As one of the Arabian Peninsula’s building and construction hearts of the past 15 years, Doha, Qatar was once known (along with its neighbors in the U.A.E, Dubai and Abu Dhabi) for its over the top, larger than life architecture and design.
But all cities have come back down to earth as of late (on the inside, certainly not out with skyscrapers that are still breaking records).“The level of design has skyrocketed,” said Jun Aizaki, founder of Brooklyn-based CRÈME, about Doha. The firm contributed to that new(ish) reputation with a Food & Beverage program for the Park Hyatt Doha that consisted of three dining establishments packed with high-end design moves and specifications that made for an elegant reflection of the local culture, embodying the Park Hyatt’s positioning as a brand of understated luxury.
“We wanted to bring in a New York feel with more sophisticated restaurants,” said Aizaki. Located in the Msheireb Downtown Doha development – a mixed-use regeneration project comprised of more than 100 buildings and targeting LEED Gold, minimum – the 21-story, 189-room hotel leaves a soaring impression on the city skyline. With the property on the larger side, Aizaki was able to give all three restaurants their own personality while also tying them together with the firm’s signature sensitivity. “It was about bringing in crafts, details, considered materials—not just splashing expensive materials everywhere. It’s more about tastefully executing,” he explained.
To begin this journey Aizaki has paved, we start with the ground floor bistro, Anis, that has a street entrance welcoming passers-by as well as hotel guests, and a menu featuring healthy dishes made from locally sourced ingredients and organic beverage choices. This stand-alone café took inspiration from local markets with floor tile patterns and light fixtures that mimic basketweaves. Black and white murals also depict market scenes. It features shutter-like elements facing the façade that can open and close, driven by surrounding Qatari architecture, with all of the above achieving a casual, yet sleek vibe. A little cherry on top harkens back to the aforementioned building boom with the addition of some golden tiles.Leveling up just a bit to the third floor, we find Opus—a stately, three-meal restaurant with a welcoming surprise: the signature Park Hyatt open kitchen, which beckons an upscale intimacy to the space with this look behind the velvet rope. The menu was curated by celebrity Qatari chef Shams Al Qassabi, and Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Rouquette, resulting in a fusion of both local and more European-based cuisine. Within the three-meal parameters were two space requirements: a living-room style lounge that features coffee tables and casual seating
Finally, climbing all the way to the 21st floor we find Sora, the fine dining experience that sits atop the entire property like a floating jewel box in the sky.And quite the “experience” it is. “It’s meant to transport you,” explained Aizaki. The entire space seems to emit a warm glow, with jewel tones that surround patrons with everything from a geode inspired ceiling element, to the fiberglass wall with LED glass accents, to gem-shaped sculptural lighting. They also enjoy incredible views of Doha Bay as they feast on a Japanese Rabata-style meal, where chefs cook on counter grills. There are bar islands and a sushi counter.
As the hospitality industry’s aesthetic in these Arab tourism centers continues to evolve, projects like the Park Hyatt Doha and the Msheireb Downtown Doha development it is a part of will play a critical role, serving as a roadmap for designers taking their first swing at this corner of the world. Msheireb is expected to revive the old commercial heart of the city through a new architectural language based on community living. This will all help guide them toward creating more meaningful spaces that offer up the most important element in any hotel stay: a sense of place.