When it comes to the F&B industry, Dubai has everything you could think of and more, so it takes a concept that is truly unique to stand out from the crowd.
Enter Le Guépard. Located in the heart of the arts and culture hub Alserkal Avenue, Le Guépard encompasses many different concepts in one.
Firstly there’s the elegant 20th-century-inspired French brasserie paired with the ultimate private dining experience. Complete with three rooms, the first being a private lounge where guests can enjoy canapes and mingle prior to their dinner, then there are the two different dining rooms: Le Guépardeau, a cosy garden-like room that sits up to 12 guests, and La Guéparde, a sultry bronze, larger dining room that fits up to 65 guests.
The concept was founded by Sara Daher who hails from Beirut, Lebanon. However, her foray into the culinary world wasn’t immediate. Having studied at a Master’s in finance at Imperial College London, Daher went on to carve a successful career in the corporate world. However, after six years she realised it wasn’t her true calling and decided to follow her passion for food and eventually went on to study cuisine at Cordon Bleu in Paris.
“Following my passion really enabled me to express myself and create something completely new,” she tells Emirates Woman. “My experiences around the world helped inspire the concept of Le Guépard.”
With various new concepts set to launch under the Le Guépard umbrella, Emirates Woman sat down with the restauranteur to discover more about the concept and what it takes to be truly unique in such a competitive F&B market.
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Talk us through your career.
I began my career working in the finance industry after obtaining a Masters in finance from Imperial College London. After six years I decided to go back to school and pursue my true passion: food! I studied cuisine at Cordon Bleu, Paris before spending a year travelling and immersing myself in different cultures and cuisines. Following my passion really enabled me to express myself and create something completely new. My experiences around the world helped inspire the concept of Le Guépard.
What initially inspired you to enter into the F&B realm?
As soon as I left my corporate job and moved to Paris, I knew that I had to create something completely unique in the culinary field. I wanted to switch things up. Something more than just food – I wanted to open up a whole new world of emotions and memories by igniting different senses whilst ensuring that no two experiences at Le Guépard are the same; keeping an element of surprise and thrill. This kind of experience will stay with people indefinitely.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
After seven years in Europe, I felt a calling to move back to the Middle East and be closer to home (Lebanon). Dubai had always intrigued me due to its international scene and exponential growth. I felt that Dubai is where I wanted to invest my time and creativity as it is an ambitious city that empowers and supports entrepreneurs’ dreams. It immediately felt like home to me. Running a business and life, in general, feels a lot easier in Dubai than in Europe: the service is impeccable, people are warm and there’s always something new and exciting happening.
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Talk us through the concept of Le Guépard.
The intention behind Le Guépard is to curate a personalised, fine-dining experience with utter elegance and delicacy. These intentions are demonstrated through our highly-seasonal menu inspired by traditional French dishes with a twist, impeccable service, and charming interior. As a nod to the likes of design masters Madeleine Castaing and Henri Samuel – the maximalist Art Deco interiors create a fantastical setting that invites guests to move away from reality and enter an enchanting universe. We have an elegant brasserie at the entrance and a hidden private section in the back. The private section consists of three rooms; a lounge where guests can mingle and enjoy our canapés before making their way into the dining room. We have two dining rooms, Le Guépardeau, a cosy garden-like room that sits up to 12 guests, and La Guéparde, a sultry bronze, larger dining room that fits up to 65 guests.
How did you assemble your team together to create the concept?
For me, it was important to find people that shared the same values as us: integrity, respect, dedication, quality, creativity, and team spirit. Of course, this has not come without its challenges but from the designer to the chefs, gradually the team started coming together beautifully. One year into the business, I can confidently say we have built a strong team of talented individuals that are all aligned with our vision. As cliché as it may sound, I am delighted to be living the ‘one team, one dream’ motto!
What sets it apart from other concepts in Dubai?
Our personalised approach and versatile, multi-dimensional space gives our guests and clients the opportunity to express themselves and tell their own story. No two events at Le Guépard are the same – it is an ever-changing space full of surprises. We go beyond to ensure we create unique experiences based on our client’s needs, customising the menu, setup, and everything in between. La Guéparde’s dining room will soon be used as a showcase room where we create different experiences each time through different visuals and culinary experiences.
In your opinion, what are the hero dishes at Le Guépard?
For our fine dining experience, our signature dishes are the Beetroot & Truffle Beef Tartare followed by the Thyme & Strawberries Marinated in Shizo for dessert. The flavours are so distinct they will leave you with a pleasant feeling for the rest of the day. In our brasserie, our hero dish is the Black Octopus Signature. It is my favourite for lunchtime as it is so light and fresh.
What sets the F&B industry in Dubai apart from the rest of the world?
The F&B industry in Dubai has quickly become one of the most renowned scenes in the world. With the Michelin guide recently expanding into Dubai, the culinary scene will undoubtedly continue to grow and flourish. We are so grateful to be part of this globally attractive industry and truly believe that Dubai restaurants will be pioneers in the culinary world with unmatched talent, service, and design.
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What are the hurdles you’ve experienced throughout your career?
One of the hurdles I experienced was building the right team. I truly believe that a solid team is the basic engine of a sustainable business. I feel lucky that it didn’t take too long to get there, but there were moments were it felt very challenging.
On another note, anyone who knows me can confirm that I am someone rather intense and quick! I brought that to my business and ended up expanding into many different areas very quickly. Le Poppard, our vintage boutique was created in a matter of days with the support of my two rockstar friends/business partners, Time and Aya. If I see an opportunity and I just leap trusting that I will figure it out as I go. I always believed in throwing myself in the deep end and swimming my way up from there. This plays in my favour as it allows me to always grow, innovate and seize opportunities – but on the flip side, it also leaves me overwhelmed and stretched out at times.
What have been the milestones?
For me this year has been filled with milestones! From celebrating engagements, weddings and baby showers with our clients to being part of the most fruitful corporate collaborations. We also hosted our first Four Hand Dinner experience with a Michelin star chef. Being in the kitchen with two brilliant chefs transcending all cultural and traditional culinary barriers through their smooth and progressive collaboration was a magical experience.
Finally, launching Le Poppard, our curated selection of vintage and unique pieces has also been a big milestone, especially after moving the concept to Cana Pepeta, Ibiza this summer! We collaborated with so many talented local and international designers and enjoyed building a sense of community both in Dubai and in Ibiza.
Finally, what are the future plans for Le Guepard?
There are so many plans in the pipeline! Firstly, we will be starting the new season with a revamped café design and new menu. The items will have an unexpected and innovative twist on classical French dishes. We will then be launching Le Poppard and the Terrace with weekly activation parties every Sunday. We will showcase different talents each week from musicians to performers and more. Our aim is to start a fun Sunday ritual for our guests to brunch, shop, dance, and connect with like-minded people.
Then, our fine dining restaurant will reopen on the mezzanine floor. I don’t want to disclose too much about this but it will be a very progressive and modern take on the traditional fine dining culture. A concept that will offer guests way more than a dining experience but a true, unmatched culinary journey.
After the success of our events such as the Four Hands Dinner, we will continue hosting regional and international popups to continue growing the Le Guépard community worldwide. In fact, the Four Hands Dinner will become a monthly occurrence with a very exciting lineup for fall/winter.
Le Guépard is an ever-changing, ever-growing concept that will always be the base for cultural fusion and a hub for emerging talent across the culinary, fashion and art world.
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