Designed by london-based Studio Conran and Partners, Rüya’s interiors blend traditional Anatolian hospitality and Ottoman-influenced contemporary design.
Named Rüya, the Turkish meaning for dream, the restaurant recently opened in the Grosvenor House Hotel, Dubai Marina, fuses the cosmopolitan spirit of Istanbul, diversity of Anatolian food and a vibrant and contemporary ambience.
The venue is the next chapter of restaurant concepts for d.ream, the partners in Coya, Nusret, and Zuma while the kitchen is led by executive chef Colin Clague, who most recently headed up Jean Georges Dubai and Qbara in the city.
Undertaking its first hospitality project in the UAE, London-based studio Conran and Partners has designed Rüya’s interiors.
The client’s brief to the design team was to create a vibrant and contemporary new brand to showcase the rich heritage of Turkish cuisine, eventually expanding the concept on a global scale.
Tina Norden, project director at Conran and Partners, says that the studio’s starting point for this and any brief is to research it thoroughly, making sure that “they get right under its skin”.
In the case of Rüya, this meant understanding the rich history of Turkey, from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires through to the present day, and interpreting these for a sophisticated, contemporary audience.
“This confluence of both Eastern and Western cultural influences suggested some of the materials, patterns, colours and textures we have used,” explains Norden.
The design team already collaborated with the owner, Umut Özkanca, on his three projects in Istanbul, so Norden adds it was a nice challenge to work with a client they were already familiar with, but in a new market.
“I’ve known Umut for five years now and we always talked about the idea of opening a contemporary Turkish restaurant, which is not for the Turkish market. When the opportunity arose to develop this concept in Dubai, we knew that if we can make it here, hopefully it can go to London, Miami and New York afterwards.
“We started on the overall vision for the Rüya brand at the end of 2015, before we looked at the specifics of the location. The site for this Rüya ‘debut’, which is part of the Grosvenor House complex, has a legacy of high-end restaurants and well-known international brands, which has set the bar high,” adds Norden.
She explains that the quality of the food and its authenticity are Rüya’s unique selling points and the design had to reflect this.
“Our understanding of Anatolian culture and the high value it places on nurturing a direct relationship between the host and the guest has been an important influence,” adds Norden. “The overall concept seeks to layer a contemporary dining experience with traditional touches and visual references that are unique to Turkish culture. A celebration of traditional cooking methods is at the heart of the concept, with the food always taking centre stage.”
The design team needed to adapt its original ideas to meet some specific challenges, for example the dual entrance (one from the hotel lobby, and the other which is connected to the street by a lift) by creating atmospheric thresholds at both entrances.
The restaurant’s space is designed to offer different spaces for different purposes, from large groups of diners and friends to more intimate gatherings.
“We created different zones, which can be used by different groups of people and that was something that we as designers were always conscious of. Rüya features a big lounge area with low seating where guests can have a more casual dining experience. We also designed areas that are more private, while the dining area, which is next to the kitchen, is more open and livelier.”
To make the dining experience more immersive, the designers created an open and visible kitchen with a freestanding bread oven, so that guests can see how the food is being prepared and by whom. The hexagonal freestanding oven is rendered in shades of blue to grey, and the designers have incorporated bespoke tiles inspired by Turkish ceramics.
Designers also needed to make the most of the views of Dubai Marina, by incorporating a generous terrace for outside dining.
“Dubai has great bar market so we wanted to have a nice bar that has a great terrace, which is always a huge bonus.”
In the lounge area, Norden and her team used warm timber flooring, which extends and flows on to the terrace, so when the windows are wide open during the cooler months both spaces are fused into one. The bar sits on the corner addressing both indoors and outdoors.
The colour palette ranges from natural off whites and pale greys that are used for the upholstery on the terrace to more vibrant shades of turquoise blue, seen on low seating chairs and glazed lava stone table tops.
When it comes to special design features, Norden highlights the bread oven as the focal point of the venue, which is located right at the entrance while the rows of wooden rolling pins decorate the ceiling above it.
She says her favourites are the bespoke lighting and wall tiles, which were made in Turkey by local artisans. The huge pendant lights were created by AMBB Building Contracting, adding drama to the space, but also recalling classic Byzantine architecture.
“We designed the pattern, but of course it all comes back to the traditional 3D tiles that are part of Turkish history and its architectural language. The lighting features were inspired by beautiful domes seen in the mosques,” adds the designer.
The design team specified Guby chairs and Stellar Works seating furniture in the lounge area while the tables and star-shaped banquets were bespoke designed and made in Turkey and the UAE.
Norden was the lead interior designer for the award-winning South Place Hotel in London’s Shoreditch and oversaw the conversion of Old Bengal Warehouse into two restaurants, a bar and a wine shop. She also led the team responsible for Roppongi Hills Club in Japan and is currently working on two new Park Hyatt hotel projects in Asia Pacific due to complete in 2017.
Commenting on the current restaurant interior design trends to consider, Norden says they should design with style over fashion to ensure the interior is long-lasting and consistently fresh as well as using the right materials that will age well.
She continues: “It is definitely going towards creating more intimate restaurants that feel more personal and have a very specific and authentic cuisine and reflect the offering by the owners. As designers, we are there to interpret visually and in a tactile way what the dream of the owner is. For us, it is crucial to understand what is in their heart.”
With so many restaurants now being designed with Instagram in mind, Norden says it is becoming crucial to create moments that are photo worthy, but adds that creating a real relationship between the people and the food is still among the most important aspects of design.