The call comes late, as it always does. ‘Frankie’s at Frankie’s’ says a hushed voice, inviting Time Out down to the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr for a chin wag. It seems as good a headline as any, so I pack my dictaphone and leave the kids to go hungry for another night.
The little big man’s on good form. ‘Wooooah!’ he yells, giving the empty room all that. For a second, I think he thinks he’s Timbaland sending the love out to his homies, but this, it seems, is what Frankie does.
‘I’ve been coming to the UAE for fifteen years,’ he yells like a diminutive schoolboy gagging for attention, ‘and this is the first time I’ve been in Abu Dhabi. Imagine that!’ Astonishing Frankie, I assure him, but what is it with the Emirates? Why can’t we keep you away? ‘In 1994 Sheikh Mohammed said, “I want you to work for me”. So we started with four horses and we won the Oaks and the Derby. It went great. So the second year we had 40 horses, and now, two hundred.’ You see, things are that simple in Frankie World.
Take, for example, the success he’s had with his restaurant chain. How many has he got now? ‘Let’s see,’ he says, counting six off on his fingers. ‘I’ve got Knightsbridge, Chiswick, Stamford Bridge…’ But you’re an Arsenal fan, right? ‘Yeah.’ Why Chelsea’s home ground, then? ‘Got no idea.’ The man hardly seems like a master of his own destiny, but perhaps that’s part of his charm. It all seems so impossibly easy.
‘I was driving through London, and I was starving hungry, so I went to one of Marco Pierre White’s. I had a plate of Carpaccio. Marco said, “I’ve got a big family, you’ve got a big family; I wanna do a big family restaurant, not too over the top, not too low to the ground. Something affordable, nice; you can take your kids and family, everybody’s happy.” I liked that concept, I said, “crack it on!” I threw a few ideas in and he filled up the rest. That’s his job. He’s the chef, I’m the jockey.’ A winning combination. No restaurant should be without.
So, what’s he recommending to the families of Abu Dhabi? ‘Kids love pasta, and I recommend the seafood, because we’re near the sea.’ Simple enough, but has he actually tried the food here himself? ‘No!’ he cries, yelling from the top of his lungs again, ‘but I will when I finish with you! I’m starving hungry!’
Originally blogged on Time Out Abu Dhabi