If food nourishes the body and art the soul, it follows that — encountered together — the two should prove mutually beneficial. Cafes and restaurants are ubiquitous in galleries and museums, suggesting a day spent pondering the creative endeavours of others leaves us in need of physical sustenance. And this idea of gallery gastronomy works both ways. Many restaurants make a point of celebrating artists by showcasing their work on the walls.
The ploy makes sense from a commercial standpoint as well. With more diners picking restaurants based on their Instagram-friendly appeal, having aesthetically pleasing food as well as decor is an attractive proposition. Plus, in a country filled with some of the best restaurants in the world, it can be hard to stand out.
For this photo essay, we set out to find some of the most quirky artwork displayed in UAE restaurants.
Look to the ceiling and you’ll spot a host of colourful dolls. The ones at this Jumeirah Al Naseem restaurant are made locally, but are inspired by the centuries-old archetypal Japanese kokeshi dolls that symbolise a love of tradition as well as the importance of friendship. MayaBay also has a ceramics collection etched with vibrant Asian characters and motifs.
Blue Seafood Asia
Inspired by Asian fishermen and lively island fish markets, the decor of this restaurant in the Dubai International Financial Centre was conceptualised by visual artist Gary Yong. Expect azure blue tones reminiscent of the ocean, sea wave decoration, wool lanterns and hand-painted murals.
Reif Japanese Kushiyaki
The original manga mascot Astro Boy takes centre stage at this dar wasl mall restaurant helmed by chef Reif Othman. The character takes the form of an interactive 3D artwork, which is made up of four hand-drawn panels, created by Dubai-resident Lebanese artist Lauris Zailaa.
Coya Abu Dhabi and Dubai
The Peruvian hot spot at the Four Seasons hotels switches up its decor on a regular basis, providing local and international artists with a platform to display their talent as well as offering patrons something new to look forward to. The Pisco Jar Project in Coya Dubai, for example, comprises 10 Pisco jars painted by regional artists such as Farida Abushady and Moza Almansoori.
Little Miss India
As its name suggests, this fine-dining restaurant at Fairmont The Palm will transport you to India, courtesy of its vibrant artworks and installations, from elephants and rickshaws to monuments and mythical birds.
There is so much to look at in this brightly coloured restaurant at The Dubai Mall. Highlights include a floral throne centrepiece crafted by New York City florist Mr Flower Fantastic and artworks by urban mythology artist duo PichiAvo, who are known for their ancient-looking sculptures and paintings in urban settings.
DRVN by Porsche
The cafe on Bluewaters houses pieces that show off the beloved car brand, by names such as Jeffrey Docherty, Bavz, Chris Labrooy and Johans Lamic (seek out his impressive The Whale Tail Project). The highlight is Dozi Dreams’s artwork. Made up of 500 metallic Porsche miniatures on a canvas, it represents the modern and vintage Porsche 911 models of the artist’s dreams.
Notorious Cafe & Roastery
The cafe in Al Maqta, Abu Dhabi, is replete with frames hanging from the walls and ceiling, all depicting individuals who are either notorious figures in real life or actors playing notorious characters, including a signed piece by Irish mixed martial artist Conor "Notorious" McGregor.