Hakkasan's Didier Souillat Hakkasan's Didier Souillat

As Michelin-starred brand Hakkasan opens its third outlet worldwide at Emirates Palace, operating officer Didier Souillat speaks to Lucy Taylor about the group ethos, staff training and the advancement of Abu Dhabi..

Tell us a bit about Hakkasan.

The brand has been around for a few years now; we’re actually celebrating our tenth anniversary in a couple of months.

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It has progressed very nicely over the past nine years, and it’s a good time now to expand and develop it. Happily, we have really been given a fantastic opportunity by our chairman, His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi [managing director of Tasameem, an arm of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority] to do just that.

Tasameem’s majority share purchase of Hakkasan in 2007 also saw them gain a majority interest in another Alan Yau brand, didn’t it?

Yes, Yauatcha; this is an all-day dim sum restaurant, also with a Michelin star, which is only established in London for the moment, but which we also anticipate we will expand into the right areas in future. But for the moment, our focus is on Abu Dhabi.

Tell us about the designers you worked with on the Abu Dhabi project.

Gilles & Boissier — they are French designers who have been our partners for a long time. They were also part of the Miami design team and the Christian Liaigre team that created the first Hakkasan London. They’ve been involved at every stage of the project.

Does the new outlet have any local flavour in its design?

It primarily had to reflect the original London Hakkasan, but the design also had to evolve. You won’t see the white marble in London, and also some of the patterns in the carved panels reflect the Arabic style and the designs you can see around Emirates Palace.

Light seems to play a major role in the design as well.

Light is essential; it’s part of those sense experiences that we want all our customers to experiment with. The lighting changes according to different times of the day, reflecting the overall mood, ambience and materials that are used.

Esometrics is the lighting company we’ve been using for the past nine years, since the first Hakkasan opened.

Apart from the lighting, what would you pick out as a stand-out design feature of the new outlet?

The blue glass is a key factor for us; the fact that you can see the kitchen through blue glass is paramount in our concept, as well as its use in the bar area.

Having a separate identity between the lounge and main dining area is also vital. You have different segments, so it still feels like a whole, but not like it’s just a big, empty 12000 square-foot space.

The flow is very important too, not only from the service point of view, but also the customer’s, so they don’t feel like there’s all this ‘service’ going on around them.