Cocktail Kitchen is a specialist cocktail bar that focuses in equal measure on the craft of mixology and the culinary skills of the Head Chef. The customer’s experience of preparing fresh ingredients and making both cocktails and dishes was important to the client.
Designed by UAE based practice Anarchitect, architects Jonathan Ashmore and Tarik Zaharna created a sequence of spaces over 500 sqm that maximize social interaction as part of the overall experience. According to the designers, it was important to create a journey and narrative embedded in the project that continually intrigues and invites guests back to engage and enjoy these experiences in a relaxed and beautifully crafted environment.
Situated in Dubai’s lesser known neighbourhood of Jumeirah Lakes Towers, the unexpected arrival of the unique, home-grown and design conscious Cocktail Kitchen has instigated a new going-out scene of up-and-coming stylish and social venues. Cocktail Kitchen stands out from the typical glamorous Dubai scene because it is a destination that really puts ‘social experience’ at the heart of its design, layout and its hospitality.
Cocktail Kitchen at its essence has always been playful, individual, social and entertaining. But behind all of this lies a passion to create something that will last and to seed a social culture where regulars, visitors, new and old faces come to enjoy the environment that has been created and which continues to organically evolve. As such, the attention to detail in Cocktail Kitchen extends beyond the attention to craft and material details.
According to Ashmore, the refined material palette is made up of three core elements; stone, metal and wood. Each in itself respectively represents solidity, precision and nature and when combined they create a superlative refinement and playfulness in the project. The continuity of these core material elements throughout the spaces is intrinsic to the projects subtlety and character.
On one side of the 15m long white quartz bar, sits the Martini Bar. A feature piece in itself, this area offers a social experience where the mixologist is able to showcase their craft while engaging an audience who are looking to engage their environment while experimenting with cocktails on offer. The Martini Bar area is also a second landing space into Cocktail Kitchen for those who are in-the-know and have accessed the venue from the second, discrete entrance.
While the social buzz is encouraged throughout, a more ‘domestic’ side to Cocktail Kitchen is discovered on the opposite side of the main bar. Here, the waiter station is intentionally designed as a domestic kitchen area. While maintaining functionality, customers will feel as though they are in their own kitchen as they walk past this area, which looks into the main cooking kitchen. As such, the waiter station is the perfect transition between the public dining area, and the quieter Backroom.
“The sequence of spaces and multiple entry points take people on different journeys through the project. These journeys are intrinsically linked to the social narratives we anticipated, meaning that Cocktail Kitchen has been designed as a multi-layered experience to tailor to each individual experience,” says Zaharna.
An enclosed ‘outdoor’ dining area is created by use of 2.8m high natural American red oak slats to create a boundary wall. A 500 mm gap between the soffit and the red oak slats allows for natural light to enter deep into the interior dining space. While offering privacy, and obstructing visibility from outside the venue, the red oak interlock slats recreate the feeling of being outdoors. The natural more reddish color of the red oak brightens the ‘outdoor’ dining area. Users will need to look closely to notice that this outdoor area is in fact closed indoor and temperature cooled.
While American white oak is used internally, American red oak was used on the outdoor counter tops as well as the boundary wall to provide a more natural light glow and to also provide a focal point while standing inside the venue. Externally, the red oak boundary wall will receive most visibility and therefore needed to stand out from its context. The letters ‘Cocktail Kitchen’ in copper are mounted externally and back lit on the red oak slats. During the day, the venue logo as well as the timber slats almost match in color, while at night the logo stands out and an interesting backdrop is provided due to the red oak slats.
“It is important to be relevant in Architecture. To critically interpret the brief and anticipate how people will respond and interact with spaces and programs whilst the project is still only an idea. The client brief required us to induce the notion of feeling ‘at home’ by allowing for different levels of privacy and program to occur. To achieve this through design, the process had to be openly collaborative between client, contractor, consultant and supplier. Each equally important and each was able to significantly contribute to the original vision of the project to realize the space and its potential,” concludes Zaharna.
Opened in February 2016, the bar continues to delight returning cocktail and food connoisseurs and challenges design expectations of Dubai for both local and international audiences. As such, Cocktail Kitchen is steadily becoming a catalyst that is raising awareness and shifting people’s attitudes to what is considered the ‘norm’. The attention to detail in Cocktail Kitchen extends beyond the attention to craft and material details. While prioritizing these aspects as well as spatial configuration, the architects have created a destination point in an unlikely location. More so than becoming a venue for regulars to meet, it is itself a beacon in the city which represents attention to detail in its Architecture as well as operations.