InsideOut speaks to Cesar Breton, general manager of Phoenix Social Club, to get the lowdown on the supper club concept and glamorous design cues of this cool new hangout in H Hotel, Dubai:
What was your involvement with the design process?
I was brought on board to make Phoenix Social Club happen. I had to re-design the concept and strengthen its USPs for the competitive market conditions we face in Dubai; by establishing the key elements of our food and drink offering, incorporating the right human assets to the mix and setting prices at a competitive level, the final result is something pretty unique. To achieve this I re-engineered the soul of the concept, setting a new culture based on quality and key staff competencies.
What kind of ambiance does the Phoenix Social Club aim to create?
Phoenix Social Club has an ambience “in-crescendo”, meaning that during dinner conversation is infused with the sound of jazz-funk. We evolve this chat into laughter through music and lighting as the place gets dimmer, the music increases in energy, while the ambience maintains a friendly level.
How does the design encourage this?
The space serves the dual purpose; the lower floor and bar can have a more clubby atmosphere and the mezzanine and lounge areas keep the chat friendly environment until late; quite literally, as we are now open until 6am at the weekend.
What was the design brief for the bar/restaurant, and where do we see these elements in the design?
The design brief was to transport those who walk in to the venue to another era, to evoke nostalgia of a past time. Keeping the venue’s old structural layout, and reupholstering it with reflective materials, chandeliers and touches of an even earlier time is meant to transport people back, and out of the city.
What inspiration from the supper clubs of the 1930s and 1940s were used to influence the décor?
Stone glass finished walls, crystal chandeliers, leather couches mixed with innovation and a friendly environment was the inspiration. Supper clubs used to be glamorous “locals’ bars” and we get inspiration from this ideology of a supper club: glamourous, friendly, unique and inexpensive.
How did the design team take the layout from OKKU and repurpose it effectively for Phoenix Social Club?
The design team was actually a collaboration of multiple people, contractors and the owner’s vision about what he wanted the place to look like. The mezzanine is an extension of someone’s lounge; it's cosy, the music is lower than the level below, and we have the ability to close off a small section of the space for those who really want to feel at home lounging with friends.
The lower level is the most versatile space, being our main dining area until midnight when our a-la-carte menu ends and the late night menu begins. Like Cinderella after midnight, it transforms to a rawer version of itself. The paintings on both levels were original vintage portraits touched up by local artist David Hammond; he used gold leaf to accentuate features of the portraits and make them fitting for Phoenix Social Club.
The bar area incorporates fire gradient boards on the background, and a chandelier that follows the shape of the bar. The Wever & Ducre chandeliers in the lounge, bar and dining areas were sourced directly by the owner from Belgium.
The reflective surfaces of the bar, lounge and lounge are made of geometrical shapes, with the square mirrors and also the triangle shape designs on the Klein stone-glass finish walls, these again sourced directly by the owner from the US .
Furniture and flooring were installed by local contractors, using materials from different parts of the world paying attention to quality and ethical practices. The best example of this is the flooring sourced from Vietnam from Mao Sheng, a company with strong sustainable management practices.
A projector screen with silent films forms part of the design aesthetic; what can we see screened?
The projector shows silent films from a different era as part of the vehicle that transports you out of Dubai and into another space. We have currently playing ‘The Jazz Singer’ (1927), ‘He Who Gets Slapped’ (1924), ‘The Big Road’ (1934), ‘Cleopatra’ (1934), ‘Vival Villa’ (1934) and we will be adding more films to the repertoire that are not intrusive but add for a moment of amusement without having to pick up your smartphone.
Photography by Stefan Lindeque
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