Desert Cowboy

Desert Cowboy

Conceptualise, Gaucho

UAE: London’s award-winning restaurant, Gaucho, opened its second Middle Eastern outlet after Beirut, at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in November 2011.

The interiors follow the trademark style created by Conceptualise, a London-based design team headed by Patsy Godik and Grant White. It has been working with Gaucho for 10 years and was hired to take the brand from its original concept to what it is today.

The Dubai outlet will feature Gaucho’s iconic décor of cowhide walls, blended with opulent black and white leather furniture, mirrored panels and crystal chandeliers but is tailored to the design expectations of the region.

The 160-seat restaurant will be spread across a double-volume space, with room for 100 guests on its private terrace that overlooks Emirates Towers with big windows. A glass staircase will link a nine-metre floating bridge between the 18-metre long white marble bar (which took a year to create) and the multi-level dining areas, with eight-metre-high floor-to-ceiling walls of multi-faceted glass. It also features a 12-seat private dining room and an eight-seat wine room.

“Gaucho is a lifestyle rather than a restaurant — it offers an experience through its food and design and it is for that reason we have chosen Dubai as a host to this superb lifestyle,” said Ryan Hattingh, international operations director, Gaucho.

Godik and White said the identity of the restaurant remains the same, with the black and white colour palette, along with the cowhide, and colonial elements from Argentina still making an appearance. However, they have used elements of Dubai in the design as well, without any constraints imposed on them.

“We have gone to town with everything that Dubai offers in terms of its scale. I think the design is modern, innovative and opulent, and made sure it has a wow-factor. We have had the opportunity to do something different in Dubai, whereas in Europe we haven’t done these things before,” she added.

White said this was because of the space restrictions faced in Europe, along with issues of listed buildings. He said with the Dubai restaurant, Conceptualise took inspiration from the architecture in the region using it in the interiors.

“We pushed the boundaries of architecture to reflect the rest of Dubai. For example, we created what we think is one of the longest bars in the region, because we have the space to do it,” he said.

White added while the design of the restaurant stays true to the brand, Conceptualise has given it a much more Middle Eastern feeling than its other outlets in Europe.

“We focused on bringing elements of the region into the restaurant. Even though we have a common theme and brand identity, we tried to make it different. We used lots of silver, leather and a lot of white marble,” he said.

It has been a year since Conceptualise saw the site at DIFC; even though the designers felt this was a fast turn-around time, they felt it was reflective to the speed of things in the region.

Conceptualise started designing the original Gaucho (‘cowboy’) steak houses 10 years ago. Godik and White brought the cowboy element into the design when they were hired for a re-design.

“We decided to bring the cowboy into the city. We see it in the use of leather and the herds in Pampas, but with a contemporary twist. The cowhide markings are interesting and different. The colonial flavour of Argentina is present in the restaurants as well. All the materials we use are organic, with lots of white and leather, along with opulent chandeliers and marble,” said Godik.

The designers said considerable structural changes were made to the site because they had a “perfect blank canvas” to work with.

“We created an incredibly glamorous and opulent restaurant with the space given to us, then a mezzanine level and a marble floating bridge with a glass staircase,” said White. “In Dubai, nothing is unachievable. We had everything we needed to work with. We had no limitations on our imagination, whereas in Europe people try to impose restrictions,” he added.

When comparing the Dubai restaurant to the only other Middle Eastern branch of Gaucho in Beirut, Lebanon, Godik said both are completely different spaces. The Lebanon branch has a “Beirut feel” to it, according to Godik.

“It’s much smaller and cosier. We try very hard to represent each culture in the Gaucho family and ensure that site is representative of the city it’s in. We use different flavours of the city within the building – no restaurant is identical.”

Godik said she felt UAE is a forward-thinking market, where they were able to mix the Middle Eastern flavour with Gaucho’s traditional style.

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