Smoking hot!

WHEN Al Khayat Investments (AKI), a well-diversified UAE-based group, decided to launch a new shisha lounge and restaurant with the aim of making it a ‘hot and happening’ place, it turned to interior design and branding agency Brand Creative to mastermind the concept.

The brief was to create an environment where young professionals and the local demographic would feel comfortable – a place to relax and enjoy the subtle aromas emanating from flavoured shisha, as well as an original Arabian dining experience.

Brand Creative was tasked with creating the name, designing all the branding – from the logo, the various staff uniforms, menu, graffitti place mats and matchboxes, to the takeaway packaging – and of course the venue itself. The only pre-determined aspect was the location – the Citywalk, a new retail destination in Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE.

The elements of fire, smoke and heat are used throughout.

The elements of fire, smoke and heat are used throughout.

Elaborating on the project, creative director Carla Conte says: “The first thing was to think of a name. We wanted something short, punchy, memorable, relevant to the concept and easy to pronounce, that would work in Arabic and English. We came up with ‘Nar’ which has several connotations in Arabic. Literally it means ‘fire’ or ‘hot’. It is the name of shisha coals and can also be used as an adjective to describe an attractive person or situation.”

Carla goes on to explain that once they had the name, it established the theme for the interiors – using the elements of fire, smoke and heat throughout, as well as a tribute to the region’s culture and heritage.

The indoor bar encapsulates all of these points: starting low down on one side, its very shape and colour portray the way in which the shisha coals burn, swirling plumes of smoke which extend off into smoke rings at the ceiling. The bar was also custom-hand-sprayed in gold to add to the smoky charcoal effect.

The single indoor column is a focal point, modelled on the top of the shisha pipe, while the four fire pits throughout the venue provide a modern impression reminiscent of nights spent in the desert at a bedouin encampment.

Outdoor seating for 80 on a large patio.

Outdoor seating for 80 on a large patio.

For the ceiling, Brand Creative took a traditional Islamic geometric pattern – one not often used – and enlarged it to such an extent that it became a modern pattern for a more edgy look. Geometric patterns are also a recurring aspect in the multi-coloured privacy screens in the dining area.

While the prevailing backdrop is black, no wall is flat – every panel has been treated with a glossy black mirrored or textured finish to enhance the contemporary nature. The colours of the dining area’s privacy screens are also picked up in the chairs and banquettes, thus avoiding a sombre, heavy atmosphere.

There are two bespoke majleses with fire pits that are the located in the main indoor shisha area. Walls feature eight graffiti-style images of iconic writers, actors, poets, musicians and chanteuses of the Arab world, namely Omar Sharif, Fayrouz, Oum Kalthoum, Ismahan, Ibn Duraid, Laham and Abdel Halim and Rochdi Abada. The custom carpet pattern returns to the geometric motif with gradations of colour that pick up on the graffitti images.

The name established the theme for the interiors.

The name established the theme for the interiors.

The indoor shisha room can accommodate up to 70 guests, while the shisha-free main dining room holds seating for 65. There is also outdoor seating for 80 on a large patio overlooking the Citywalk’s water fountains. Additional fire towers dot the patio with a warm glow.

The indoor private dining room with seating for 12 is separated from the main dining area by a back-lit screen of Kufic calligraphy that says ‘welcome’.

The Brand Creative team has thoughtfully created every single aspect of the project from selecting the picture-perfect Tom Dixon pendants, sparkling Fabbian lighting fixtures to the Andreu World furniture from Spain in fire-resistant fabric – connecting the different areas with colour, the graffiti images and custom-designed patterns.

Farah George, general manager of food and beverage at AKI, comments: “From the outset, we knew that Nar was going to be something different and special. The finished result is outstanding. We wanted people to say ‘wow’ when they saw it and they have. We believe this concept has set a new standard for shisha lounges, by bringing a traditional cultural pastime right up to date.”

Nar had a soft opening last December.