One of Asia's most popular rooftop bars, Ce La Vi, a "fusion of music, mixology and food", is now open on top of the soaring 260-metre-tall Address Sky View in Downtown Dubai. The three-level Sky Bridge on floor 51, connecting the two towers, has long drawn comparisons to Singapore's most-recognised building: Marina Bay Sands.
The fact that the Singaporean export should arrive in Dubai on top of a building so similar in appearance to Marina Bay Sands, where Ce La Vi Singapore can be found, isn't lost on the team behind the restaurant.
"Well, it wasn't entirely an accident," Ce La Vi executive chairman Mark Bedingham says. "We are here to bring very innovative, modern cuisine in a spectacular location."
And while Bedingham says the location of the Dubai restaurant isn't exactly a coincidence, it took some time to achieve the perfect balance of atmosphere and jaw-dropping vistas, much the same as its famous Singapore outpost, while also ensuring there was a sufficient outdoor area to allow guests to drink in the view. Luckily, enough approvals were sought and granted to ensure it became
a reality. Ce La Vi offers a 360-degree wraparound terrace, complete with an infinity pool, a sky bar, club lounge and restaurant. On one side, you have completely unobstructed views of Burj Khalifa (which is fitting, as the architects of Address Sky View are the same ones who designed the world's tallest building) and the fountain show, while on another, you have sweeping views out over the coastline. Even arriving at Ce La Vi is an experience, as there's a dedicated glass elevator to carry guests from the ground to the 51st floor, to ensure no view is missed.
Ce La Vi's regional director Harry Apostolides says this was all part of the concept. The team were so set on their vision of "bringing the outdoors indoors" that they went straight to the top, to the bosses at Emaar. This meant creating a mock-up of the building and putting it in a wind tunnel to ensure the bar could make the most of the view – meaning tweaks to the design and the right see-through barriers for the terrace.
“However, the focus has always been that you don’t have [just] a view,” Apostolides says. “The expectation is that you’re coming for great food and entertainment, and the view is a bonus.”
Ce La Vi was born and expanded in South-East Asia. Dubai marks the seventh opening of the brand, and arguably the farthest out of its comfort zone. It's largely focused on a localised expansion, now having outposts in Singapore, Colombo, Taipei, Shanghai and Tokyo. Movie fans are likely to be most familiar with its Singapore location, which was the setting for the final scene of Crazy Rich Asians.
Bedingham says Dubai was the natural next step for the company, which was focusing on major international cities in the region. “The opportunities are here,” he says. “It’s got a combination of being an international city, but there are international residents, too – and it’s rising as a tourism destination. And those tourists are coming both from Europe and Asia.”
However, he stresses that, despite the Marina Bay Sands lookalike it's housed in, this is no carbon copy of Ce La Vi Singapore. While the rooftop bar and restaurant will bring the same style of contemporary and fusion Asian cuisine, the menu will be adapted to suit the Dubai market.
"We want to make sure that international travellers and international residents are well aware of us, but we also hope to have a strong Emirati consumer base," Bedingham says.
Dubai will also prove a jumping off point from where Ce La Vi will truly go global. Next on the agenda is an outpost in Macau and one in Las Vegas, which will be the first outside Asia.
It's also likely to be an in-demand piece of real estate come time for New Year's Eve countdowns, with its limited front-row seats to the Burj Khalifa's fireworks display. The team acknowledges they anticipate being a go-to destination in 12 month's time.
As for being concerned about Dubai's sometimes fickle restaurant clientele, Bedingham doesn't seem to be. "It just depends on how good you are and how consistent you are," he says. "We learnt from a few experiments that didn't work so well. But if you have a consistency of experience then you will be long lasting."