The Venue While an entirely open-air restaurant is a brave choice (thinking ahead to the summer) for Ninive, at Emirates Towers, Dubai, so too is its bedouin-inspired design concept. Thankfully, it's far from novelty and the clever and comfortable execution of the exterior and interior design is something to savour. The restaurant takes its name from the ancient city of Nineveh, home to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World.
The Design With comfy majlis-style seating areas covered by canvas canopies that screen the surrounding skyscrapers, Ninive invites diners to escape the bustle of the busy city and step back into a more relaxed and uncomplicated time. Designed by James Michael Lees of London's Studio Hopscotch, also responsible for the interiors of Ninive's established sister venues La Cantine du Faubourg Dubai and 105 by La Cantine, the restaurant is designed as a contemporary meeting point, inspired by nomad tents and caravanserai, a type of roadside inn found along trade routes throughout Asia. 'Everything started from its geographical location,' says James. 'The restaurant is suspended, as if floating, like an oasis in the desert. It combines elements of a garden and a contemporary urban majlis, the space where, in Islamic culture, people met to make big decisions.' Large wooden traders' crates spilling over with climbing ivy welcome guests into Ninive's sheltered space, where luxuriously upholstered sofas in rich shades of saffron and plum are arranged sociably around clusters of marble-topped tables, while traditional Moroccan lamps hang overhead, casting an ambient glow. The canopies, designed to protect against the sun and windy weather, are tied to thick slanted poles, a nod to the bedouins' tented abodes, while wooden mashrabiya screens shield diners from neighboring tables. Worn Turkish rugs soften the grey floors and gorgeous campaign chairs handmade using leather and wood evoke a luxe safari look.
The Experience Ninive is a lovely relaxed retreat a stone's throw from DIFC, where subtle nuances in the design celebrate Arab heritage and culture and the menu cleverly explores tastes from across the Middle East and North Africa. Michelin-starred executive chef Gilles Bosquet travelled these regions and his menu rediscovers authentic cuisines with a contemporary twist through blends of herbs and spices. The braised Australian lamb shoulder, slow cooked for serval hours, is one of the best in town, while the traditional kunafa dessert, usually rich and heavy is delightfully light. Combined with a soundtrack of seventies Arabic lounge music and sublimely comfortable corner seating that cocoons you in a private dining experience, Ninive is certainly a must-visit venue while the weather stays cool. Before you leave, check out the Art Deco washrooms with green lacquered metro tiles on the walls and brass fittings.
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Photography by Stefan Lindeque