Esquire Middle East

A letter from the editor

The troubling case of the Black Cod Index

- Matthew Baxter-priest

Everything sounds more important with an acronym attached to it. Although, there are always those people who tend to go too far and spoil it for the rest of us. The other week I was in a meeting where most of the sentences spoken were just a string of abbreviati­ons and acronyms strung together, as if someone was trying to solve a particular­ly obscure Wordle answer. Most people in that meeting nodded along earnestly in a visceral show of understand­ing, each terrified to ask what any of it actually meant. I’m going to level with you, I judge both the abbreviato­rs and the nodders—and the verdicts are rarely positive.

In general, language (and, importantl­y, acronyms) should be used to aid communicat­ion rather than to make it more complicate­d and elitist. So, for the sake of making a point, over the past year I created my own acronym:

BCI —the Black Cod Index.

Why? Well, February is when Esquire Middle East releases its annual ‘Food Issue,’ and central to it is the muchvaunte­d 50 Best Restaurant­s in the GCC list (pg.104), where we rank our favourite places within the region to eat in.

No, it is not Michelin or Gault&millau, but the process is thorough, considered and very Esquire.

The list’s decade-long life-span has given us some fascinatin­g insight into wider hospitalit­y trends over the years—both good and not-so-good. From celebrity-fronted outposts, to spates of entertainm­ent-led supper clubs, and the rise of the catch-all bar/restaurant/lounge concepts, we have dined, delighted and dissected in equal measure. What is the current trend du jour? Well, this is where the

BCI comes into play.

Throughout our year-long dining odyssey, one thing became apparent: the worrying appearance of the same dishes on menus. Every menu. It seems that no matter the country, cuisine or classifica­tion, every fine-dining restaurant in the region will include at least one of the following: tartare/ceviche, burrata, a sushi-platter, cheesecake and—you guessed it—black cod.

At first it was amusing. Then it became annoying.

Now it is bordering on troublesom­e. Why is it that across the vast spectrum of global cuisine available in our cities are the menus constantly overlappin­g in a worrisome race to the middle ground? The answer, coming from the dozens of chefs and restaurate­urs we spoke to was simply: the customers. Regardless of how cutting-edge and inventive a kitchen tries to be, the black cod still racks up the orders. The most ordered restaurant dish in the region? Sushi. The best-selling starter? Burrata. Such is the lack of adventure from us—the diners—that restaurant­s are forced to either bend to the banal or risk closure.

Internally, we use the BCI as tongue-in-cheek shorthand to assess comparable points when it comes to ranking restaurant­s. However, despite the dominant popularity of the aforementi­oned dishes, there is ample creativity on display from the culinary talent in the region who continue to adapt the same dishes and turn them into something unique. Ultimately, the standard has never been higher, but we— the diners—have a crucial role to play if we want to help shape the future. It’s best that we start that ASAP.

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 ?? ?? ON THE COVER Hattem Mattar wears: coat by Loro Piana, trousers by Boss, boots by Tod’s. Photograph­y by Mazen Abusrour.
ON THE COVER Hattem Mattar wears: coat by Loro Piana, trousers by Boss, boots by Tod’s. Photograph­y by Mazen Abusrour.

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