Palazzo Versace hotel manager Patrick Robineau Palazzo Versace hotel manager Patrick Robineau

The opening of the Palazzo Versace has been long awaited. Developed in joint venture with Enshaa Group and designed by Donatella Versace, the hotel is located at the centre of the new Culture Village, on a waterfront plot with unobstructed views of the Dubai Creek. The hotel offers 215 suites and 169 condominiums together with several signature restaurants, and a spa.

Its F&B outlets include the all-day dining concept Giardino, with marble flooring and columns, and walls decorated in a special edition of the iconic Jungle print from the Versace Wallpaper collection. The Italian pescatarian Vanitas restaurant is designed to resemble a classical Italian palace, with handmade wall decorations featuring the Grottesche Italiane. The lobby lounge is called Mosaico, and it also has shisha lounge Gazebo, pool restaurant Amalfi, and two bars, La Vita and Q’s, the latter of which is owned by music producer Quincy Jones.

In an interview with Hotelier Middle East, Palazzo Versace Dubai hotel manager Patrick Robineau says: “Versace as a brand is known for a lot of things except food and beverage, and it was very important for us to position our food and beverage outlets so that we are recognised for gastronomy in the region.”

Highlighting that the local F&B scene is very competitive, Robineau explains that it was essential to offer a product that directly engages with the consumers. He says that this was the reason why, for example, rather than opening just another Italian restaurant, Vanitas was classified as a pescatarian concept. Saying the focus is more about the product, the general ambience also played a role, with all the glassware and tableware produced by Versace.

But the focus of the F&B, at least during the opening, is Enigma. The restaurant claims to be the world’s first to change its dining concept and chefs four times a year — this includes cuisine and tableware. The premise of the restaurant is that each chef tells a story, with the menu remaining a secret until guests arrive. To enter the restaurant, guests have to pre-book their seats just as one would for a theatre performance. The launch chef on January 10 was three Michelin-starred and World’s 50 Best chef Quique Dacosta, who will stay at the venue until April 12. Enigma will then close for eight days, after which the next chef will go live on April 20. At the time of going to print, the next chef’s name had not been made public.

Robineau calls Enigma the “big launch” and says: “It’s a disruptive concept, it’s a concept which evolves.” He reveals that in order to be approached for the concept, the chef needs to feature in the World’s 50 Best list, as well has have Michelin stars.

The intent behind this venture was to create a concept that would be recognised at an international level, says Robineau. “That was really important for us, as opposed to just be something that would have marketing value in the GCC,” he adds.

Changing customer profiles was also a consideration. “The citizens of this world are borderless. Why have rigidity in the restaurant with such an eclectic audience? The beauty of the concept is that it allows it to evolve and change. It gives us the opportunity to be the latest culinary experience on the market. We can go in any direction that we wish because what’s trendy today may not be tomorrow. For example if you open a French restaurant, guess what. You’re stuck with the concept for the next few years to come. With Enigma, we can change and evolve as we go along.”

A bold idea, going where no one, certainly in this region, has gone before. Is the market ready? Robineau thinks so. “The proof will be in the pudding. We already have a lot of reservations, which we are so excited about because it’s building trust with the consumer.

“Dubai has greatly evolved. I used to be here 16 years ago and Dubai has changed tremendously. We are just around the corner from 2020 and Dubai is a hub for innovation. You have D3 promoting art and design and fashion, so it’s definitely come at the right time. People are becoming a lot more demanding with products because there’s so much choice. For us, it’s about quality in experience throughout — the food and the service.”

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