Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera

By Luke Hughes  Photography Alexander &CO.

Situated in Downtown Dubai and featuring an eclectic mix of dishes from an á la carte menu, pizza corner and sushi counter, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is a coastal brasserie without pretense in a sophisticated and grandiose setting. 

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is a contemporary brasserie featuring what they describe as an ‘uncomplicated and produce-driven menu’ that offers up a selection of succulent steak and seafood dishes for its guests.  The 350-person restaurant-bar boasts a variety of dining locations with particular highlights being the chef’s table, an intimate space adjacent to the open kitchen, and a rooftop terrace where guests are spoilt to an impressive view of the Burj Khalifa. 

With over 25 years’ experience in the kitchen, British-born Chef, Sean Connolly is renowned for his variety of restaurants found across Australia (and now Dubai), as well as his multiple TV series aired across 35 countries. At its core, the fundamental principal of Sean’s cooking is ‘a love of simple honest food’, with his trademark down-to-earth cooking style and enthusiasm for food earning him a series of awards and industry accolades throughout his career.

The building in which Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is housed possesses a highly irregular shape and it is this unusual structure, along with the vast scale of the building, that architect and design team at Alexander &CO, alongside design partner Tribe Studio, were inspired by when approaching the project last year. 

Drawing upon 20th Century classic design and architecture in conjunction with the oceanic Australian/New Zealand influences of Sean Connolly’s cooking, each design element on the premise explores ideas of the sea. From the smooth, sensual and textual surfaces of the oyster to the coral and pearlescent hues found within the ocean, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera brings a visual spectacle to Downtown Dubai.

The interior design includes vaulted ceiling tiles that seek to mimic the inside of an oyster whilst creating a subtle allusion to the Sydney Opera House sails; arguably one of the 20th century’s most iconic and distinctive buildings. 

Within the main space, the team have used the cocktail Pearl bar as a central focal point using grey leather, walnut timber and yellow marble in its construction. The inclusion of grey marble banquettes and pink leather at the bar seeks to create a sophisticated feel whilst still alluding to the delicate contrast of ocean corals and sea creatures. 

Featured within the interior design is a custom-made Merino Wool hanging artwork made by Jacqui Fink. Fink is a fibre artist based in Sydney, Australia and considered an international pioneer of  ‘extreme knitting’. Predominantly working with high grade and naturally coloured merino wools from Australia and New Zealand, the hanging work has been designed to subtly replicate the tentacles of sea creatures whilst embodying the mystical allure of the ocean.

Local Sydney artist Tracey Deep, well known for her floral installations that celebrate Australia’s native flora, also created three hanging sculptures curated to the oceanic vision of the designers. Deep describes her work as ‘playful, sculptural and whimsical with an emphasis on patterns, shapes and textures.’

Other design features custom-made for the venue include the hand-made woollen carpet that has been styled using blue dappled tones to depict the calming hues of ocean waters and the classic Serge Mouille lighting with its curved white enamel steel and brass finishes. The cult 20th Century furniture originals feature an eclectic mix of colours including greens, greys, blues and whites to add to the sculptural and feminine aesthetic of the restaurant-bar. 

Overall, Head Architectural Consultant/interior design team Alexander & CO, alongside design partner Tribe Studio, have been able to mimic elements of the sea to create a space that is reminiscent of the ocean and the creatures found within it.