J1 Beach: What to expect from the new La Mer venue when it opens in September

Development will upgrade from fast-food brands to premium establishments and 'world's biggest beach club'

J1 Beach is set to open in September. Photo: J1 Beach
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Construction is under way at J1 Beach, a lifestyle venue replacing La Mer South. Expected to welcome guests in the first week of September, the new destination will soon be home to 13 beach clubs and restaurants.

Dumper trucks and other construction vehicles are currently scattered across the beachfront, as contractors rush to meet the developer's self-imposed deadline, just five months away. The buildings are nearing completion at 94 per cent, but it's still difficult to get a sense of what they will be like.

The new venue replaces La Mer South, which was home to more than 40 businesses at its closing in 2022. Some of the restaurants, including PF Chang's and Salt, moved to other Merex-managed venues.

“The previous development was not performing to the level that we expected,” says Shahram Shamsaee, chief executive of Merex Investment.

On Tuesday, media including The National got early access as developers opened the construction site.

Riviera-style concept

Dubai's new fine dining district J1 Beach to open in September

Dubai's new fine dining district J1 Beach to open in September

One of the most significant differences in the new development is the number of establishments. Shamsaee said that previously there were more than 40 but they were “mostly middle-market, fast food brands”. However, this time around, there will be 13 premium brands, most of which are making a debut in the UAE.

Also, the previous restaurants veered slightly away from the shore, while at J1 Beach, the water is a key element with all outlets having direct access to the sands.

Shamsaee says the location lends itself to a “certain type of concept”. In this case, it's a high-end riviera with 10 fine-dining restaurants and three beach clubs. “I think this is a much better fit comparative to what was there,” he adds. “This is one of the most natural beaches in the city.”

Asked what makes J1 Beach different from other seaside developments in the emirate such as Palm West Beach, the Merex chief highlights its international mix of brands with origins from Manhattan to Tulum.

“If brands are looking to expand globally, Dubai is probably one of their top priorities. It has all the metrics,” says Shamsaee.

When the project was first announced in 2022, J1 Beach revealed three beach clubs coming to the area: Gigi Rigolatto, Baoli and Sirene Beach by Gaia.

Gigi Rigolatto has a presence in Saint Tropez, Paris and Val d’Isere. The Dubai outpost is spread across more than 5,000 square metres of sand. Lush green foliage will dominate the beach house with a prominent Mediterranean garden enclosing a pool and four private cabanas. There will be indoor and outdoor dining areas, a Bellini bar, petanque court, retail store and Gigi Circus, a secluded play area for children.

Meanwhile, Baoli offers a jungle-inspired escape with Mediterranean flavours melded with East Asian techniques. With locations in Miami and Cannes, Baoli channels a retreat-style space “inspired by the beautiful stepwell baolis in India”, as described by its founder Sanjeev Nanda.

The biggest beach club in the area – and billing itself as the largest in the world – will be Sirene Beach by Gaia. Headed by chef Izu Ani, who has a number of Dubai venues under his belt, the club will span 9,000 square metres with pools, cabanas and up to 400 sunbeds. The British-Nigerian chef is collaborating with Evgeny Kuzin of Fundamental Hospitality (Alaya, Gaia and Shanghai Me) for this project.

Beach clubs aside, there will be 10 restaurants positioned along the strip, all with direct access to the water.

African Queen will blend French and African flavours, while Almayass by the Sea will serve Lebanese-Armenian fusion. Chouchou will dish out French classics, while Kaimana will take diners on an Asian-Polynesian dining experience.

Gitano, a popular brand in North America, is bringing its free-spirited, eclectic and bohemian vibe, while serving modern Mexican cuisine. La Baia takes inspiration from the Amalfi Coast, the popular Italian holiday destination in Italy, while Lunico will serve a blend of Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine.

For fans of Asian cuisine, there is Mun, which says it will transport diners to a “fantasy-like Oriental beach garden setting”, as well as Sakhalin, which uses Asian products for its Mediterranean and Asian recipes. Lastly, Ina will embrace African-inspired open-fire cooking.

J1 Beach will have more than 500 parking spaces, with a centralised valet system, meaning no self-parking allowed. Several valet stations are spread across the entrances.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 11:34 AM