Case study: Keane-designed Ají restaurant boasts walls of street art

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Keane is the design company behind a new Nikkei-Style restaurant and bar that opened at Club Vista Mare on the Palm.

Fusing Japanese and Peruvian cuisines, Nikkei-style restaurants are making their mark worldwide. Ají, Retail & Beyond’s latest F&B concept, brings a vibrant blend of Oriental and Latin American spirit to Dubai.

It is also one of the seven venues that recently opened at Club Vista Mare, Nakheel’s beachfront dining and leisure complex on the Palm.

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“This is such a unique dining destination in the region. A line up of stand-alone, shore side restaurants that are licensed without being part of a hotel,” says Yana Kalwani, Retail & Beyond’s vice-chairperson.

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Following successful collaboration on designing interiors for Pantry Café, another home-grown brand launched by Retail & Beyond, Keane’s Dubai office was appointed to craft Ají’s space.

The client brief to the design team was that the interiors should reflect the countries represented, but without obvious references.

“We see a seamless blend of old meets new; two cultures intertwined – which is what our food is about,” says Kalwani. “We also have a flippant mix of furniture that allows for a casual, relaxed feel, while still maintaining the upscale look of the place.”

Moving away from the usual industrial style to a softer and more refined look, the design concept was built upon the idea of an ancient manor house that has been discovered and regenerated.

Helen El Mettouri, regional director at Keane, explains that the references to both cultures are seen through subtle hints, mainly through textures and patterns.

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“I believe that the industrial look had its moment. Now, schemes are created and curated to provide different layers of interest and focus. This scheme is very eclectic with a blend of quite traditional patterns, textures and worn-in finishes,” she says.

Alongside the spacious terrace with external bar, the 940m2 restaurant comprises separate bar and lounge, and main dining area with an open-plan ceviche and sushi counter and private dining room.

One of the main, and definitely the most “Instagrammable”, features in the restaurant is a colourful mural in the bar area portraying a Peruvian woman. There is a second similar mural in the main dining area, which acts as a statement piece seen from a private dining room. Both graphics were painted by a local street artist, called Rami Elzaguawy.

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