Seafood splendour

Gatserelia Design has created a contemporary twist on an oceanic theme for the DFC Al Sultan Brahim.

The ceilings and walls are highly reflective polished brushed brass.
The ceilings and walls are highly reflective polished brushed brass.

The InterContinental Hotel Group is preparing to open the doors to its three Dubai Festival City properties later this year. Within the billion dollar project lies an impressive list of F&B outlets, which has an equally inspiring roll-call of world-renowned international designers involved in the projects.

Tokyo's SuperPotato has designed a forest and ice theme for the all-day dining restaurant Anise, which boasts a 9m high ceiling with dramatic skylights and it has also put together a contemporary Japanese interactive theme with seven live cooking stations for Edamame. David Tokiwa has created a quintessential brasserie experience overlooking the promenade and Dubai Creek in the Bistro Madeleine; Christian Ghion was chosen to design Pierre Gagnaire's restaurant Reflets and LTW designed the Vista Bar complete with a floating bar with a 10m high cascading waterfall. CID takes a look at the theatrical plans for another of the InterContinental's restaurants, the famed Lebanese seafood eatery, Al Sultan Brahim Beirut, designed by Lebanese firm Gatserelia.

The Al Sultan Brahim restaurant chain was founded in 1968 on the coast line of the Jnah area by three brothers Elias, Brahim, and Chaker Ramy. Their main objective was to create a Lebanese seafood restaurant that prized quality, value and taste above everything else.

Gatserelia Design was chosen to design the outlet in the InterContinental Dubai Festival City because it had previously designed Al Sultan Brahim restaurants in Antelias, Lebanon in 2004, Beirut in 2003 and Amman, Jordan in 2006. Malak Majdalani, manager and senior designer, Gatserelia, explains what the design concept for the DFC branch was: "Looking back at previously designed Al Sultan Brahim Restaurants, although no direct similarity in details is easily perceivable, the same philosophy runs through them. All restaurants have the same design approach of taking deep sea elements, movements, forms and environments and crystallising, editing and reinterpreting them into elements of design."

As the locations of each of the previous branches have been in vastly different spaces across the Middle East a new approach to design is imperative for each outlet. The InterContinental restaurant is 450m², seating 100 diners inside and 120 on the terrace outside overlooking DFC Marina. Majdalani continues: "We have to undertake great research on details and applications while keeping in mind the initial idea of the deep sea inspiration. This usually results in the creation of new forms rather than adapting previously designed forms and elements that gives every new space its unique aspect and attraction thus linking it via the philosophical approach to all the other restaurants of the same family." He adds: "In this case, the Al Sultan Brahim at DFC is formed by a curve opened from one side and totally closed from the other. A series of columns emphasises the feeling of repetition within the space."

In keeping with the aquatic theme to complement the type of cuisine served, Gatserelia opted for dramatic water tables with stepping stones for service with random crazy slate for the flooring.

The majority of the surfaces are highly reflective, with warm copper tones adorning the ceiling. Polished/brushed brass with a bronze finish and brushed stainless steel were sourced from A.C.I.D. The walnut wood slate and natural stone were supplied by Mediterranean Ceramics.

Materials were chosen not just for their aesthetic appeal as Majdalani explains: "The design is vaguely thematic, widely pleasant, profoundly timeless and highly comfortable. All elements of design while being attractively beautiful serve at least one or many functions."

The mirror-effect of the ceiling and walls is highlighted by the decorative lighting designs. The principal lighting source is a mix between suspended lighting; recessed spotlights and LEDs integrated in the curved back wall. Majdalani says: "The main lighting attraction will be spherical suspended lights over circular tables. A marvellous effect will be generated by these huge, 150cm in diameter, lighting suspensions made of the overlapping of brass plates with integrated LED lighting." The shadow effect the hanging pendants have on the ceiling and walls is both dramatic and atmospheric, and renders the need for additional decorative touches unnecessary.

Outside, the terrace enjoys unparalleled views over Dubai Creek and the planned DFC Marina. The eating area is segregated from the walkway by the use of metallic fish sculptures. Majdalani explains: "The exterior visual barrier of fish flying in space, besides being visually appealing, works through an effect of light on the polished stainless steel (sun during the day and spotlights during the night) as a visual barrier between the restaurant and the surrounding spaces. This result is highly effective and often used in theatres, as the light on a polished surface drives the eye away from this surface without being aggressive."

Much hype has surrounded the launch of this restaurant as it is one of Lebanon's most highly-respected culinary exports, and this design ensures that it will compete with the ambitious designs of the neighbouring F&B outlets in the InterContinental DFC.

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