Hybrid taste

The Middle East’s first supperclub opens in Dubai, fusing fine dining, dramatic performances and everything in between

Stepping into the newly completed supperclub in Dubai’s Zabeel Saray on the Palm Jumeirah is equivalent to stepping into an intricate daydream. The much layered space takes one on a transitional journey, each time revealing a new experience.

Dubai is the first in the Middle East to open supperclub, a new eatery that’s already made its mark in cities like Amsterdam and London. Favoured by high-end clientele that share a love for chic dining combined with performance art, supperclub’s upscale character bodes well for Dubai’s market, making the emirate the perfect environment to start.

In an interview with Hotelier Middle East magazine, supperclub Dubai’s general manager Richard Drake explains that the city “has a burgeoning art scene which provides a platform for artistic expression very much in line with the original supperclub concept—footed in food with artistic, choreographed entertainment…all designed to stimulate the senses.”

There is no doubting Dubai’s already vibrant restaurant portfolio, yet Drake believes that the addition of supperclub will only make the list brighter. “While there is an array of incredible restaurants,” he admits, “the demands of Dubai’s society are changing and the supperclub partners saw a clear trend in the market for restaurants that aren’t controlled by chains.”

The fine dining destination that took seven months to complete is designed by Amsterdam-based studio Concrete Architectural Associates; the masterminds behind the original supperclub located in the firm’s hometown in The Netherlands.

“The brief was quite simple,” says Rob Wagemans, founder and creative director, Concrete Architectural Associates, who goes on to explain that the bigger question was “what would happen to supperclub if it entered the Dubai market?”

Wagemans explains that issues such as cultural sensitivities and Dubai’s demand for luxurious hospitality needed to be integrated within the design. “We tried to use all these ingredients to make this the best supperclub ever made,” he adds.

Adapting to local culture meant changing certain features of the signature supperclub brand. On adhering to social norms and customs, Wagemans, using seating as an example, explains that in a typical supperclub, everybody eats on bed-like seats, taking off their shoes for full relaxation.

“But taking your shoes off [in a restaurant] is a difficult thing in the Arabic culture so we had to find solutions for that,” he clarifies.

He also adds that the original supperclub in Amsterdam is located in a truly urban environment; however, Dubai’s location allowed for an opportunity to attract clients with upscale tastes. “The level of hospitality, services and food has undergone a significant upgrade as part of the concept for Dubai,” says Wagemans.

As a result the chairs became more comfortable, the beds decreased in size, allowing visitors to keep their shoes on while still being relaxed in a more sophisticated environment.
Materials were also upgraded in addition to a separate VIP room, a space that’s missing among other supperclubs around the world.

And although the design concept took in some modest qualities from the Middle East such as the seating arrangements, the liberal and fun-loving characteristics of supperclub still remain.

“The concept of supperclub is to really encourage social interaction between people. It is very open-minded in style which is the reason why we tried to keep most of the seating almost shared, so going to supperclub makes your evening very unpredictable. You don’t know who your neighbours are and they could be the ones to influence your night,” Wagemans reveals.

“All the furniture is made to allow performances—be it on the tables or the couches. We tried to give as much freedom as possible,” he adds.

The 1200m2 supperclub includes six key dining and entertainment areas: the Salle Neige (main restaurant area), Salle d’Or (the Gold Room/ VIP), two exclusive Chef’s Table’s, a terrace, Bar Rouge and Balcony Noir. The space itself appears as a double layered box, white at the bottom and red and black on top.

Wagemans says: “The location was given with a balcony so we modified the shape of the balcony to create this white box like a blank canvas where you can be as liberal as you like. The double-height space really helped us divide the different parametric components of the concept.”

On the all-white interior, Wagemans explains: “The white canvas can be adapted to any surrounding colour.” It’s like an artist working on a blank canvas: it can be arranged to suite any mood and experience.”

Using halogen lighting for the main eating area gives it a certain type of warmth, he explains, adding that being an all-white restaurant resonates a very sterile environment.
“But if you don’t light a white space, then it’s a dark space,” he adds, “so every light you add has a little reflection where you can make some very warm directional lighting.”

When sourcing materials, the design team focused on natural stones such as white marble flooring, shiny, polished teals for the furniture with white leather couches and chairs. In Bar Rouge, the materials included reflective objects such as red mirrors and red velvet for acoustics but also to set a theatrical feel. Furthermore, an exposed bar sign was used to provoke a flashback to the past.

Balcony Noir was created to juxtapose the all-white restaurant area, among other culturally-related reasons. “Within the Dubai culture, not everybody wants to be exposed to all elements of a place so if you are more introverted, the black balconies are the inversion of what’s happening in the white space. We used a lot of black glass and black leather with more sophisticated and tuned down lighting.”

One of the main challenges of designing this particular supperclub was trying to create an environmentthat incorporates a restaurant, a nightclub and a theatre without feeling like a space with no concrete and distinct identity. Rather, the designers wanted to create a space where the identity was bold enough to make a unique mark without being overly and blatently imposing.

“The darker it gets, the more the space becomes a nightclub,” says Wagemans of the blurring boundaries. He continues: “And at a certain moment there is almost no difference between the desert and the dancing and that’s actually the most beautiful moment: the transition from a restaurant to a nightclub.”

He continues: “We always strive to say that supperclub is not really a restaurant, neither is it a theatre or a nightclub but all these things in one. So this hybrid that activates all these activities is the thing that makes this supperclub the most exciting of all.”

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