Chef Izu Ani on his gastronomic adventures and how he’s captured the relaxed charm of South of France at Maison de la Plage.

Maison de la Plage adds to your growing culinary portfolio. What sets this apart from your other concepts?

Maison de la Plage is our home by the sea. I wanted to create a space where people can let go, breathe, play, share fresh, light dishes and truly connect with the elements. The ocean connects us all, it encourages our playful sides and allows us to unwind. The space flows from the sea to comfortable sunbeds, daybeds and cabanas, a beach bar, swimming pool, and restaurant, to provide a haven for all.

The restaurant transports you to Côte d’Azur. Can you define the inspiration behind its free-spirited design it evokes and the elements that add to the ambience?

The South of France is one of my favourite places in the world, its breathtaking nature and inviting energy invigorates me every time I visit. Our aim is to bring the laid-back elegance of the Côte d’Azur to Dubai, with elements from the quaint, idyllic villages and the sun-drenched shores woven throughout Maison de la Plage. We wanted to create a romantic, yet lively ambiance, where mount.

We partnered with London-based design studio FirstWithin to bring our vision to life. The interior is adorned with bespoke rattan furniture, featuring unique prints that seamlessly blend with the natural beauty of the beach landscape. Every part of Maison de la Plage was curated to enhance the connection between our guests and their coastal surroundings, with a fun, contemporary French touch. One of the key elements in our design is the playful use of patterns and colours. Throughout the space, you’ll find dotted yacht motifs, which serve as a delightful reminder of the picturesque villages in the south of France. These patterns were designed to evoke a sense of coastal tranquility.

What does the culinary journey experience look like?

A home from home, Maison de la Plage is somewhere friends and families can enjoy at all hours. From serene breakfasts overlooking the sea, to long lunches in the sunshine and dinners with loved ones. We wanted to create a space that feels welcoming and wonderful at any time of day. Our dishes are a constant flow of evolution and information. When developing new dishes and creating menus, we always start with the inspiration – we ask ourselves who is this dish for, why are we creating it, how and when will it be enjoyed. We aim to create a seamless transition between the outdoor oasis and the indoor dining area, to ensure a flexible and comfortable experience.

The menu encapsulates the seaside sophistication of the French Riviera. What are the key standout dishes?

One of my favourite parts of the menu is the selection of fresh market crudités. We serve crisp, seasonal vegetables in a beautiful basket alongside a selection of dips. It is the perfect dish to share with the table, and a lovely start to a meal. I also recommend choosing fresh fish from La Poissonerie and having it cooked exactly to preference alongside baked vegetables. The beauty of the menu is that it caters for different experiences, so if I’m spending the day by the beach and want to eat on the sunbeds, we will order a selection of Pizzas, a few Izu Burgers to share and end each meal with ice cream. The menu was designed to be shared between friends and loved ones, whether they would prefer a light bite or a nourishing meal.

“To this day, my travels and experiences continue to shape my understanding of cuisine and have enabled me to translate this through the menus I work on”

Where did your flair for French-inspired culinary creations begin? How deeply connected are you in terms of influence?

When I was at the beginning of my career, I spent a lot of time in France and absorbed everything I could about the culture and cuisine. It is where I met my wife, and it gave me a wider spectrum of knowledge and understanding.

I believe that in life, we do have to invest our time, effort and dedication to ourselves and our passions. To this day, my travels and experiences continue to shape my understanding of cuisine and have enabled me to translate this through the menus I work on. It is important to respect the culture that each dish takes inspiration from, to take our time to learn and understand their traditions. Food is at the core of every country. By understanding the culture, we have the privilege of knowing how to extract the experience and tell each story from the source. My aim in life is to keep adding to my life journey through food and to be able to share this with people who are as keen as I am to explore how we can push the limits of creativity.

“My aim in life is to keep adding to my life journey through food and to be able to share this with people who are as keen as I am to explore how we can push the limits of creativity”


Chef Izu Ani

Chef Izu Ani


At the heart of it is Le Marché, inspired by the bustling French market – tell us more about this space.

Le Marché is one of my favourite parts of Maison de la Plage. When I was first starting out as a Chef, I moved to a lovely little town in France. Every morning, I would visit the market to choose fresh ingredients to prepare that day, and I loved every moment. It was such a beautiful start to the morning. There is something so exquisite about sourcing fresh produce, and choosing our ingredients before we prepare and enjoy them. I first met my wife at that market over 20 years ago now. For an entire year, I continued to visit the little shop she worked in, hoping to see her. Finally, on my birthday, I mustered up the nerve to ask her out on a date. To my delight, she agreed, and that moment marked the beginning of our journey together.

Le Marché is my heartfelt homage to that pivotal encounter. It serves as a reminder of the incredible power of chance meetings and the profound impact they can have on our lives.

You’re very hands-on and built everything yourself from the outset. What did this teach you?

Having the freedom to create is really important to me, it allows me to keep expanding and growing without the fear of stagnation. When we work with passion, we can enjoy the art of dedication and practice. By focusing on improving every single day, we can see how much there is to achieve and really embrace the process. I believe that the milestones are often found in the small moments. I find the most pride and pleasure when I am consistent and striving towards my goals every day.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered and how did you overcome them?

If we look at our circumstances as opportunities instead of obstacles, we can positively impact our mindsets. Experience cannot just be about ‘what went right’ – success is what we celebrate, mistakes are what we learn from – in all aspects of life. There is a lesson in every situation, and challenges give us valuable knowledge that we may not have been aware of otherwise. The trick is to pay attention. It is all information, and information is everything. The more we know, the greater our spectrum of understanding, which leads us to better opportunities and experiences.

This is The Summer Escape Issue – where are you escaping to this summer?

This year, one of our goals was to expand internationally and take our home-grown concepts from Dubai to the world. This summer, I am so excited to spend time in our latest restaurants in London, Marbella, and Monaco, and truly embed ourselves within the local communities there. This summer will also see the launch of GAIA in Miami, which I am really looking forward to. It is so humbling to see our concepts in different countries around the world. My focus is to ensure we provide the same level of service in every location and ensure everyone enjoys their experience.

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Images: Supplied