The recently unveiled Address Boulevard in Downtown Dubai is a luxurious hotel for families and business travellers alike. Within the luxe hotel is The Restaurant at Address Boulevard, a unique all-day dining space that’s been designed like the opulent apartment of a very interesting Parisian family. It’s already getting great reactions from visitors and hotel guests, and the buzz is expected to keep going strong.
Carlos Virgile and Ewald Damen from Virgile + Partners, the design team behind the restaurant, spoke to Luxhabitat about ideas and inspiration, their approach with this unique concept, and what went into making The Restaurant at Address Boulevard a reality. Whilst the hotel itself draws inspiration from the 1920s, the restaurant features a play of vintage elements with a contemporary feel, seen in the combination of contemporary furniture and the more traditional moulding from around the hotel.
“It has to be something new” says Virgile. Simply reproducing an apartment from 1920s Paris was not an option, and the restaurant couldn’t just mirror the hotel, with nothing original to add. It is meant to be a progression of the hotel, “part of it and different at the same time,” says Virgile. Tasteful elegance ties the space together and also ties it to the hotel.
Virgile and Damen led a tour of the dining space, starting with the Living Room right at the entrance, an area with rich colours and fabrics, clean lines, and an airy brightness that continues throughout the restaurant. Straight ahead from the Living Room is the formal Dining Room, with its crisp white tablecloths and more traditional decor. The deep red Chesterfields add a tasteful pop of colour. “To give it life,” says Damen. These little details are essential to the restaurant’s feeling of a “home away from home.” The warmth from the parquet floor and comfortable airiness from the high ceilings are other aspects that add to this, but the meticulous attention to detail is what really makes everything work.
The modular spaces flow effortlessly from one to the other, even with the unexpected addition of the Dressing Room, currently displaying a collection from St. John. Virgile later comments on how it shouldn’t seem so unusual. “Every house has a wardrobe, doesn’t it?” he says, with a laugh. Most of them don’t host dinner parties, of course, but the Dressing Room was a result of the fact that they’re just a normal part of a house. “It’s quirky and has wit,” says Virgile, as if it’s the simplest thing. The easy glamour of the Dressing Room, ample space for eight diners, and more secluded location make it perfect for larger get-togethers.
Right next to the Dressing Room, is another (literally) hidden gem, the Secret Room. Tucked away behind a table and bookcase in the more contemporary Study, the Secret Room can accommodate a party of four and is the perfect place for meetings, or for those seeking a more private and intimate setting. The sumptuous room is lined with panels inspired by silk screens, and includes a private bar.
Exiting the Secret Room and walking past the bright Study leads to the Kitchen. This area exudes a true feeling of warmth and the comforts of home. The contrast of dark wood and vibrant fresh produce, creates a refreshing and comfortable atmosphere. Virgile and Damen imagined this as a great space for informal catch-ups over coffee and a light breakfast. At the core of all these spaces, the one that generated the rest of the design, is the circular Collection Room. A seat over here provides a view of and direct access to every other area of the restaurant, connecting them all.
Next, we entered the Music Room, peppered with an array of posters, records, and instruments. The interactive element of the restaurant is evident here more than anywhere else. Guests are free to pick up a record and play it if they like, the fluid design encourages exploration, and the books are right there for perusal at your leisure. Adjacent is the Games Room, which is no different, with a large chessboard and its very own fully stocked bar. Through a door from here is the Library, a relaxed and inviting space brimming with character, the perfect spot to settle in and get some work done or have a quiet chat with a close friend.
When we sit down in the library, Virgile and Damen elaborate on the fictitious inhabitants of this home. The idea started with one person, but the team was having so much fun that they created a whole family. Everything is based on how this fictitious family would want it, from the posters in the Music Room to the books in the Library, with one particularly large tome that requires its own stand.
The owners are singularly interesting. The restaurant is meant to be theatrical, like them. They’re interested in art, they entertain their many friends, they travel, they collect interesting things, they’re fashionable, and “they’re elegant,” says Virgile. “Elegant” is a word that comes up often in our conversation and it fits perfectly. The design of the restaurant is sophisticated and elegant above all else, and truly feels like a very luxurious home. Virgile and Damen also explain how they created mood boards for the decoration that was interpreted and executed by a team from Emaar, who picked out the Miles Davis poster and the enormous conversation-starting design book.
Indeed, the Music Room, Games Room, and Library are three spaces that are especially excellent for socialising. They each lead out to their own section of the terrace, with their particular theme is followed. The terrace with its pool and lounge chairs also has a DJ booth, which can transform the restaurant from calm and relaxed to buzzing with energy. It’s all part of the transformative nature of the space. The restaurant aims to give its visitors a different experience every time they return.
Virgile talks about how, whether he’s designing a retail space or a restaurant, “the project is about excitement, entertainment, and enjoyment. Beyond just buying or eating.” He envisions how people would use the space. He comments that Dubai is “very different from what it used to be.” He notices a hunger for culture and art, and a greater catering to exactly the kind of people who will enjoy this restaurant.
Asked if he took any inspiration from the hotel itself, Virgile answers, “The hotel wasn’t built.” The team was given visuals of what everything would eventually look like, but the site itself was all construction. There was only a brief, a huge space, and a far away opening date. The whole process took a considerable amount of time, but “that also gave us very good time for details,” according to Damen. This project is very different from Virgile’s past endeavours, but he approaches each according to its own unique needs. The sheer space of the restaurant was great to work with and “the layout was particularly interesting,” he says, alluding to the Collection Room and the connected, modular nature of the place.
The Restaurant at Address Boulevard is open all day, with the same easygoing ‘eat what you want, when you want’ atmosphere you would have at home. Even the things that wouldn’t immediately spring to mind are covered. The acoustics department, for example, is all sorted out here because of the many soft elements. “A lot of the time a restaurant can get loud and noisy”, says Damen, “but this place is more quiet and intimate.”
Every element, from the decor to the menu, works to make visitors and guests feel right at home. Virgile imagines the restaurant to be a place that locals can feel belongs to them. Their own private place that they’re sharing with others.