Inside Cabin, the Dubai studio-turned-café owned by artist Jonathan Gent

Famous artist opens a café in his Dubai studio

We speak to artist and owner Jonathan Gent about the Barsha café and studio.

At Time Out Dubai we are partial to a bit of art, and we absolutely love our food, which is why Cabin is a total revelation to us.

Not only can you get stuck into a wholesome tasty menu when you visit the café (including stuffed salmon tacos, no less), you can also appreciate original art from the artist himself – Cabin owner Jonathan Gent.

Gent was born in 1976 in a Cheshire pub, where his appreciation for good food started early.

He studied at The Cheshire School of Art and The Edinburgh School of Art respectively before living between France and Los Angeles.

Gent’s paintings have been exhibited far and wide at galleries including Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery, The Saatchi Gallery and The Freud Museum and he has gained a strong reputation with collectors including Tilda Swinton, Robin Vousden, Samantha Morton, Aimee Mullins, Simon Hillary, John Papsidera, David and Tia Hoberman.

And now we are lucky enough to have him on our doorstep at the Barsha café that doubles up as his art studio and features original artwork from the likes of Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

The 41-year-old told Time Out Dubai: “I needed a space like Cabin in the city. I actually think all cities need spaces like this; a sanctuary or refuge, a place to disappear, work and eat.

“I remember being up at night and building the concept and it was rather emotional. It felt like my 'Jerry Maguire' moment. It was something I had to do.”

After his brainwave, Gent joined forces with fellow artist Rami Farook to put his plans in motion.

Gent continued: “I was lucky enough to have a dear friend in Rami who could help achieve this, who also had the same thoughts and vision.

“Cabin is a very sensitive beast and I wouldn't have trusted many people to understand it like Rami does.”

We visited Cabin recently and are massive fans of what is on offer.

Menus are simple, and change frequently. It’s popular at breakfast time and the Rise section of the main menu includes items like eggs and avocado on toast, and big brekkies.

The Work section has some healthy-sounding options such as a carpaccio beetroot salad with almonds and feta, with lovely citrusy flavours.

Gent’s work, and the work of other renowned artists including Jay Battle, Ryan Browning, Jake & Dinos Chapman and of course Rami Farook adorn the walls of the Barsha café.

And as far as artistic influences go, Gent credits lust, loss, humour and above all things romance for inspiring his craft.

He said: “Romance is juice. When my heart feels like stopping. I have a certain way of painting which is very physical and trance like.

“I whisper and open up and all is free to come out. I’m not looking for anything in particular and I don't have much interest in sides or politics.

“I don't feel like I have something to say. Painting is a selfish act but the end result can give such joy to others.

“I remember seeing a Willem De Kooning retrospective when I was 15 years old and it changed my life.

“The same happened at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I felt these works were painted just for me and when you look at them nothing else exists. That moment is probably my main inspiration.”

So what can art and food-lovers expect during a visit to Cabin? Well Gent insists that both ingredients are taken very seriously.

Gent said, “We work with brilliant artists and try to showcase emerging as well mid-career and established artists like Warhol or Hirst.

“Our chef is from a Michelin star restaurant in Singapore and it’s that level of understanding of food we strive for.

“We are an artist’s studio serving an ingredient-driven menu. We stay away from trends and like to look at the classics.”

It sounds like the perfect recipe for success and we will definitely be seeing more of Cabin.
Open Sun-Sat, 7.30am-7pm. Barsha South (04 244 7291).

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