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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. The experience is heightened and encased by an opulent shell-inspired decor designed by Alexander & Co., the man-made aphrodisiacal space was named Restaurant of the Year, 2018 at the Frame Awards.

When the team at Alexander & Co. saw the shape and scale of Dubai Opera – a soaring boat-shaped building with barely a straight line in sight and the site of their new project, a restaurant for Sydney-based chef Sean Connolly – one thing was immediately clear. They had to work with the irregularity of the architecture.

Drawing from the Australian and New Zealand influences present in Connolly’s cuisine, the architects moulded an ocean of opulence. The jury commended both Alexander & Co.’s ‘interesting use of materials’ and its ‘balance of femininity and masculinity – of rough and smooth’. The sea-inspired palette includes coral colours and pearlescent finishes – an oyster reference that carries through to the ceiling tiles, which echo the smooth underside of an oyster shell.

Much of the fit-out is bespoke – another factor in the jury’s decision – with contributions by local artists. Alongside Tracey Deep’s suspended floral structures that feature native flora, Jacqui Fink’s merino-wool sculpture hangs from the ceiling like skeins of seaweed floating beneath the ocean’s surface.

Designed by Alexander & Co.
Photography by Brooke Holm

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