It was almost like I had been stalking Ghaf Kitchen, the gourmet catering service out of a food truck. In a matter of a month, I landed up in multiple food events – all catered by David and his Ghaf Kitchen team. Like one’s first date, I still remember my first experience with Ghaf Kitchen – an exclusive dinner organised by Club Uno di Peroni for a culinary journey through the Mediterranean, specially curated by Samantha Wood aka Foodiva and catered by Ghaf Kitchen, on the lawns of Le Meridien Mina Seyahi (below). Sea breeze, full moon, flowers, candlelights, palm trees, amazing food, live performance by Juliana Down and a great company… I fell in love with the snubbed-nose Citroen H Van.
My second date was in a romantic island in the middle of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club (below)… a beautiful evening organised by Lime & Tonic. The snubbed-nose lover wasn’t there this time, as it couldn’t be transported into the island. Instead, there was an original 1964 Piaggio Ape called Luigi (picture much below) from Desert River – a party and events rental store in AL Qouz, that had been transformed into a lit up bar. It turned out to be a very special day – celebration of Ghaf Kitchen’s 1st Birthday. I came home that night and wrote a feature for the Hidden Gems section that I write for GN Property Weekly. According to me, this was indeed a moving hidden gem in Dubai. Today, I got the news that the submission got turned down as the Editorial team couldn’t fit Ghaf into any property section. The result? It’s my gain… I get to keep the write up of Ghaf Kitchen exclusively for my blog readers!
A charming Citroen H Van driving around the town spreading gourmet foodie love – we are talking about Ghaf Kitchen and this could be the first ‘mobile’ hidden gem being featured here. Not exactly a food truck, Ghaf Kitchen is but a gourmet catering service operating from a beautifully restored vintage Citroen H van and led by a team who takes a lot of pride in using the best quality fresh ingredients, sourced in an ethical and sustainable manner. Each event that I have attended of theirs, had been at different locales and at every occasion, I have been surprised by the cleverly crafted menu and its sheer creativity. While Adrian Bandyk, Ghaf Kitchen’s on-board Executive Chef has been busy preparing their famous Posh Fish Finger Sandwich or the all-time favourite Eton Messe (the menu is very British), the questions that flock my mind are… if Ghaf Kitchen is not a food truck, where is it garaged? Can it park anywhere? Do the Ghaf Kitchen staff actually cook inside the vehicle?… The Co-founder and Director of Ghaf Kitchen, David O’BrieDavid patiently answers them all. ‘The van is kept at the central production kitchen having a license that is relevant to the activity of food production and events management. We can and do offer a full events and party business from food and beverage through to venue, lighting, music, equipment and staff. Our role is to put our guests at ease so they can enjoy their event or party and we take the strain and headache out of the arrangements. We an definitely park anywhere but cannot serve food. Our preparation is done in our central production kitchen and finishing is done on board. The level of finishing that is done is directly related to the menu on offer that moment. It is rather like a restaurant where all of the preparation and chopping is done at the back while the final cooking is done at the front. In fact, our Classic Citroen H Van is known as a restaurant on wheels.‘
The most interesting aspect of Ghaf Kitchen, apart form the food of course, are the interesting venues that they prefer to work with (although they can park anywhere you would want. So imagine Al Qouz warehouses and art spaces turning into gourmet pop ups for a night. The Fridge, Mojo Art Gallery Capital D Studios all turn into social dining hubs with the stylish Ghaf Kitchen catering to keep up the food vibe. How was Ghaf Kitchen conceived? David says, ‘Initially, Ghaf was set up as a Hospitality Development service and over time our hunger to do our own thing grew. About two years ago, I was working on a number of projects in Baku and the idea of a food truck came to me. However, a food truck in the purest sense did not appeal to me and I wanted to do something bespoke and more interesting, so I set about researching classic vehicles. I found the Citroen H Van in Normandy in France, and our restaurant on wheels project started to take shape in my head.’So why the name Ghaf Kitchen? The Ghaf tree is an indigenous species that grow specifically in this desert region. Moreover, the Ghaf tree is so full of thorns – isn’t it a bit contradictory with the tempting favourites from the menu – the posh fish finger sandwiches made from sustainable fresh haddock, mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce oozing out from it, or the hand cut chips served with sirloin steak and béarnaise? David explains, ‘We consider Ghaf to refer to home. The Ghaf tree in this region has provided shelter and nourishment to the Bedouins for centuries and we wanted to to do the same with our product.’
From Zabeel Park to the lawns by the seaside in the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, I have seen the round chubby Citroen H Van park in many places and serve many a good food by the smiling staff led by Caroline Buchan, the Events Manager. But is there a dream location for Ghaf Kitchen then? Of course, there are. Maybe on top of a car park (and why not, specially in a city that is full of car parks?), in a beautiful park or on the Dubai creek. Well, that would be quite a delicious coup then – that too a coup of the hidden gems kind!
More info: Ghaf Kitchen is a boutique events and party catering service providing a personalised and bespoke service ranging from party catering and pop up restaurants to street food style events and food production. Ghaf Kitchen also operates beyond the H Van with a full production kitchen in Dubai, and can cater for stylish events of any size and type, in any location in the UAE.
Coming back to my blogpost, where was my third date with Ghaf Kitchen? An unusual warehouse in Al Qouz belonging to Desert River (above). It was the stage for a serious conversation on food sustainability, specially related to this region. Led by Sudeshna Ghosh, the Editor of BBC GoodFood Middle East, this has been a subject that is close to many of our hearts. The evening led to a lot of questions asked on sustainability and what it meant to each of us. And with Ghaf Kitchen’s focus on sustainability and local sourcing of ingredients, it was the perfect *pairing* that evening. My love story continues and I have continued to stalk them later too… their pop up in JBR The Beach or at the Ripe Market and more. While I have described Ghaf Kitchen as a gourmet food catering service from a food truck (featured in the Autumn issue of Food e Mag dxb… above), a serious debate currently is about the authenticity of food trucks in Dubai. Are these really food trucks in the strictest sense of the word or are they merely pop ups of different restaurants in a moving food truck, or mostly icecream trucks and over priced burger joints? It must be destiny that here I am writing a post on all of these and there’s a similar discussion brewing up over the Twitter feed. As I hopped onto the Ghaf Kitchen’s website for a bit of research to sign off my post, I came across Sally Prosser aka My Custard Pie (@mycustardpie) and Ghaf Kitchen (@ghafkitchen)’s invite for a live Tweet Chat about UAE street food on Thursday 5th March, 2:30-3:30pm. Do join them as they promise it to be a quite a tasty conversation.
Also, catch my own thoughts on pop ups in Dubai in my recent chat with Mark Lloyd on the Travel Show in Dubai Eye 103.8FM. Do you think that these are merely some fancy terms used loosely (the next fashionable food thing – food trucks and pop ups) or there’s a serious dining revolution growing underneath the regular dining landscape, where people are looking forward to some street food served churned up locally? A lot of surprises in store in the coming posts – Salt, Moti Roti… and more!
Disclaimer: I had been guests at some of the events that I have mentioned above. All pictures have been taken by me excepting the cover picture… I asked Ghaf Kitchen to provide a picture taken during the day, as all my pictures had been shot at night! Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. You can catch my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.