Wilson Associates' Dubai studio recently renovated Pai Thai, a fine dining establishment located inside of the Jumeirah Al Qasr Resort in Dubai. The firm was tapped to refresh the restaurant's interiors while increasing dining capacity, season-proofing the exteriors for year-round service, and creating efficient patterns of mobility and flow for both patrons and staff.
The senses served as inspiration for the design concept - encouraging guests to let go and allow their senses to guide them through the dining experience, with each element permeated in the authentic scents, sounds, and lighting of Thai culture. Traditional Thai umbrellas, the soft glow of candlelight, and the scent of jasmine welcome patrons as they arrive by boat and step up to the main entrance, while the sound of water and the aroma of incense await guests at the grand arrival pavilion. These sensorial ambiances continue throughout the various spaces, with curated beats further immersing guests into the world of Pai Thai.
Designed in the style of a Sheikh's summer residence, the Jumeirah Al Qasr Resort in Dubai is a one-a-kind destination that embodies palatial luxury inspired by 1,001 Arabian Nights. Pai Thai, an authentic Thai cuisine experience, is situated amid the waterways of the resort. Hidden behind the lush foliage of the surrounding gardens, the restaurant invites guests to make their way through a boat or buggy where they will ultimately come across an expansive terrace that hangs across the water. Pai Thai's distinctive facade, boasting both character and tradition, is draped by the backdrop of the expansive waterside terrace and charming inner courtyard. The path from Abra Station to the front entrance is lined with unique, decorative umbrellas in different shapes and sizes; sourced in Thailand and detailed with bells.
The interiors refresh resulted in a buzzy, yet intimate experience that lives up to Pai Thai's recognition within the region as a 'bucket list' dining destination with a wealth of industry awards and a loyal following. Keen to maintain Pai Thai's eclectic character, the client asked the Wilson Associates team to honor the restaurant's charm while refreshing the offering to stay competitive in Dubai's increasingly saturated food and beverage market.
As guests step out of their boats and into the inner courtyard, the space beckons diners with a new designation as Pai Thai's bar and lounge space - offering guests a quaint respite to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or a post-meal hideaway for aperitifs and dessert. An impressive central bar anchors the new lounge, creating an environment that transports visitors to Thailand upon arrival. Playful lighting overhead dons monkey and parrot figures, hung from the newly installed retractable ceiling, which allows the reactivated courtyard to be used seasonally. Further exploring the animal theme, the bar footrest is supported by elephant-shaped hardware - a concept the design team implemented down to the smallest detail.
Throughout the process, it was important to the Wilson Associates Dubai team - in keeping with their studio's design philosophy - to utilize as much of the existing restaurant and be as sustainable in its refresh as possible. Bringing this ethos to Pai Thai's cultural inspiration, a selection of evocative wall coverings were installed. Eight wall panels in the bar are upholstered in Jim Thompson tiger print fabric and an Ananbo tropical print adorns the family dining room. Bathrooms feature a custom print of cheeky monkeys surrounded by a gold tiled wall by Maya Romanoff, which served to complement the brass faucets from Sherle Wagner. Ceiling fans and furniture pieces were revamped rather than replaced and complemented with quirky additions, such as the lighting from Marie Martin, while coral hues and accent materials enhance the current character and charming soul of Pai Thai. The warm yet vibrant interior complements the overall Thai flair with stylish iconic elements and traditional, eclectic glamour.
Photography: Keir Harris