The safe haven

The safe haven

The Conrad Hotel’s new venue, designed by Stickman, gives a whole new meaning to cave dwelling.

Designed by Dubai-based studio Stickman, Cave is a brand new venue that recently opened in the Conrad Hotel. It boasts an imaginative and unique space dedicated to fusing an intimate ambiance with a contemporary cellar design.

It’s an urban style grape bar that also provides a high end tapas menu, and while it was designed for 2013, the project took over five years to complete and pulled its inspiration from old world and new world grape facilities from around the world.

“The initial concept of Cave was always the same: mix the old world with the new world,” explains Stickman director and co-founder, Marcos Cain. “If you’ve been to the Champagne region, it’s all chalk caves underneath the [grape] houses, which they use for bottle storage. In there they have millions and millions of dollars worth of grape that sits there on the riddle racks, where they turn the bottles over for seven years minimum. The chalk caves have a lot of history; the monks used to sneak through them trying to get from one castle to another. So that’s where the design really derived from,” he adds.

The venue boasts a private grape cellar, tasting tables, technically-advanced grape systems, and barrel inspired shapes and structures.

The main bar glows with a backlit, fret-cut corian surface, while the columns throughout the venue are strapped with leather belt braces, reminiscent of France during the 18th century, where barrels of liquid were hauled throughout city streets.

Cain notes: “We incorporated old school barrels, so when you’re in there, you’ll see that some of the booths are in the shape of a grape barrel. The flooring and seating is also theatre-like.

“The booth seating originally had panels that were striped in hues of the different seasons of grape, which is a design element that can still be found throughout Cave. These stripes throughout the place are a contemporary twist on board panels, so the venue is very true to what it is: an old world and new world grape bar.”

New world grape facilities were also a source of inspiration. Found in countries like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, these grape houses typically have concrete flooring, contemporary tasting spaces and fireplaces to create intimate ambiances.

Cave incorporates all of these elements. While its biggest features are perhaps more traditional, such as the rock walls, the venue’s flooring, furnishing and fireplace and are all evocative of new world graperies.

“The tasting tables are set up in a contemporary style, rather than say a renaissance style. So you’ll find a lot of those elements in there—actually, you’ll find more new world in the design than old world, but the old world gives the space a sense of character and dynasty,” explains Cain.

Cave’s design is wholly consistent from front to back. The barrel shape is not only visible in the booth seating, but also in the lighting. Some of the fixtures, explains Cain, were made to follow the same shape.

Other lighting elements further the grapery feel, as they stand to be more like lighting installations rather than just boasting functional value.

“We had glass bottles that were almost fossilised into the wall, so the neck of the bottle is pushed into the wall…We worked with a number of suppliers to get the right bottle. We didn’t want to have amber tinted bottles since that’s more associated with [malt beverages]. So in this instance, we were looking for more of a green hue,” notes Cain.

In addition to the tasting room where the glass bottles are almost completely driven into the wall, there are also backlit bottle ceiling lights where a warm green glow is emitted onto the dark wooden furniture.

Behind the tapas bar, which boasts a façade that’s striped in different hues to coordinate with the many seasons of grapes, is a wall design that displays a ceramic tile design supplied by Dominic Crimson. These tiles, which offer a break from the overall colour palette, can also be found decorating the washrooms.

Cain adds: “The Dominic Crimson tiles were sort of more to give a little bit of opulence to the washrooms. We believe that what’s happening inside is just as important as what’s happening outside. It’s quite critical that you have a good sense of design in the washroom. Also, cleanliness is key and that comes through with the right design.”

Cave also offers a private VIP room, which can be accessed through a tunnel of pre-fabricated sanded limestone, which brings customers back to the romantic Champagne region and the chalk caves. The edged detail in the wall is also reminiscent of the notorious Madame Clicquote’s Veuve grape house.

The stone wall can also be found in the cellar, where its size is quite notable and lines the walkway to the back. As Cain put it: “It’s extremely large and it really creates the feeling of a modern stone cave.”

The multifarious venue consists of a number of spaces that cater to the different needs, moods and interests of customers. Such spaces range from the new world grapery elements, like the tasting tables that are pre-positioned and the modern fireplace near the back of the venue, which not only functions to create a warm and cosy environment, but it also boasts an edgy design.

Another unique element of Cave is the bed-lounge section, which includes relaxed seating that’s covered in light green fabric and allows customers the space to kick back and relax with a few friends.

“The nice thing is there are pockets of space. So when it comes to ambiance, you can find an area for intimacy and an area to lounge with crew,” explains Cain.

He adds: “There’s also a day bed area, a fireplace, stand-up seating and a small tapas bar as well. So essentially, it’s really a grazing experience.”

Cain concludes: “You can sit there and get a different feel from a different space, so if you’re starting to feel a bit cold and want a bit of warmth, you can go to the back near the fireplace. Then there are the day beds, where you can lounge with some crew. It’s layered, it’s not an open room—there are different spots of love.”

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