By Roma Arora
Malcom Wood, the founder and group managing director of Maximal Concepts,discusses his most recent project with Sunset Hospitality group’s mott 32 dubai, and how its distinctive design sets it apart from the competition.
You have worked all over the world and now, you are working on this exciting F&B project in Dubai. Tell us more about your experience, and how does cultural change affect the decor and interior taste of clients?
Throughout my career, I have opened over 40 different concepts in the F&B industry and have invested and backed over 60 different companies. Mott 32 is our flagship and in my opinion, this venue is the most special and unique concept I have ever been involved in. It is the first restaurant in the world to migrate from East to West and really showcases the best of what Chinese cuisine has to offer. With its flagship restaurant in Hong Kong, we have expanded to sublime cities such as Singapore, Las Vegas, Bangkok, Seoul and of course, now Dubai and Toronto with another few exciting locations coming up.
Previously, fine dining Chinese restaurants were only represented in 5-star hotels, displaying the traditional white tablecloths, no eccentric atmosphere, no modern wine list, and no trendy cocktails. We saw an opportunity to really add personality back into this sector of the industry and create something unique.
Design is one of the key components for the success of a restaurant especially one like Mott 32. We have taken all the best lessons we have had over our experience from design, wine, mixology, music, and atmosphere and combined all the key elements into the Mott 32 dining experience. Mott 32, like Hong Kong Culture, and like myself, being half-Chinese and half-British, is the epitome and mix of both culture and heritage.
As a result, we have made the concept more approachable, to both local and international markets.
Mott 32 has genuinely brought an entirely new chapter of Chinese fine dining to Dubai’s impressive restaurant scene. As well as the renowned classic dishes and incredible design of its space, the location of the restaurant adds to its splendour. Located on the 73rd floor of the Address Beach Resort, Mott 32 Dubai boasts a large indoor dining alongside an open-air balcony terrace with the impressive views of the Bluewater Island, JBR, Palm Jumeirah and the Ain Dubai. Aficionados of Chinese
How does Mott 32 stand out compared to other Chinese fine dining restaurants in the city?
We do things differently in comparison to other Chinese restaurants and are not specific to a certain Chinese culinary region. Traditionally, Chinese food showcases a specific type of cuisine from Szechuan, Cantonese, Shanghai, Hakka, etc. however we are one of the very first to combine cuisine from across China into one menu and break away from a very traditional industry. Mott 32 is much more than just a restaurant; it is an experience. From the moment our guests walk through the door to the time they leave, every aspect of the dining experience has been carefully planned – from the view to the music, the scent, the drinks, and the food.
Another core ingredient is our love for food, whilst protecting the environment. We constantly evolve our thought process and sustainability mission, as we learn and progress as a global company. With every lesson from each new location, we filter it back to our global partners to ensure Mott 32 is consistently progressing with the changing perspectives of the world. Changes can come through various forms of renovation, such as signature or seasonal dishes. Therefore, it really is a continuous evolution. If we didn’t focus on being adaptable and constantly changing, then we would quickly become outdated and that is what we want to avoid.
When it comes to the localisation aspect, Sunset Hospitality Group have undoubtedly made our vision of Mott 32 Dubai come to life by creating a matchless F&B experience which goes hand in hand with venue’s unique design. The group was founded in 2011 and have become renowned globally for their pioneering hospitality concepts, including AURA Skypool, SUSHISAMBA and many more, delivering a blend of high-quality services at exceptional locations.
The destination evokes the city’s energy and creative passion, within its dishes and culinary style. And we are proud that Mott 32 Dubai is already the recipient of one toque in the Gault & Millau UAE 2023 Guide (just four months after opening its doors).
Is there a storytelling element to the design creation of this F&B venue?
We try to tell a new story with each Mott 32 venue and come up with an interesting narrative, as we like our concepts to be in-depth. Our consistency in design comes from our partnership with Joyce Wang Studio who designed the original Mott 32 in Hong Kong, as well as Vancouver, Las Vegas, Singapore, Cebu, and Dubai. For every new branch, we like to challenge ourselves to do something new and different, finding a creative angle for each location. Each one is as exciting as the next because we customize them according to the environment, culture, climate, and overall positioning within the city each outlet operates in.
For Dubai, we have taken inspiration from Arabic courtyard houses, and in keeping with the typology of Mott 32, the restaurant is split into a series of different spaces, each with an individual identity. These spaces seamlessly flow between the interior and the exterior. We have introduced an airy, ethereal aesthetic – with roots in nature – based on the architecture and location of the building. Moreover, we have capitalized on its pristine views as it is actually one of the highest restaurants in the world.
Food and drinks are the main highlights of any restaurant. What are some of the unique dishes which are recommended to try?
The most unique items on our menu are the plant-based alternatives to our traditional Chinese signature dishes including the Crispy Shitake Mushroom Tempura and the Vegan ‘Chicken’ Szechuan.
One of my favorite, must-have dishes, is the Apple Wood Roasted 42 days Peking Duck as it is cooked in a special custom oven using apple wood – which smokes the duck. We have also developed a homemade Hoisin Sauce and developed our own version of cutting the duck, where we mix the Emperor’s cut with a Beijing street cut, which the poor would use to keep the steam in on cold winter days in the North of China.
How important is music to the success of any F&B venue?
Music heavily impacts the customer experience and is undoubtedly one of the key drivers of any successful F&B venue. Sunset Hospitality Group have carefully developed their own ‘sound’ for Mott 32 Dubai, complemented with a series of live entertainment acts, which appeal to the needs and wants of both UAE residents and international tourists. Once you feel the energy in the restaurant the rest of the night takes care of itself.
Do you face any challenges in the region’s F&B segment? Are there any specific initiatives and actions you think which Dubai needs to ‘up the level’ in the F&B industry?
During the pandemic, Dubai became and still is, the “IT” city in the world, as they just got everything right in terms of business, tourism, travel, and policy. Real Estate is booming and so many people from all walks of life are now coming to Dubai. I know so many people who have moved to Dubai from the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore. The F&B game in the city is also top notch and it is important to bring your best when you turn up, as it is like Vegas for the US. Dubai can make or break a brand as the city has become a global hub.
How has technology impacted and influenced design, and how might it continue to in the future?
This is a key thing we have been speaking about for the last 5 years and is evolving very quickly. Phones and social media have become the key drivers and influence in the industry. Before COVID-19, we shot photos a certain way taking into account that 50% of the media was print and online and the other 50% was social. Most of our photos were split between landscape and portrait. Video was less important. Our competition was purely our competitors. Now trying to do our marketing the same way we used to – you end up competing with your own customers and your competition’s customers. Everyone with a phone is now a marketing agent, therefore video is key. Creating moments in the restaurant thar your customers can film themselves is more important than organizing a professional photoshoot. Everything from the interior design to the dishes presented needs to be filmed and shot vertically. If you get this right, you have 300 marketing agents walking into your restaurant every night and doing the work for you.
How do you see the F&B industry evolving?
My hope is that the industry will evolve to become more sustainable and thoughtful in how/where it sources its food and products. Running a restaurant sustainably is not an easy route, it takes time, effort, and a lot of energy to find the right products and suppliers, and to change the innate habits of both staff and customers. We have founded a business called Plastic Conscious that works on plastic alternative products for the industry such as sous vide bags, cling film, industrial bin bags and we are proud to say that several of our partners are using our products.
We (the F&B industry) are at the forefront of change and can really lead by example. It is an exciting time to be doing business as we have the opportunity to really make a difference around us. There is a lot of innovation coming out of the need for change and I hope we can continue to add to this.
Also, by choosing to source sustainably and locally, we can have a huge impact, not only environmentally, but also on people’s health. For too long, the F&B industry has been focused on lowering costs, but we must take a stand now to protect our future. If every restaurant in the F&B sector were to source food responsibly, this in turn will impact suppliers and help them to adapt and change as well.
We are all in this together and we need to choose to change together. Change starts from the inside.