Following the launch of her new design-driven restaurant Omnia by Silvena, chef Silvena Rowe gives Penelope Walsh a guided tour of the space, as well as the lowdown on her inspiration for its interiors.
Following the launch of her first two Dubai eateries, Omnia Gourmet and Omnia Blue (both in Jumeirah Fishing Harbour), in 2014, the emirate has been waiting for chef Silvena Rowe’s latest flagship fine dining venture: Omnia by Silvena. Having opened this month on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, this restaurant is what chef Rowe dubs the ‘jewel’ of her little eating out empire. The concept is driven by a contemporary and luxurious vision of Arabic and Emirati cooking, with national dishes such as harees given a glamorous revamp with plenty of foie gras and pretty presentation. Just as stylish at Omnia by Silvena, however, is the appearance of the restaurant itself. This statement space is flooded with one-of-a-kind design details devised by chef Silvena herself in collaboration with designer Eren Shaw. To explore the story behind each of these interior elements, we took a tour of the new restaurant with its proud proprietor.
Omnia by Silvena is now open. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 552 0129).
One of Omnia by Silvena’s most distinct USPs is its kitchen. Not only is it an open kitchen (not so unusual in Dubai), but it is a two-level open kitchen. Upstairs you’ll find the cold and pastry kitchens, as well as Silvena’s office. Downstairs is home to the hot kitchen and the pass. Even in a home, Silvena says, the kitchen is always the most important feature, and she wanted her restaurant to have plenty of ‘energy’ to it. In front of the kitchens are a series of shelves, which are transparent and suspended to give the impression of motion, she explains. On the shelves you’ll see a peacock (a nod to Silvena’s Turkish heritage), Arabic calligraphy in gold and flowers that mirror the restaurant’s colour palette of cream, white and pink.
Occupying the whole of one wall in the restaurant is a vast piece of calligraphy art, stretching some ten by 12 metres. Created by prolific artist El Seed, who has created artworks for Louis Vuitton in Paris among others, the wall reflects a mixture of calligraphy and graffiti. In a palette of pink, gold and cream, the artwork depicts a quotation from the Qur’an, which Silvena has selected since it is a quotation in the text that relates to food and to healthy eating.
The private dining room
A private dining room has become a key feature in most of Dubai’s high-end restaurants. At Omnia by Silvena, this room is separate and exclusive, but far from private, since it is suspended in a diamond-shaped mezzanine above the rest of the restaurant. ‘I wanted this to be a diamond of a restaurant, and diamonds are a design theme here. This private dining room is about being seen, because I felt this was very Dubai,’ says Rowe. Diamonds, she adds, reflect the ‘glitz of Dubai’ and ‘an aspiration for wealth and luxury’.
Continuing the diamond theme, Rowe describes the bar counter as being a ‘mini diamond’, since it has a similar shape to the private dining room. Here, the restaurant creates a menu of healthy mocktails.
Throughout the restaurant is a leitmotif of broken mirrors; diamond-shaped and tessellated in a mosaic. The idea behind this, Rowe explains, is that the reflections from these mirrors throughout the room create a feeling of ‘energy’ adding to the ambience, even if the venue is not completely full of diners. You’ll also spot the diamond motif on the restaurant’s menus, candle holders on the tables and further detailing within the interior design.
‘A restaurant’s chairs are very important,’ says Rowe. ‘They should be there and comfortable, but not too obvious.’ In this new space, the chairs have been designed by Rowe herself. They are upholstered in a thick woven linen with flecks of gold and cream colours in the weave. Up the back of the chairs is a statement gold zip, which Rowe says is designed to make you think of the back of a woman’s dress – a nod to fashion.