Qbara invites us to dine within a majestic Arabian interior that fuses traditional Oriental ambiance with contemporary and sleek influences
As a contemporary lifestyle restaurant, bar and lounge, Dubai’s new Qbara offers a stunning and memorable take on traditional Middle Eastern design and atmosphere.
Launched by JAS Hospitality and designed by Studio Glitt, one of Asia’s most prominent architecture and design firms, Qbara is a nightlife destination that’s generously spread over two large floors. The restaurant can host a maximum of 342 guests, to be seated within a layout that spans 1,207m2.
Meaning ‘large’ in Arabic, Qbara also sounds like ‘Arabic’ when read backwards. This innocent play on words reflects the nature of the company’s brand identity, as it strives to honour its roots in Middle Eastern tradition while remaining contemporary and attractive to modern customers.
Speaking of how the design’s end result relates to the initial brief, Elmar Pichorner, chief operations officer, JAS Hospitality, explains: “It came actually very, very close because when we do the design brief, we think about the basic layout and the area’s [spaces] well in advance.
So we don’t leave it to chance, so Noriyoshi [Muramatsu, head of design and architecture, Studio Glitt] really opened the area and wrapped his design around it. So his final design came very, very close to the original brief.”
Qbara intends to be one of the latest, hip places to be, that offers authentic Middle Eastern flavours in a contemporary and sleek setting. With such aims, choosing Studio Glitt as the leading design team seemed an obvious choice. The Japanese based studio is the mastermind behind such big franchises as Zuma and ROKA.
Upon entering the restaurant, customers are greeted with various pockets of privacy and seating layouts, as well as numerous design features that draw plenty of attention.
Just past the doors, visitors are welcomed by an enormous entrance script, which refers to a monolithic piece of artwork that is more than four metres high and seven metres wide, and made of sand casted metal. The script, which was supplied by Phuket-based metal artist John Underwood, displays poems and lifestyle statements that centre on Qbara’s love for life and food.
“What it means is that you have four different sizes of fonts with four different levels of recognition,” Pichorner explains addressing the script. As a costumer begins to examine the metal script, they realise that it’s not a simple text written from top to bottom, but rather one that incorporates numerous languages, literary references, letter sizes, and fonts.
He continues: “It features poems from famous Lebanese writer Khalil Jibran, and it even shows some sayings that just don’t mean anything. It’s a metaphor, really, that life is a tapestry of love and everything else hooks on to it.
What you also realise is there is Arabic coming in from the right and English coming in from the left. The point where the two languages meet reflects the [interaction] of cultures and languages. It’s an Arabesque concept that wants to bring culture-to-culture heritage to the world.”
Within Qbara there are many different areas that manipulate lighting and space to create distinct ambiances. From the three different majlis areas, to the VIP space, lounge and dining areas, Qbara provides a number of zones that together create a mysterious, romantic and intimate setting, regardless of the projects actually large size.
In addition to the script wall, another focal design feature is a two-story vertical wall installation of 60 timber panels that display Islamic carvings sourced from different countries in Central Asia. One can see the feature wall stretching from the ground floor to the top ceiling, as though it’s spreading upward minute by minute.
Pichorner points out the timber panel wall as his favourite feature of the interior, noting: “The timber panel wall behind the bar is special because we went to great lengths to procure the timber carvings. The brief wanted Islamic carvings, so we didn’t want to go to Pakistan or be cliché because that’s what everyone would do in that position.
“For the timber panels, we got the carvers from Afghanistan [and different countries in Central Asia]. And because we did that, we got a specific look that’s very raw and very…you know it gives off an artisanal look that makes it very special and very different. Because of that, I think, it makes it the key feature of the wall.”
The timber panel wall also offers different forms of entertainment as Qbara management now employs high technology LED machinery to project images onto the panelled wall.
Pichorner explains: “We also project onto the timber panel wall with state of the art equipment, which basically redraws the wall…so now we can use every panel as a projection surface and make different designs.”
The timber panels’ motif is extended to suspended ceiling panels displayed on both the ground floor ceiling and upper floor wall panelling. Customers are essentially engulfed by the timber wall panels, as they even hang from the ceiling. Pichorner explains: “That’s a continuation of the theme of the wall, by suspending the timber panels from the ceiling with stainless steel wire. Studio Glitt cocooned the room, if you like.”
Complimenting the entrance script, timber walls, and hanging ceiling panels are the many design elements brought forth by ingenuous applications of traditional rugs.
The ground floor restaurant area is surrounded by a curved glass facade that is shaped into a large wave. Symmetrically covering the glass panels are carpet tiles that have been mounted on and present an illusion of flying carpets.
The upper floor continues the contemporary souk-like theme as it also applies Islamic fabric and carpet elements. The carpets are truly one of a kind as they’re classified antique Afghani that have been dyed a more rustic, burnt orange base hue to suit the interior theme.
Qbara doesn’t only consist of small pockets of intimacy; the restaurant allows transparency between the two levels as its centre is completely open, which allows the project’s full volume to really create a unique sense of serene isolation from the rest of the city.
Hanging above the opened centre of the restaurant is a magnificently large chandelier consisting of more than 1,100 light fittings. The intricately designed chandelier lights up the entire restaurant in a soft glow. Upon examination, one would notice the chandelier is meticulously suspended from 658 different strands of stainless steel wire that are all meticulously hung at precise levels and positions.
From peering over the second level, one is able to take in the entire colour palette, which fuses romantic hues of fuschia with burnt orange, deep purples and autumn reds. The coloured textiles not only bode well for the restaurant’s Middle Eastern concept, but also mix properly with the wooden elements that envelope the interior.
Every aspect of design found in Qbara reflects not only its founding concept to mix the region’s tradition with
contemporary design, but also the brand’s intention to grow as a Dubai-born franchise.
“Qbara is the first of its kind and it’s a home grown Dubai brand,” says Pichorner. “We didn’t bring in an overseas concept to Dubai, it’s invented and conceptualised in Dubai and the idea is to take it to other great cities of the world where it’s conceptually relevant. We really asked ourselves, is this something that could be relevant in New York, London or Paris? And only if it was on that level, we carried it through.”
Fast facts about Qbara • Launched by JAS Hospitality and designed by Studio Glitt • Located within the WAFI Fort complex at Oud Metha. • The restaurant adjoins a bar area complete with high tables and the Crystal Lounge. • The restaurant covers two levels, spanning across 1,207m2 of space. • Studio Glitt is one of Asia’s top architecture and design firms lead by Noriyoshi Muramatsu. • Studio Glitt has also designed other large franchises included Zuma and ROKA.