Underground Dining

16 Mar 2015 - SLT

Imagine getting picked up and driven to an undisclosed location for a secret rendezvous dinner with a small group of the Gulf’s most stimulating creatives, for a night of good conversation and equally delicious food. The Dinner Club by No. 57, an invite-only, once-a-month event, is proving to be the hottest dish in town and we got to meet the two girls serving up a storm.SLT goes behind the scenes with founders, Buthaina Al Mazrui and Alamira Noor Bani Hashim, for one their hush-hush dinners…

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Tell us a bit about yourselves? How did you girls meet?

Buthaina: Noor and I used to go to school together, a very long time ago! We’ve been friends for a very long time as well. While we were in university, I had just graduated, we started talking about what we wanted to do and I mentioned I wanted to open a cafe, actually more than one, like a business you know, more than one restaurant. And she was like “You know what, I would love to do it with you!”
Noor: In terms of our personality, I’m the more crazy, stressed out person and Buthaina is very calm and relaxed. But then we’re both actually now fully merging into the same person – we’ve both taken a lot of the best traits from each other.


What is the Dinner Club by No. 57. How do people get invited?
Noor: Our company name is called No. 57 then we have the Dinner Club by No. 57 and the No.57 that is the boutique café. And why 57? It’s a secret we will never tell, hahaha!
Buthaina: The Dinner Club started as a way to really market the café, the whole idea behind it was to honestly get our names out there and to introduce people to what our brand was all about. We look for people who are very social; we don’t want it to be awkward around the dinner table. I try to think of someone say a cook or a chef, like a foodie type of profile I would say, while Noor goes for someone creative or from the press. Typically they’re people with like a huge following on social media, because we don’t really market who attended our dinners – we expect our guests to say that they’ve attended the Dinner Club. Imagine you’re around sixteen people sitting around the dinner table you want to have good energy, good conversation, so we always make sure we invite people who are very social and we try and invite that mix of people, otherwise its word of mouth, recommendations from one of the guests, that’s how it usually works.

VB-012415-57th Market-4What inspires each dinner?
Buthaina: I think mainly it’s the location that really dictates what we are going to do; it helps us go crazy with the ideas we want to go for.
Noor: It starts with “Oh it would really be cool to do it under the Sheikh Zayed Bridge for example or inside a bus.” Once we have the location and I go in, see the space, I know exactly what I want to do with the setup. The way that I do it most of the time is a complete opposite juxtaposition of what the space itself is… the more run down the more high shine it gets!

Who does what exactly?
Buthaina: I’m really focused on the food and the business side of things, and Noor is really purely on the design; she is a design genius. Even with our business and everything I tend to manage that and give Noor her creative space. We both really help each other, I mean it’s not like I’m not involved in the design or Noor has no say in the food, no, we both trust each other so I will never interfere in whatever she tends to do, but in the end she will come and ask me what I think and we both rely on each other for the final say. We don’t step on each other’s toes, but we both need each other to complete everything.
Noor: She’s a hundred percent focused on the food and I never interfere and I trust her a million percent and the same thing with design. We always take each other’s opinions.

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Have you had any disasters?
Buthaina: Every dinner of ours has a story behind it!
Noor: The locations we go for are always inconvenient I guess, so we have had situations like when our generator stopped working literally minutes before the dinner – we just had to grab a bunch of candles, no one knew, they just thought we were meant to have dinner with candles as apposed to the beautiful chandeliers we had bought. Or like at our very first dinner where we had agreed to have the food served family style in the middle of the table and everyone could kind of help themselves. I went overboard with the décor on the table so there was no space. We had to start serving the guests ourselves! Everyone really liked that we had done that anyways so we continued to do it at every single dinner.
Buthaina: But once the event starts we forget all the problems and get this energy once the guests arrive. For us we’ve seen the location a couple of times when we are working on it, but it’s not like receiving an invitation and not knowing where you are going!

Craziest place you would have one of you dinners at?
Buthaina: We don’t like taking no for an answer and there was actually one that got away!
Noor: It’s an oil tanker that we really wanted to have one of our dinners on and we got an initial approval for it, but then for security reasons we had to find somewhere else. We are still hoping we can get it though.If you had to pick your dream dinner party guests, dead or alive, who would they be?

Buthaina: I have always wanted to have Anthony Bourdain at my dinners. He has the most amazing personality, he’s so funny and he’s someone I want to travel with anyways; I would love to have him on the dinner table. Johnny Depp I wouldn’t mind having, also I’d love to host Leandra Medine from The Man Repeller. We like to invite people with personality!


SLT’S LIGHTENING ROUND

The Dinner Club in one word…
Buthaina: Unexpected I would say.
Noor: Exclusive!

Italian or Asian?
Buthaina: Italian. I’ll eat anything, but at the moment I am craving Italian.
Noor: Italian.

Sweet or Savory?
Buthaina: Savory for sure!
Noor: Has to be Savory.

In high school, you would have been voted most likely to…
Buthaina: Eat or most likely to feed; I’m always feeding people.
Noor: To be an entrepreneur.