Jury prize

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera, Dubai

Designed by: Alexander & Co
For client: Sean Connolly Floor area: 2005.00 M² Year of completion: 2017
Awarded: Restaurant of the Year Jury

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 1
© Brooke Holm

The central cocktail Pearl Bar, with walnut timber, grey leather and yellow marble, evoking the exterior of an oyster.

About the Project

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is a 350-person restaurant and bar featuring an external bar and sky garden.

The restaurant is moulded from the highly irregular shape and scale of the building and its tenancy. Inspired by the oceanic Australian/New Zealand influences of Sean Connolly’s cooking, Alexander & Co combined it with their personal interest in 20th Century design and architecture.

The venue’s design elements explore ideas of the sea, using oceanic tones, coral colours, and pearlescent finishes. Vaulted ceiling tiles emulate the Sydney Opera House sails as well as an oyster’s smooth sensual interior, its exterior manifesting in walnut timber, grey leather, and yellow marble that makes up the central cocktail Pearl Bar. The delicate contrasts of ocean corals and sea creatures are embodied in the grey marble banquettes with their pink leather, whilst the raw and fire bars evoke images of the outer edges of blackened seashells.

To align with the oceanic vision, contemporary Sydney artist Tracey Deep produced three hanging floral sculptures, using found objects that celebrate Australia’s native flora, complimenting the handmade, woollen carpet custom designed by Alexander & Co.

Jacqui Fink, an international pioneer of ‘extreme knitting’ developed a custom hanging Merino Wool artpiece with wool sourced from Australia and New Zealand. The piece echoes the sensation of sea creature tentacles, delicate and otherworldly.

What’s unique about it

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is a fine dining restaurant evocative of Sean’s culinary influences. Each space is visually connected, allowing guest interaction through a series of separated kitchens and exposed serving benches. Functionally, varied arrangements of seating and a private dining room offers guests the opportunity to dine at a slow to fast pace, varying the guests experience and engagement within the space.

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera is built around the idea of engaging guests to and within the restaurant’s energy; with pizza ovens, oyster-shucking and cocktail bars teasing the theatrical experience of dining. Guests have the opportunity to explore the interior and exterior spaces, taking them on a journey through materiality, scale and form. With delicately balanced intersections of materials, execution, and integrated artworks, the restaurant features carefully considered details from the carpet and stone floors, to the leather and timber seating.

The restaurant’s sculptural femininity and innovatively engineered tile vaulted ceilings conjures imagery of the ocean and its energy. The interior encourages exploration during the fine dining experience, expanding into an open-air bar. The exterior courtyard frames Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, offering visitors an inimitable perspective of their surroundings, and their experience within the UAE’s most desirable destination venue.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 2
© Brooke Holm

The Premier Lounge, a luxurious space to enjoy cocktails within Dubai’s cityscape.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 3
© Brooke Holm

A delicate contrast of materials within the Destination Dining space.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 4
© Brooke Holm

The oceanic tones of Destination Dining, with its tiled vaulted ceiling and woollen carpet.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 5
© Brooke Holm

The Raw Bar, evoking imagery of blackened edge seashells.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 6
© Brooke Holm

‘Extreme Knitting’ artwork by Jacqui Fink, in the corridor to the Private Dining Room, echoing the otherworldly sensation of sea creature tentacles.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 7
© Brooke Holm

A moody juxtaposition of brass and marble in the sanitary amenities.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 8
© Brooke Holm

The handmade Spanish mosaic tiled banquette within the exterior Performance Garden and Bar.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 9
© Brooke Holm

Casual seating within the exterior Performance Garden and Bar.

Sean Connolly Dubai Aco Photo 10
© Brooke Holm

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa framed within the exterior courtyard.

Alexander &CO.

Tribe Studio

Are you sure?

Remember that you can only vote once per award category.