If you’re a Lexus driver in the UAE, then no doubt you’ve heard of Al-Futtaim Motors, which is the exclusive UAE distributor of this line of luxury cars. (The Al-Futtaim group is also behind other legendary brands such as Toyota, Marks & Spencer, and John Lewis, to name a few.) So when Len Hunt, the president of Al-Futtaim Motors, mentioned to me that they’d just launched a restaurant called INTERSECT BY LEXUS in the middle of the Dubai International Financial Centre, I was dubious, to say the least. Selling cars and cardigans is hardly the same as running a full-on restaurant, after all!
If you think about how many Lexuses and Toyotas you see gracing the roads every day, you KNOW Al-Futtaim has successfully cornered the market. But…a Lexus-themed restaurant with zero hospitality experience, and on top of it all, a stonking Lexus LF-LC concept car on display? All I could think of was a luxury retail showroom with complimentary coffee and nibbles.
Could they really pull off a restaurant concept, or “home away from home” as the team likes to call it, without crossing the line into this showroom image?
INTERSECT brazenly grabbed one of the top plots within the prestigious gates of the DIFC. Cozied in between Zuma, Roberto’s, and Cipriani (all hot spots for business execs burning company plastic), there’s some fierce competition for a newcomer. One would rightfully wonder if they could attract this same audience. Well, it turns out, the answer is yes!
Lexus has always been uncompromising in terms of quality and craftsmanship in their brand and it shows throughout, from the cars to the INTERSECT concept. Dubai is the second city to open an INTERSECT BY LEXUS; Tokyo can lay claim to being the first as INTERSECT debuted in the stylish Aoyama neighbourhood in 2013.
The moment I stepped through the doors, I was welcomed with gleaming smiles. The Library and Eatery are on the same floor, past a stunning staircase of hexagonal black and white tiles that resemble tire tracks. (These stairs, by the way, lead down to the Garage where you’ll find that LF-LC, along with artistic displays of Lexus car parts and miniature models.)
The team behind the concept wants this to be a place “for intellectuals and creative minds from around the country to intersect, network and be inspired”…and I think they’ve succeeded. The vibe I immediately got was that it was a hub for artsy capitalists – those who like to keep it real with an urban feel, but also have a healthy bank balance.
The sleek interior was designed by Masamichi Katayama, the world-renowned interior designer and founder of the interior design firm Wonderwall who also worked on the Tokyo concept. Fresh, bright, and cosy, you can sit at one of the dining tables, or on one of the upholstered benches along the wall if you fancy grabbing a cup of Ethiopian coffee and an almond croissant to fuel you through the morning as you furiously answer emails and work on your latest business venture.
The Library has books sprawled across the shelves, with English, Arabic, and Japanese literature on topics such as art, design, and architecture. Objets d’art are nestled in between, showing off just how brilliantly everything has been planned. The devil is in the detail and there was detail by the truckload …or should I say, Lexus LX 570!
To the non-car enthusiast, you’d take it at face value until you realise that this is a masterpiece of Lexus branding. At INTERSECT, you’re constantly feeling, seeing, and experiencing the brand without knowing it! The bamboo facade over the windows emulates the spindle grille motifs found in the new car designs and those upholstered benches are actually covered in the same soft leather found in the Lexus LFA. Let’s not forget those tire track stairs. How wrong I had been in terms of perception!
The clientele here is like a mix of those business execs you see at Zuma who would prefer not to be seen and the legendary creative minds who are on a mission to launch a new business concept. You’ll find that they are discreet, sophisticated, and cultured; a delightful blend of elite sheikhs, business execs, and successful entrepreneurs.
During my visit, I saw an eclectic crowd that left me wanting to know more about who they were and what they did! There was the Silicon Valley-esque couple, looking like they had just stepped away from the Facebook campus. And then the dapper-looking execs, talking business whilst chuckling away with the table of journalists and American execs next to them. The restaurant was humming with this kind of energy.
A non-smoking space (hallelujah!) with great background tunes, people like us can also easily hang out here. It’s perfect for a lazy coffee, quick lunch, or a relaxed yet sophisticated dinner. Somehow, despite the chic and modern design, being at INTERSECT gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling…much like what Central Perk from “Friends” must have been like! It wasn’t pretentious or cold; conversely, it felt like you could just walk in and feel straight at home among the super friendly team there.
Looking around, I began to imagine cultural affairs like art exhibitions, book launches, and emerging designer shows taking place alongside meetings and private parties. When I spoke to Benjamin Nicholas, the general manager, he confirmed that was exactly the scene they were aiming to create. The space has already hosted events such as “The Future of Publishing in the UAE”, a poetry night, and a photography workshop.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pra review without mention of food and drink! The wine list burst my bubble a tiny bit when I looked at it. As great as it is to have an eclectic selection curated by a fabulous sommelier, sometimes all a girl wants is a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. However, on that note, the Chardonnay I had was exceptional and my critique went out like a flame when Ben confirmed that this was being sorted right as I sipped!
This is no doubt why he is the GM. Ben has over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, which began in the UK before he moved to Dubai to manage places such as Al Qasr in Madinat Jumeirah. He and his dynamic team have been working tirelessly to create a flawless experience that reflects the luxury of Lexus and the Japanese spirit of hospitality.
Part of that dynamic team is Executive Chef Tomas Reger. He has been the brains and talent behind some of the region’s most successful kitchens and concepts like ‘Dubai’s Secret Supper Club’ and ‘Bloomie’s Kitchen’. At INTERSECT, Chef Reger brings his ‘Feel Good Food’ concept to life, focusing on creating cuisine that leaves guests feeling good both mentally and physically.
The menu is fresh, light, and healthy, whilst still being sophisticated enough for the casual fine dining concept. The freshest of ingredients are used in unconventional dishes like beet and barley risotto and Chilean sea bass with yuzu glazed turnips.
I opted for a light lunch of a delicious kale and avocado salad, followed by a beautifully cooked salmon with snow pea juice. The INTERSECT concept works just as well for those wanting a quick lunch (without having to resort to a cold and calorie-ridden Starbucks sandwich) as it does for the ones wishing to savor their food and linger over another vino or coffee to get the creative juices flowing.
This is truly a lifestyle venue that acts as a home away from home for discerning professionals. It’s certainly Pra’s kind of vibe and I can see myself coming back for business lunches, lazy breakfasts, and whenever I just need to get my thoughts in order and pound out some work.
Petrolhead or not, INTERSECT BY LEXUS is a destination that can be appreciated by anyone culturally- or creatively-minded with its carefully curated library, Crafted for Lexus retail shop, and low-key atmosphere. Whether you have a client meeting and want to impress (without being flashy) or simply want to unwind with after work drinks, this third space is the perfect place where all your needs intersect.