The Venue Tucked away in Dubai’s financial district, BB Social Dining is possibly one of the best-kept foodie secrets in the city. The home-grown licensed restaurant is owned and operated by a dynamic trio – Shab Stumpf and Spero Panagakis (both formerly of Zuma) with Chef Alex Stumpf leading the culinary charge. Its name refers to the ubiquitous Bs in the mostly Asian-inspired fare listed in the menu under Bao, Bites, Bowls and BBQ dishes, but it has a local reference too, derived from the Arabic word, ‘habibi’, which means love.
The Design While the menu features Far Eastern cuisine with some Middle Eastern influences, the interiors steer clear of any Asian design clichés and instead embrace a French-bistro-style décor. The venue is tall and narrow, spread over three storeys, comprising a café setting, open kitchen and bar, terraces and an al fresco roof top garden enclosed by greenery, so the blueprint seems like a dollhouse with several cosy corners to discover.
‘We wanted to create a restaurant that would be comfortable for both men and women by balancing masculine and feminine influences,’ explains co-owner Shab Stumpf. ‘We didn’t approach this from a food concept perspective, but how we wanted people to feel when they arrived at BB.’ Designer James Michael Lees, from London’s Studio Hopscotch, introduced monochrome mosaic tile flooring and black and white striped banquette seating boosted by pops of yellow cushions and chair upholstery. Octagonal marble tables – Calacutta Gold with a double nose finish – were created to be easily combined for larger groups, in keeping with the sharing plates and ‘social dining’ ethos of the restaurant, while a blue brick wall throughout adds warmth and consistency. Greenery is another key element of the design’s freshness and natural comfort with 197 terracotta pots, all sourced from a farm in the UK, featuring dangling plants from high level shelving. ‘Being a new, home-grown brand, we also wanted an element of legacy factored into the design to give the feeling that the place had always existed – hence the textured glass and antique mirrors,’ adds Shab. Each floor is connected by a statement spiral staircase that reflects an industrial influence from a practical perspective but has wooden accents adding comfort to the interior. The design is replicated across the three floors in slightly different ways to give each level an independent feeling whilst still belonging to one design concept.
The Experience Because the BB Social Dining venue is somewhat hidden, there is a sense that you are escaping to a secret retreat and could spend a long time lost in the cosy surroundings and delightful dishes. For starters, the cauliflower popcorn is served with a tasty truffle dip, but the clever, fresh blend of edamame, tahini and spinach in the super green hummus was delicious and set the standard for the courses that followed. Special mention goes to the habibti bao (soft-shell crab, watercress, jalapeno dressing) and the beautiful fry pan brownie. Thank you, habibi!
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