The term supper club can be applied to a multitude of culinary establishments, from large venues offering cocktails, dinner and a show to the sort of underground dinner parties that have been popular, particularly in the UK, for the past several years.
These smaller supper clubs, often held in an apartment with the chef, or even a home cook, serving a set menu and often asking for donations rather than a set price, are usually focused on good food and energetic conversation.
The UAE has seen the emergence of several similar concepts, including “social concierge” service Lime & Tonic’s regular “secret” pop up dinner parties, offering a five-course menu prepared by the chef Tomas Reger in an undisclosed location, and The Dinner Club By No 57, the exclusive pop-up dinner parties held by the Emirati foodies, fashion lovers and entrepreneurs Buthaina Al Mazrui and Alamira Noor Bani Hashim in unique locations. So far these have included a disused swimming pool and a repurposed bus. But recently the supper club concept has spread to the mainstream, with the arrival of several international offerings located in five-star properties in Dubai.
The first of these high-end clubs to arrive in the UAE was Music Hall in Dubai’s Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel. The brainchild of the Lebanese entrepreneur Michel Elefteriades, the original Music Hall opened in an old cinema in Beirut in 2003. Now a bastion of Beirut’s pulsating nightlife, it presents a dozen or more local and international acts every weekend in a theatre-style setting.
“The wide array of styles ranges from bel canto operatic singing and gipsy rumba to Catalonian, salsa from Havana, reggae from Jamaica, Middle Eastern music, jazz, different styles of fusion and our resident DJ, who plays a set of five minutes between acts,” explains Elefteriades.
The Dubai outpost of Music Hall is located on The Palm in Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s large Metheran Theatre. It boasts a capacity of 1,000, and is only open on Thursday and Friday evenings. It is proving popular.
Elefteriades says that “dining is not the raison d’être of the Music Hall”, but patrons of the club can choose from a large range of European appetisers, sharing platters, main courses and desserts while enjoying the music.
Food is certainly an integral part of the concept at The Act Dubai, the theatre club opened in the Shangri-La Hotel in March by the British businessman Simon Hammerstein. A substantial Peruvian menu is served to diners in front of the mock baroque club’s stage, which flies in an eclectic array of acts from all over the world for performances on Thursday and Sunday evenings.
Hammerstein has launched several similar concepts in the UK and the US, including the infamous The Box Soho, popular with celebrities such as Jude Law, Kate Moss and Mark Ronson, as well as The Box Manhattan and The Act Los Angeles.
“I am always on the lookout for new and interesting places to open my concepts,” says Hammerstein. “I have been travelling to the Middle East for a few years now and felt it was the perfect place for our next opening.”
The latest fusion of dining and entertainment to see the UAE’s potential is Supperclub. Founded in Amsterdam 21 years ago as a restaurant and meeting place for artists, performers and musicians, a “fusion of food and performing arts”, there are now also outposts in Istanbul, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London. Supperclub Dubai, which like Musical Hall located at Zabeel Saray, opens on Friday. A night out for two people is in the Dh800-1,000 range.
“Dubai is renowned for its luxury hospitality and many of the world’s famed brands are on our doorstep. However, there is a trend emerging for experiential entertainment and the city’s socialites are looking for more novel experiences,” says the chief executive and partner of Supperclub Mena, Yassin Matbouly.
“As a cosmopolitan hub, Dubai was an obvious choice for the first venue in the Middle East. The burgeoning art scene is also evidence of an undercurrent of creative individuals seeking new and exciting experiences, a step away from the traditional restaurants and clubs run by hotel chains.”
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