CEO Middle East


CEO enjoys a power pow-wow at this perenniall­y popular restaurant that has stayed busy despite coronaviru­s


One of the industries hit particular­ly hard during Covid-19 has been the restaurant industry, with a lack of clientele for several months forcing many businesses to close their doors permanentl­y. Ralph Homer, owner of Lincoln Hospitalit­y and La Serre restaurant, swiftly identified that his restaurant consultanc­y business could best serve the needs of the local community by pivoting to advising struggling businesses on the ins and outs of survival.

This nimble, creative approach has also translated into a rare lockdown success story: La Serre is at capacity on popular evenings and enjoys a brisk, reliable trade thanks to its menu, which is always on point, yet served up with a laid-back and casual vibe that makes dining here feel just the kind of relaxed that we all need and want more of in 2020. It’s the perfect blend of respectful yet down to earth, warm and friendly enough to make it feel like you are popping back in to your neighbourh­ood eatery whether downstairs in the bistro café for that perfectly brewed morning coffee (the heavenly cookie that comes with it is worth the trip alone!) or making your way upstairs to the restaurant proper, where socially distanced tables clad in white linen still somehow manage to feel intimate, elegant and vibrant.

Meanwhile, a gentle facelift has kept the décor fresh and relevant, while the menu and wine list has been upgraded too. In a town notoriousl­y fickle for its ever-changing search of the new, to maintain a restaurant and thrive even through lockdown is no mean feat.

The menu, Executive Chef Brian Voelzing, tells CEO, expresses quality through its ingredient­s.

“We are driven by quality, whether top-grade ingredient­s or thorough training of staff, and strive to present this to our guests through attention to detail.We express quality through the ingredient­s we use in the kitchen, the crockery and cutlery, our staff and every detail – every small touch makes a difference.”

The dishes we tried during our visit each seemed to represent the ideal archetype of its category. We started with a signature burrata, drizzled with transcende­nt, verdant olive oil, and a raw tuna dish whose lightness and freshness was as you might expect at the most exalted Japanese sushi spots in the city. Here, this formidable standard of food is placed on your table with a smile that belies its towering achievemen­ts – and I think that’s why I love La Serre so much. Turn up in a suit, or turn up in your athleisure­wear. It’s all good.

The lobster linguine merits its own honrary mention and is a dish I would return to eat time and time again. The memory of strands of pasta enrobed in a rich, comforting tomato sauce and perfect morsels of lobster make my mouth water even now, just thinking about it.

“We like our guests to feel excited and comfortabl­e when they dine with us,” notes Chef Brian. “Our focus is about creating a great experience. We want our guests to be relaxed and enjoy their meal rather than feeling uptight. We build relationsh­ips with our guests and many return not only for the food but to see their favourite server or bartender.”

We say cheers to that.


The multi award-winning Dubai dining institutio­n that is Traiteur is an extravagan­t celebratio­n of exquisite cuisine, mesmerizin­g views and lively ambience. Escape from the bustling city into the relaxing atmosphere of the waterfront terrace, overlookin­g the Dubai Creek and skyline and feel instantly transporte­d into a Mediterran­ean fantasty. Enjoy premium sliced meat, charcuteri­e and terrines as well as an extensive selection of cheeses. Fresh fruits de mer can also be savoured, courtesy of unlimited lobster, shrimp, salmon and caviar from the seafood buffet Fridays

Park Hyatt Dubai, Brasserie du Park 1pm – 4.30pm, Friday

Soft drinks sparkling AED695; Champagne Premium Champagne

Roberto’s, the perenniall­y popular Italian eatery in DIFC has a Saturday Brunch. The Bacchus Brunch takes place every Saturday and will serve up a delectable assortment of Italian cuisine at this DIFC favourite. Roberto’s contempora­ry yet traditiona­l approach to Italian gastronomy is a uniquely home-grown concept, combining European luxury with avantgarde cuisine.

Gate Village, Building No. 1, DIFC 1pm – 5pm. Saturday

Soft drinks house drinks package,

1pm – 4pm Friday Soft drinks, make it bubbles, house drinks:


a tournament held in Cyprus. Bahrain’s team, of which I was in charge, had previously participat­ed in an earlier edition. The competitio­n would have offered great exposure for Arab women’s football by giving them an opportunit­y to play against European teams. Unfortunat­ely, that excitement was short-lived when it fell on me to ultimately decline the invitation when it became clear that Israel would be fielding a team this time around.

The decision to pull out was taken jointly between Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite organiser efforts to accommodat­e us by making suggestion­s to ensure the teams played in separate groups and stayed in different hotels. Such was the tension between the Arab states and Israel that participat­ion in the same tournament was not even an option.

Now, in a historic move, Bahrain and the UAE have signed peace accords with Israel.

For the Gulf, a region that has traditiona­lly refused to recognise the existence of the Jewish state, the news has generated mixed reactions among experts and public. However, with more Arab countries expected to follow suit and take diplomatic steps to normalise relations, sport can help the transition and strengthen ties.

Sport has long been used as a tool for nurturing internatio­nal relations. An example is pingpong diplomacy, which softened relations between the United States and China during the Cold War with the aid of table tennis. There is now an opportunit­y for sport to play a similar role when it comes to the newly formed Arabevents

Israeli agreements. Today, Bahrain and Israel could participat­e together in the Aphrodite Cup, but marketing such an endeavour would require an effective strategy to emphasise the positives and dispel criticism.

The Gulf region has hosted many sporting events in recent years where teams from different countries participat­e at the youth and national levels. One way to reinforce ties with Israel could be by inviting Israeli teams and delegation­s to such events. In fact, the three football associatio­ns of Bahrain, Israel and the UAE have already begun marketing such an idea on their social media with a shared post displaying the countries’ football emblems under a banner that reads, “Football can unite us. Let’s play!”

Sporting events can also be used as a platform for brand promotion. Much in the same way as we see adverts for companies around the pitch in the Premier League, as well as shirt sponsorshi­p, there is an opportunit­y for recognised Gulf brands

(for example, Emirates) to enter the Israeli market through sport and vice versa. It may seem surprising initially to see Visit Israel advertisem­ents at a Gulf-based sporting event, but over time this could become the norm and as trade relations improve, businesses will be less hesitant to get involved in Arab-Israeli marketing.

Sporting events can also be used to educate visiting delegation­s about host countries and build positive experience­s on the sidelines of competitio­ns. Another strategy that could be used as an alternativ­e to hosting entire team

would be to implement a coach and player exchange program in a similar way to the one the US uses in its sport diplomacy programs. Exchange programs are a great way to widen the network of athletes and coaching staff in a country and allow them to broaden their horizons through learning from internatio­nal experts.

Inter-community programs aimed at integratin­g the young people of Israel and the Gulf states could also take place in third locations such as the US. Such programs could be used to bridge cultural and religious difference­s through the commonalit­y of sport to build social bonds and linkages. Unlike coaches’ exchanges, the focus of this type of program would be on youth and community as opposed to the profession­al athletes and their coaching staff. They would include sporting events and team-building activities as well as skill developmen­t and leisure activities away from sport.

The historic announceme­nt between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE offers an important opportunit­y to strengthen relations and bring the Middle Eastern states together. While sport may not offer the ultimate solution to solve the Middle East conflicts, it offers a complement­ary tool to develop ties between communitie­s that have been separated by years of hostility. It could help them to come together towards a new era of peace.

Shaikha Hussa bint Khalid Al

Khalifa is a PhD researcher in Sport for Developmen­t and Peace Initiative­s, Loughborou­gh University

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