The gentleman’s lounge

The new GQ Bar delivers a true sense of masculinity with its dark interiors and touches of straight-edge splendor

Just as its name suggests, the recently opened GQ Bar takes it inspiration from the leading men’s lifestyle magazine. The idea was to adorn the bar in a contemporary and sophisticated aesthetic with a classic edge—the epitome of what GQ offers its adoring readers.

Launched in 1931, GQ (then known as Gentleman’s Quarterly) was first established as a men’s fashion magazine aimed at wholesalers, and was later rebranded as GQ, introducing articles that went beyond fashion and established itself as a general men’s magazine that deals with a variety of relevant topics and issues.

Created as a masculine counter-part to the softer and more feminine Vogue Café, also based on a women’s fashion magazine, Vogue, Dubai-based interior design company Bash Hesnef shone the spotlight on gentlemen worldwide for its latest interior endeavor. Set inside the world’s tallest hotel, JW Marriot Marquis, the GQ Bar has established its dark qualities and masculine vibe just as strongly as Vogue café had done with its femininity.

“The GQ brand is synonymous with fashion conscious men, both young and old, who appreciate contemporary stylish products and fashion designers as well as timeless brands from the past years,” explains Paul Divers, general manager, Bash Hesnef. “We wanted to inject the environment with a GQ feel but subtly done without over branding.”

Divers explains that the Inspired Global team, the client behind the project, gave the designers free reign to explore ideas in order to bring the brand to life. The basic requirements were to create a timeless, contemporary but classic restaurant and lounge, with a masculine edge while simultaneously being inviting to female guests.

Hints of the GQ identity could be marked at the night spot including rows of GQ magazines, elegantly laid out for guests to browse through, photographs of magazine covers and monochrome images. All these pieces of memorabilia offer the restaurant a sense of authenticity as well as solidifying the GQ brand.

The restaurant itself is set across two floors, both of which are sleek and modern interiors that are united; however, each area is distinct enough to be seen as separate spots to enjoy the different stages of the night, from dining to more casual hang-outs with friends.

“Maintaining the existing layout of the double-heighted space with mezzanine level, we divided the property into separate environments that complement each other, while maintaining the GQ look and feel,” says Divers.

He continues explaining that with the ground floor, they decided to create a dark and intimate dining and bar area that is warmly lit, featuring classically styled wall paneling and dark stone floors that are complemented by modern grey dining chairs, dark veneer tables and carefully selected, iconic black and white images from the GQ magazine’s photography archive.

“The kitchen façade is made of swivel glass doors to allow diners to view the culinary skills of the chefs at work and to feel part of the occasion,” he adds.

The dining area then leads to a bar area in which drinks are served over a specifically lit glass bar countertop where guests can observe a projector wall that displays impact visuals of the GQ brand.
Also on the ground floor is an additional area, that presents a raised lounge, in which guests can enjoy post-dinner drinks in a “cigar lounge” setting.

“This very warm, inviting and relaxed area offers comfortable brown leather sofas, hard wood floors, and GQ magazine covers in a randomised set framing system, finished off with a modern sleek linear fireplace for the perfect place to kick back after dinner,” Paul Divers points out.

He comments that having a void between the ground floor and first floor provided an interesting opportunity to create some contemporary features that sit in line with the GQ brand.

“To keep to an edgy masculine feel, the void walls were decorated with a concrete finish, embossed with GQ magazine related statements, key words and numbers, such as ‘effortlessly stylish’, ‘indulge’ and ‘luxury’, [are] all synonymous with the brand,” he explains.

“The concrete theme ran onto the main double-heighted wall in the dining area in which a road design runs vertically between both floors with mannequin models projected horizontally, as if walking up the wall, in random poses. [This creates] a huge visual impact for the diners, whilst giving a very bold fashion-led statement.”

“In addition, an art installation light feature that we designed and manufactured locally is suspended between both floors to bring a very contemporary element that connects both floors,” Divers adds.
The artistic lighting installations hovering just below the ceiling is made up of a silver-grey shade which gives it a slightly futuristic appearance.

Leading to the upstairs bar is a darkly lit staircase that welcomes guests into a brass-finished GQ product display and bar area. The upstairs bar overlooks the void wall, the art installation and the dining and lounge area, offering a relaxed seating area which appears more antique than the rest of the restaurant.

It features vintage-looking Chesterfield sofas, black glass and 3D patterned walls that protrude from the flat surface. Red, abstract lighting fixtures hang from the lower ceiling, adding a sensual feel to the space.

From the bar, guests are also able to access a custom-designed terrace with a raised deck equipped with an electrical pergola system for a smart open-air setting to enjoy shisha or cigars.

And although all parts of the bar appear seamlessly integrated and synced with one another, good design does not come without its difficulties.

“The main challenge of the project was to complete the full fit out within 90 days, which for a high-end food and beverage outlet was a very tight schedule,” Divers explains. “To achieve this, all FF&E items were produced and manufactured locally and in-house. We could not afford any delay with long lead items and needed to be in control of the production times. Thankfully, we managed to achieve the 90 day schedule albeit a hectic final couple of weeks.”