The venue includes Raw bar, Fire bar, brasserie, main bar, private dining, chefs table, external bar and courtyard and dining areas.
The project was very ambitious and quite large. The design DNA developed from what was initially a coarse-grained Tasman inspiration; rugged, worn, sun bleached. Realities of the many Dubai Opera stakeholders and their own ambitions shaped the restaurant to become more refined, and a bit more delicate.
Within our design process we explored the TWA Terminal at JFK airport by Eero Saarinen and also our own Sydney Opera House and its shell geometries, both of which find their way into the restaurant to become this oceanic salon. The restaurant was also inspired by the highly irregular shape and scale of the building and tenancy and drew upon A&CO's personal interest in 20th Century Classic design and architecture combined with the oceanic Australian/New Zealand influences of Sean Connolly’s cooking.
Each design element within the venue explores ideas of the sea, from the oyster with its combination of smooth sensual surfaces and textured outer surfaces, to the oceanic tones and colours of corals and pearlescent hues. Vaulted ceiling tiles which reference both the inside of an oyster and the Sydney Opera House sails were manufactured from templated GRC and hand tiled in situ from Australian supplied ceramic tiles, the combination of matt and gloss tiles, in their own right both very inexpensive, become jewel like and reflective.The main spaces are focused upon the central cocktail Pearl Bar, constructed from grey leather, walnut timber and yellow marble.
The grey marble banquettes with their pink leather are reminders of the delicate contrasts of the ocean corals and sea creatures while the raw and fire bars remind us of the outer edges of blackened seashells. In keeping with the Antipodean theme, Jacqui Fink, an international pioneer of ‘extreme knitting’ created a custom 6m high Merino Wool hanging artwork (one of her largest commissions to date) as a nod to the tentacles of sea creatures, delicate and mystical. Similarly, local Sydney artist Tracey Deep, known for her floral installations using found and native flora created three hanging sculptures curated to the oceanic vision.
The custom handmade woollen carpet with its blue dappled tones is a depiction of the ocean waters and was custom designed by Alexander &CO for this venue. In keeping with the 20th Century design inspirations, the classic Serge Mouille lighting has been custom made in curving white enamel steel and brass finishes. Similarly, cult 20th Century furniture originals are combined in greens, greys, blues and whites with natural walnut timbers. They are sculptural and feminine and add significant value to the interest of the overall aesthetic.
The main challenge included dealing with local manufacturing and quality and availability of high quality local workmanship.