablo Picasso, I find myself soaking in the calmness at Jameel Arts Centre. Courtesy of the speakers placed at the amphitheatre here, the space resounds with the sound of soothing tales and music pieces. As I sit on the grass and soak in the winter sunshine, I am once again left in awe of one of the first contemporary arts institute in Dubai. Located at the Jaddaf Waterfront, the three-storey, multi-disciplinary space spreads 10,000 square metre, and is complemented by the Jameel Library, an open-access research centre dedicated to artists and cultural movements in the Gulf states and beyond. The multi-disciplinary space is designed by UK-based Serie Architects, and the building is punctuated by seven gardens, designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel, which reflect local and global desert biomes. It’s a haven for the art practitioners and enthusiasts, and lately for foodies who like to indulge in a good meal and a lovely story!

Less than a month old, the Centre is now home to Teible, an artisan bakery and upscale local seasonal dining concept. Launched by artist and entrepreneur Peter Ahn, this eating destination narrates an aesthetic story of local produce and sustainability. And it’s here that I indulge in a dish aptly called Beauty of Tomatoes by executive chef Carlos Frunze.

Frunze is quite a storyteller. “A replica of Pablo Picasso’s tomato plant painting hung on my grandfather’s kitchen wall. The painting reminds me of home and good times in the kitchen with family; and this dish is inspired by that.” As we dig in, we get acquainted with the charred local beef tomatoes, local mixed heirloom tomato, tomato consommé, and more — all lovingly grown, prepared in the UAE. Picasso’s series of five paintings of a tomato plant in bloom in the Paris apartment he shared with his lover Marie-Thérèse are ripe with personal as well as wider political and cultural significance, a way of reflecting the spirit of hope and resilience that characterised this time.

It’s said you eat with your eyes foremost, and not just in the Instagram way, but beyond. If it were for me, I would have sat and ogled at In Season dish (with 14 days fermented grilled pumpkin puree), a deep dive into the local vegetable seasonality, than spoil the work of art on the plate, but I am glad I wiped the plate clean. A combination of local zucchini and local parsley verjus foam with marigold leaves is just what the soul and stomach needs!

Arts is all about trusting the artist, correct? And the Trust Me, served at the end of the meal, is a magical, delectable offering by Sheerin Ghaffar, executive pastry chef. It’s a simple reminder to place trust in the chefs, the team and the local farmers; and what a symphony of flavours it turned out to be. Well, and just like in an art museum, you have a choice of renting the headphones to know the tale behind each piece, read through the display information, or hire a guide; at Teible, each dish comes with a note card on the inspiration, ingredients, and more. And, of course, the chefs are happy to be the guides to whet your curiosity and appetite. Before I leave the area, I make a stopover at the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, designed by waiwai, and a collaboration between Art Jameel and Dubai Holding. I am returning to Teible, for many local tales are waiting to be discovered.

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