The Arts Club Dubai: A slice of London heritage reimagined

Kari Colmans

10 March 2022

Nowhere screams next-level luxury quite like Dubai, making the emirate an obvious choice for the Arts Club’s first international location.

"It has its own identity and vision. We felt strongly that we had to reinterpret and tweak it a little for its new home.”

10 March 2022 | Kari Colmans

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t is, perhaps, no surprise that Dubai was selected for the first international outpost of the Arts Club, London’s historic private members’ club, first established in 1863, with help from Charles Dickens, and now one of the capital’s most exclusive playgrounds.

“Dubai serves as a fantastic gateway and hub between Europe and Asia and is a diverse destination with a very exciting creative and entrepreneurial scene,” says Ajaz Sheikh, CEO of the Arts Club Dubai. “With so much potential to grow and innovate – as we have seen with how the city and country has handled the pandemic – we are very happy to contribute to the growth of Dubai’s creative, cultural and artistic community.”

The Dubai Club will aim to align itself with the Arts Club in London in what it offers its members: from the wealth of important literary and artistic events to some of the standout dishes from its famous Brasserie. “But it also has its own identity and vision,” says Sheikh. “We felt strongly that we had to reinterpret and tweak it a little for its new home.”

The much-loved Brasserie restaurant, for instance, has been reimagined for Dubai. Head chef Mussie Imnetu will still be serving the famous crab cake with Meyer lemon sauce and fennel salad, plus the delicious house burger, but will also be offering new dishes, like Waldorf salad and a Valencian paella.

As well as the Brasserie, the Arts Club Dubai has its own original restaurant, Rōhen, run by head chef Michael Hoepfl, whose CV includes stints as head and executive chef for both Zuma London and Miami. Standout dishes, Sheikh assures me, are the tacos (crispy duck with chipotle hoisin or beef brisket, huancaina and jalapeño salsa), the squash curry steamed buns, and grilled king crab leg with miso butter and nori crunch. “Bold, lively and loud, Rōhen is the beating heart of the club,” he says. “It’s the dining destination where everyone wants to be seen.”

Elsewhere, Alveare is defined by the culinary simplicity of Italy, exploring some of the country’s long-lost regional dishes. Inspired by the golden era of the 1960s and 70s, there is an emphasis on charismatic table-side service. Oscuro, the cigar lounge in London, has also been developed to reside on the rooftop in Dubai, with a beautifully hand-crafted humidor and world-class selection of cigars. In all, there are seven craft cocktail bars.

Top designers from Milan-based interiors agency, Dimorestudio, worked their magic on the club’s truly breath-taking interiors, terraces and rooftop, combining a rich and sophisticated colour palette, and blending inspiration from both the past and present. Rooms vary in size with grander lounges and restaurants for entertaining and socialising, and smaller, more intimate spaces for discreet business meetings or quiet contemplation.

“We want members to feel like they’re in someone’s stately home or townhouse, which is again inspired by the London Club,” says Sheikh. “However, as the space of the Dubai Club (65,000 sq ft) is much larger than London, our approach to the internal architecture had to change as we were working with a giant modern structure. Therefore, we needed to create drama and interest within the vast space. We have been lavish with fabrics, colours and textures, creating softness and comfort. On the third floor, the Palazzo lounges really interpret what a Club should feel like, in the traditional sense.”

Guests will be particularly wowed by the beautiful staircase, which anchors the entire space, somehow encouraging both separation and flow simultaneously. The entrance to the Club is also unusual in its formation. “We built a box within a box and gave it a sense of arrival,” says Sheikh. “Then, as you go up from the ground floor in the glass elevators, you have this incredible 30-metre chandelier running the height of the building.” Each room connects directly to the next, allowing members to move seamlessly through the space, while high ceilings and marbled floors also add to the grandeur.

Much like its sister club, famed for its roster of innovative speakers and artists, the Arts Club Dubai has a similarly fascinating calendar, from talks on cryptocurrencies, NFTs and previews of artworks and films, to seminars with business owners and book clubs, as well as cocktail society classes and wine-tasting dinners.

The club has just run its first two art exhibition programmes, with both presentations hailing from the Middle East: Think it Forward: Selections from The Elie Khouri Collection and Huguette Caland: Faces and Places. Curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes of Wedel Art, who curate the permanent collection and exhibition programme at the London club, these shows mark the beginning of a programme that will showcase the best collections in the region and beyond, as well as timely solo and group shows of emerging and established artists.

Over the past 10 years, the Arts Club London has established a reputation for showing great artists ahead of the curve, as well as hosting important talks and performances – a practice to be developed further in Dubai, says Sheikh. The upcoming summer group show, Geometric Bodies: Regional and Diaspora Artists, celebrates Dubai’s art community, featuring regional and diaspora artists from largely local galleries.

As the jet-set crowd dust off their Chanel dad sandals and Dior beach baskets, Sheikh can’t wait to welcome British visitors who want in on the action, whether they’re looking to party on the rooftop as they look out onto the Burj Khalifa, or Sunday brunch with the whole family. “Our membership forms an exciting new community of like-minded, diverse and dynamic people, all hailing from different cultures and sectors, both from this region and further afield. The wonderful winter sunshine has arrived, and our doors here are open...”

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If you are an existing member of The Arts Club in London, you can add the international tier to your membership by emailing membership@theartsclub.co.uk; theartsclub.ae