And for you? The rack of lamb with a side of Middle East art

And for you? The rack of lamb with a side of Middle East art
OPEN SESAME: A courtyard of the XVA Café at Bastakiya in the historic district

Did you know of the restaurants in Dubai that mix it up, turn into galleries, and basically bring food and art together, a long established pairing?

By Deepa Narwani

Published: Sat 8 Jul 2017, 10:36 AM

Last updated: Sun 9 Jul 2017, 3:11 PM

Food and art have always benefitted from the other. Back in the day, struggling painters would exchange art for food. Restaurant owners would, in turn, adorn walls of their restaurants with art works in order to attract crowds. In that era, they believed that walls adorned with art feed the minds of diners and also whet their appetite.
As the trendsetter in the region, Dubai's diverse and vibrant dining scene has, for some time now, been home to a number of such art-meets-food venues. Restaurants morph into galleries. Many host permanent as well as monthly exhibitions by local and international artists.
Take XVA Café in Al Bastakiya. The café consists of three courtyards, which are air-conditioned in the summer and offer quiet spots for people to enjoy their meals as well as to appreciate art from the Middle East. Eleanor Smith, Gallery Director, XVA Gallery Dubai tells Khaleej Times, "Since opening in 2003, XVA has been a constantly evolving and changing space. With new exhibitions and art arriving every few months, along with wonderful characters, the journey has been exciting and fast moving. XVA is also a boutique hotel, with... contemporary art in a beautiful historic setting."
Art is hung all around the walls of the café, from the ceilings and even the trees. Sculptures can be found on plinths and climbing walls. The art usually comes from artists represented by XVA Gallery, from previous exhibitions or the gallery's private collection. The art is often displayed in a more organic and playful way.
Another place to head to for great art and delicious food is Molecule in Dubai Design District (D3). This eatery opened in March this year and is known to offer an art-meets-cuisine dining experience.

Art by Amir H.Fallah at Molecule, D3
Partners Bijan and Shahryar Sheibani, Samir and Amie Kerchiched and Kate Barry, came together to create this unique restaurant. It has tied up with The Third Line gallery to display contemporary art. Installations change every three months. Until July 16, the restaurant is home to Syrian visual artist Sara Naim's collection When Heartstrings Collapse.
Kaska Cynar, Molecule's General Manager, points out that in a restaurant everything comes down to food and Molecule offers bistronomy cuisine. Says she, "The cuisine is a mix of gastro and bistro dining in casual surroundings. Our menu is also seasonal as the best possible product is only available according to its season.
"What our Michelin starred Executive Chef Udo Moreau puts on the plate is art"... aubergine served with labneh and pomegranate, the lamb rack, the melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes, which take 45 minutes to prepare.
Sheibani says, "The restaurant offers a platform for art and design. And we want it to be an inspirational place that features work by great artists and designers. And that extends to the kitchen as well and its artist - Chef Udo, has signed the menu."
At XVA Café , Smith says, "When it comes to food, all the dishes are fresh and colourful, and inspired by the creative space they are made in. A popular dish is the eggplant burger, and the mint lemonade is not to be missed!" XVA Café has a regular exhibition schedule, with openings attended by the featured artists every six to eight weeks. The opening nights are open to all and a great way to meet like-minded people and speak directly with the artists, and to try the delicious food.
From palate to palette
More arty experiences
. La Cantine du Faubourg Restaurant & Lounge, Emirates Towers Hotel: This chic restaurant offers a Parisian menu along with specialties and hosts regular exhibitions. This year they featured Lebanese talent Ali Chaaban.
. Vega by Puranmal, Jumeirah 1: This Indian restaurant shares its space with the Form Works Art Gallery. Here you can tuck into street food and also browse artworks and buy ethnic home décor.
. Cafe Ceramique, Town Centre Mall, Jumeirah Road: A hit with the kids! Part café, part art studio, here you can unleash your creative side with the brushes, paint, stamps and white ceramics provided. Post that, you can feast on pizzas and pastas.
Deepa is a proud foodie and an unabashed Harry Potter fan

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