Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

Melange's Nadia Parekh on opening her Dubai cake studio: 'It’s not going to be pretentious or overpriced'

The Business Bay space will be a place where customers can stop by for a cup of coffee, baked goods or to watch the cakes being made

Those who know Melange know that its cakes aren’t just made to be devoured, they’re also meant to be admired.

The homegrown small batch bakery and online dessert delivery company, started by Nadia Parekh, produces exquisite layered creations that are almost too pretty to eat.

Studded with everything from flowers and petals to macaroons and abstract shapes, Melange’s towering creations have acquired quite a reputation over the years for resembling works of art. And now, for the first time, Dubai residents can actually watch them being made.

Parekh is launching the brand’s first brick-and-mortar destination. Located in Business Bay, this isn’t just a restaurant, a cafe or a bakery, it’s what Parekh is calling a “cake studio”.

Set to open mid-October, it’s a minimal space that can accommodate up to 12 guests at a time. The interiors, in keeping with the brand, are best described as “industrial chic”, with grey concrete and wooden elements. The space also features a separated kitchen for temperature control purposes. One part of the kitchen will be used to bake the cakes, while the other is purely for decorating, with guests being able to view the creative process via frosted glass.

Born and raised in the UAE, Nadia Parekh is a Le Cordon Bleu London trained pastry chef and the founder of Melange. Supplied
Born and raised in the UAE, Nadia Parekh is a Le Cordon Bleu London-trained pastry chef and the founder of Melange. Supplied

“I might make cakes day in and day out but I’ve realised that a lot of people want to come by and watch us work,” says Parekh. “Moreover, if people are coming in to place or pick up orders, they can now grab a cup of coffee and a slice of the cake of the day, and catch up. It’s such a great opportunity for us to interact with our guests.”

Unlike most food and beverage establishments, this is not location that depends on its dine-in customers, she adds. “It’s not going to be pretentious or overpriced. Our dine-in customers are not going to be our bread and butter – we don’t want to overcharge them. It’s about interacting with them, serving them quality stuff.”

Like the interiors, the menu will be minimalistic – slices of whatever is freshly baked in the kitchen and cups of coffee. This will be the first time the brand will be selling by the slice, in the past it has only sold whole cakes for special occasions.

A "ruffled" design from Melange. 
A cake with a ruffled design by Melange. Supplied

The idea of launching a cake studio, as opposed to a traditional restaurant or cafe, was in-part down to Covid-19. Parekh, who founded Melange after training at Le Cordon Bleu London, says that a more traditional set up was originally part of the plan.

“When Melange first began, we didn’t have the ability to make a huge investment, which is why it was launched and online dessert shop.

“However, as a creative, it can be a bit restrictive in the products you can create, everything has to have a long shelf life and travel well. We’ve always really wanted customers to experience the cake and, with delivery, you don’t know how customers are eating it or storing it. We wanted a way to have more control over how the desserts were delivered to customers.”

When the pandemic hit, Parekh was forced to rethink things. “We realised a cafe might not be the best idea at the moment, but at the same time, kitchen sharing was restricting us in terms of manpower and space. We needed to expand.”

The cake studio was the ideal solution. At first it was simply meant to be a space where the cakes would be created. But since they had a licence that allowed people to dine in and enjoy the sweet creations, and a location near the Dubai Canal, Parekh reconsidered.

The move also marks Melange as an exception to the norm; while many physical stores have looked to expand their online offerings since the pandemic started, Parekh is decidedly going against the grain.

“It’s definitely an exciting and scary time,” says Parekh. “We wanted to go for it, but in a different way. I’m really excited to finally have a brick and mortar destination.

“It’s a new direction, one I did not expect. I’m just going to go with the flow with this.”

Updated: September 28, 2020 12:15 PM

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