Michelin starred and premier Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan, opened the doors to its new Dubai branch at the very posh Jumeirah Emirates Towers, showcasing its signature blend of Chinese culture and cuisine combined with the mystique of the Arabian region. The opening marks the entry of a totally unique experience in fine dining, and includes trademark Hakkasan elements – a dining area, lounge and blue-lit bar section. The new facility is divided into sections separated by carved wooden lattice screens made of American red oak, providing a cosy and heart warming complement to the luxurious interior of the restaurant.
The 152-seat restaurant, which means ‘Hakka’, Chinese dialect and ‘San’, the Japanese form of addressing someone, features a dramatic entrance via a slate stone walkway and has two private dining rooms and Ling Ling lounge in black, gold and white, giving diners a more relaxed feeling that makes for good conversation or just lounging around and taking in the sights. New to the network is an outdoor terrace, which seats an additional 88 people, and proves to be equally fantastic with its spotlight on cascading wooden pavilions, that have been made out of American red oak, surrounded by a wall of lush green vegetation.
Backed by the success and overwhelming reception gathered from Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, which opened in June 2010, Hakkasan aimed at opening a new branch in Dubai, retaining the same chic-ambience of the original London restaurant however made more significant with the infusion of an Arabic touch. The design of the new Dubai branch was once again handled by Hakkasan’s long time design partner Gilles and Boissier, a leading Paris-based interior design firm. Gilles set up his 14-strong team design studio eight years ago with his partner Dorothée Boissier and is based in Paris. He is currently working on another Hakkasan venue due to open in New York and currently has 40 projects on the go.
Haruo Morishima, Design and Development Executive, Hakkasan, joined the Hakkasan in-house design team in 2003. Commenting on the design of the space, Morishima says: “We wanted to create a theatre with this design, something to make people feel like they were not in Dubai. A seduction on the senses through its ambience.”
“The venue used to be a gym and we were lucky because there were not the usual challenges regarding technical details such as back of house because Jumeirah Group helped us every step of the way with planning and Government regulations. It was the smoothest project I have ever done and took seven months to complete,” adds Morishima.
The Gilles and Boissier design remained true to the signature modern-ethnic Hakkasan elements, which include handcrafted and embroidered finished furniture and marble made Chinese forms. Spread across the main dining area are the restaurant’s trademark wooden lattice work that gives diners a cage-like appeal and further permeated by the dimly lighted signature blue glass in steel frame structure. Created specifically for the venue is a 16-metre bar made of stainless steel and glass. The dark wood of the tables and screens contrasts with lighter tones of the backlit blue glass and white latticing in the Ling Ling lounge, which alludes to the old school decadence of Chinoiserie, punctuated with black and gold traditionally drawn panels.
Hakkasan Dubai’s design gives homage to the emotional aspects of the venue, aiming to highlight the impact made by each space and the emotion or mood that follows the experience. The restaurant’s unique feel is the result of using the Chinese mystical art of Feng Shui, which attunes the layout and design of the restaurant with the social dynamics of the facility space or how people would interact in each of the sections. Woods Bagot, a global design studio specialising in the design and planning of facilities, served as the executive architects for the Hakkasan Dubai project. Having also handled the execution of Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, the leading design firm has been signed on as the executive architect for all upcoming Hakkasan global projects – with the New York branch already under construction and designs for branches in San Francisco and Los Angeles also in their development stages.
“We have also begun design work on San Francisco and Los Angeles, with another two sites under negotiations. This global relationship is led by our London studio, which is around the corner from Hakkasan’s headquarters in Soho. In addition to the executive architect role, Woods Bagot is also the concept designer for the new Hakkasan at the St. Regis Hotel in Doha,” said Duncan Parkinson, Principal, Woods Bagot.
According to the Woods Bagot design team, one of the main challenges posed in the execution of the design was the construction of the restaurant’s terrace and bar areas. The venue was originally designed as a gym and converting the area into a restaurant called for negotiations with Jumeirah Estates management, DEWA and the Office of Civil Defense to make revisions in the original blueprints and integrate provisions for gas supply fume extraction and increased water supply. To do this, certain parts of the area’s curtain wall needed to be taken down to allow smooth access to the terrace. Also, underground services like pipelines and such were remodelled and rerouted to give way to the new gas pipes and increased water supply.
“Access to the large terrace area necessitated demolition of parts of the curtain wall which meant revisiting the structural design from 1998. It was also criss-crossed with underground services which made the construction of the terrace challenging,” adds Steven Velegrinis of Woods Bagot.
With both traditional Chinese and Arabic design sharing certain elements such as screens and latticework (mashrabiya), the design of Hakkasan Dubai evolved as a modern international interpretation of eastern Chinese design – a fact acknowledged by Gilles and Boissier and Woods Bagot in the delivery of the project. The Woods Bagot team have in fact pointed out that the large presence of American red oak and marble remain as signature elements of the design, which can easily be noticed by customers familiar with both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai branches.
“In the Dubai restaurant, the interior design is an evolution of the Abu Dhabi project, and also includes large amounts of sustainable American red oak. The oak and marble ‘cages’ are still the signature element of the design. Customers that are familiar with both rooms will notice the similarities and also the subtle differences between the two,” says Velegrinis.
Another challenge that Woods Bagot faced was the procurement and delivery of the restaurant’s unique components that were sourced from different parts of the globe. “Items such as the AV equipment, custom design wine fridges, specialty kitchen equipment from numerous suppliers in Europe, custom designed leathers and joinery from France and timbers form the USA were all specified, imported and coordinated on site within the programme. Our joint desire to make the garden terrace a memorable place meant that we needed to procure the right kind of mature trees and determine a way to build the first major green wall in Dubai. Fortunately we managed to get quite a special result and the terrace is a unique feature for the Dubai Hakkasan restaurant,” concluded Parkinson.
Located at the Boulevard, on the ground level of the Emirates Tower’s Hotel, Hakkasan Dubai has its own private entrance and offers valet parking for its customers. The newly-opened restaurant is the sixth global Hakkasan branch and the second for the UAE. The Abu Dhabi branch has already received numerous accolades, including the prestigious ‘Restaurant of the Year’ award at Abu Dhabi Gourmet Stars Awards and the ‘Best Restaurant of the Year’ and ‘Best Far Eastern Restaurant of the Year’ awards at the annual What’s On Abu Dhabi Awards 2012.