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How Dubai’s First Female Led Restaurant Is Breaking Stereotypes In The Industry

Support these women by dining at the impressive eatery that is Fi'lia Dubai.

If there’s anything better than enjoying some amazing food, it’s savouring every bite knowing you’re supporting the all-women culinary team that’s whipping up the seriously tasty dishes. Fi’lia Dubai, found in SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences in Dubai’s Business Bay, is the first fully female-led Italian-Mediterranean restaurant in the emirate. Helmed by 25-year-old Palestinian-Jordanian Chef De Cuisine Sara Aqel, the eatery is completely female-driven, whether it’s the chefs, management, service or mixologists. (The drinks menu even has a 100 percent female-produced grape list.)

As well as the incredible team of women, the menu is also a nod to female power as it is based on recipes and traditions passed on from one generation of women to the next. And even the name, which also backs the intergenerational theme, is a salute to female empowerment. “Fi'lia is derived from the word figlia, meaning daughter in Italian and embodies a truly remarkable concept, run by women and empowering them to challenge the status quo in the industry,” according to the team.

This is the first Fi'lia branch in the region, while one can be found in the Bahamas and two others in Miami. The menu is broken down into three sections, beginnning with “nona,” which is based on the traditional flavours grandmothers are known for.  The second section, “mamma,” has dishes that incorporate contemporary twists on classics, while “figlia” is a daughter’s fresh take on cooking.

As well as the mouth-watering favourites like Ravioli Quattro Formaggi and Lasagna, there are some alternative must-trys like Jerusalem Artichoke Pizza, Sea Bass With Feta Crust and Pappardelle With Veal Osso Buco on offer. In addition to the impeccable food and service, the setting is another reason to head to this gem that is proving a team of women can go all-out to create great culinary greatness. Set on the 70th floor of the hotel, Fi’lia offers jaw-dropping 360-degree views across Dubai, while guests who sit inside are surrounded by a space that’s expansive, light, airy and dotted with greenery to enhance the interiors.

About Sara Aqel  
Despite her young age, Fi'lia Dubai’s Chef de Cuisine, Sara Aqel has earned the responsibility of making the first-of-its-kind restaurant a success, along with the help of her female team, of course. After being trained under Massimo Bottura, the world-famous Italian chef and mastermind behind three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana in Modena,  the Palestinian-Jordanian culinary whizz has risen to the top quickly.

Fi’lia Dubai marks a challenging chapter for the ambitious chef who knew from a young age she wanted to have a career in the culinary world. Inspired by the feeling of togetherness sharing a meal generates, Aqel started cooking with her mother in the family kitchen in Amman. The “food is an expression of who we are” believer went on to pursue her professional goals by studying Culinary Arts and Hotel Management at Les Roches, a private hospitality school in Switzerland. Aqel then moved to Hong Kong, where she had a stint at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. After returning to Jordan, the 25-year-old moved to Dubai, as she felt living in the emirate, which has an ever-evolving culinary scene, would help boost her career and keep learning. She landed a job at Bottura’s coveted restaurant in the Palm, Torno Subito, before going on to head the team at Fi'lia Dubai. 

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