by Jincy IypeJan 09, 2023
Remember how slack-jawed we were left after watching Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (especially those who watched it in the theatres), with the lavish costumes and larger-than-life set designs, apart from the star-studded cast and the rich adapted screenplay? Thrumming with dazzling confidence and jazzy energy, the film’s flamboyant set, with gold-filigreed ceilings hung with ornate crystal chandeliers, polished floors that one can eat off of, and a grand serpentine staircase, was, I believe, key to efficaciously articulating F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, adapting it to the silver screen into the grand cinematic piece it is largely perceived to be today. Examples of such creative endeavours are replete, with old-school Hollywood allure that still delights and fascinates, even when simulated—take for another instance, the glamourous setting woven within Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. There is sensuality, there is glamour, there is style and opulence, and above all, there is drama—what’s not to love?
Experience the seductive, sensorial, and sophisticated in the new Josette restaurant and bar in the heart of the Dubai International Financial District, spelling grandeur with salmon pink and emerald green surfaces that articulate its vintage, Parisian-inspired hospitality interiors. Josette is the brainchild of 33-year-old, London-based artist, and interior designer Luke Edward Hall, who has come to be known for his projects of whimsical escapism, channelled through a bold sense of colours and uninhibited expression of romanticism, breathing a rather ‘mischievous life' into the concept of the restaurant design under his creative direction. Mirrored columns, sparkling champagne, and a clover of signature cocktails meet velvet banquettes, high ceilings, and an intriguing mix of décor and furniture, to create a ornate dining experience, reversing into the old-school, timeless allure of 'the grander, the better.'
A heady fusion of symbolised guild and glamour, of flamboyant period style and 21st century contemporariness, the restaurant's interior brings together historic Parisian brasseries, with nods to dreamy Baroque and Rococo architectural styles, and the romantic charm and decadence of London and Paris of the 1920s and 30s, which Hall cites as one of the design influences. This being Luke’s first hospitality project doesn’t hamper the lavishness and ‘elegant glamour’ of Josette, which is conceived to host up to 180 guests for lunch, cocktails, and dinner.
The hospitality design, which opened to the public early this year in ICD Brookefield Place in DIFC, Dubai, UAE, was commissioned by Orange Hospitality (OH)—an integrated F&B operator with six award-winning restaurant concepts in the UK and the UAE that specialises in curated concept creation and franchising opportunities—"we pride ourselves on developing storytelling and ends with an original and authentic culinary journey. At OH, we create concepts that provoke, that impression on our customers; ensuring that each visit is as memorable as their last,” they relay.
“The restaurant takes on the form of a woman: elegant, eccentric, commanding, accomplished, poised, mischievous, cultured, chic. A force of nature. The restaurant’s character will take its cues from this magnificent woman. She lives in Paris but travels extensively. Her name is Josette. Josette is in fact imaginary, inspired by Josette Day, the beautiful French actress best known for her role as Belle in the 1946 film La Belle et la Bete. In creating this character, several inspirations were also taken from French socialite and patron of Cocteau (as well as Yves Saint Laurent), Francine Weisweiller,” continues OH.
Having collaborated with Burberry, Lanvin and Habitat, Hall elaborates on the restaurant’s moniker, the Parisian Muse—“I had in my head this idea of a kind of amazing woman, really elegant, a bit mischievous, full of life, chic, fun, playful. I was looking at French actresses from the past, French writers and poets, and eventually came across Josette Day, who is an actress, and she was most famously in a film called La Belle et la Bete by (Jean) Cocteau. Looking at all these amazing, fabulous women from the past, we created our own character, and in the end, they embodied each other, her and the restaurant.”
Hall’s incredible skillset also includes painting, drawing, ceramics, and illustrations which are thoroughly inspired by the past and his love for fantasy—this can be clearly witnessed across most of his interior design projects, much like Josette’s décor, which is ‘sprinkled with storytelling’, replete with hand-made ceramics, one-of-a-kind table lamps and unique candleholders that help in “enhancing our narrative and enabling us to challenge the status quo and to always keep our customers second-guessing,” OH reveals.
With mirrored columns and silver-leafed ceilings, the ebullient brasserie (a restaurant in France or in a French style) was conceived to captivate its guests through each touchpoint, with every aspect of its interior design curated to provoke, inspire and perpetually, surprise, from plush and opulent armchairs to lavish restrooms decked in reflective surfaces that contrast with rich green and jewel pink walls, and mirrors with elegant borders of gemstones.
“The design is in part, a sort of tribute to two of my decoration heroes: Syrie Maugham (mirrors, plaster elegance!) and Dorothy Draper (theatre, oversized scale, Baroque bombast!). The oversized columns with their leafy plaster tops and half-mirrored panels take their inspiration from columns at one of my favourite houses, Villa Lysis on Capri, whilst the white-painted metal birdcage chandeliers are a total homage to the ones Draper installed in the classical wing-cum-cafeteria at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1950s. High above, ceilings are covered in silver leaf, ” says the British designer, artist and columnist.
Hall’s playful style also flows into other design elements of Josette, including 30 of his colourful, hand-painted illustrations displayed on the pastel pink walls, and a carefully curated range of sculptural ceramics. The magnificent green marble entrance dressing the wooden revolving door adds to the ageless retro look, leading the guests into “a special place with a strong eccentric female character.
The overall décor of (the) space is sprinkled with storytelling, from one-of-a-kind table lamps to three fanciful, colour-changing blown-glass chandeliers in the main dining area. It is also marked by two big domes, giving guests a stunning view of the skies above. Full of charm, the interior design transports guests to the alluring vintage bistros of France. Marble floors, gorgeous chairs, and velvet green banquets add to the restaurant’s whimsical character, while the mirrored columns complete the overall extravagance,” shares the restaurant.
Hailing from Istanbul and with a culinary experience spanning more than 15 years, Chef Burcu Cracknell is ready to enrapture guests through her unique perspective on Parisian cuisine by leading Josette’s culinary team. A curated selection of daring dishes citing traditional French cooking influences will include those ‘devoid of any gimmickry’, including Parisian classics such as foie gras terrine, escargot, ratatouille, and an indulgent seafood platter.
“In addition to our daring menu, prepare to be wowed with some culinary theatrics as we prepare and serve our signature Crêpe Josette in our special crêpe trolley. A Josette staple, we’re bringing rôtisserie back to its French roots with our special Poulet Roti and Lamb Leg, prepared daily in our rôtisserie oven,” they continue. Guests can also attend regular performances by Sebastien Agius, Josette’s artistic director, stage director, and singer; receive champagne at the push of a button, and order from the menu charmingly designed and illustrated by Hall himself.
An exciting addition comes in the form of the Petite Josette, cited as ‘no ordinary café,’ which stays true to the restaurant’s allure and magic. “It’s both an enchanting preface to the Josette experience and an exclusive hideaway spot in one,” they explain. Classic and ornate, the restaurant’s not-so-subtle interior design is dipped in old-fashioned, cinematic glamour that marries the charm of a Parisian street café with the hustle of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), ‘humming from sunrise till late evening’. “Boasting an indulgent breakfast to late afternoon menu and a shaded terrace perfect for people-watching, it is set to become DIFC’s neighbourhood hub. As the sun sets, the space transforms into Josette’s private dining room, setting the perfect scene for glamorous soirées and fabulous affairs,” shares Josette.
The splendour of the succinctly over-the-top brasserie is intentional—Luke Edward Hall, together with Orange Hospitality and Florence-based Studio63 (who converted Hall’s sketches to reality) have created this extravagant world that brings guests back to a stylised vision of the timeless 1920s, one that also modernises it at the same time.