Enter, The Cave
Rising up off the shorn hillside, The Cave looks as though it's always been there. An ancient mound of craggy rock and carved grotto long forgotten in the Darsait foothills. Only, this is no archaeological dig though it's no less a find for it.
The Cave is poised to be a landmark just the same. What it is today is a RO7mn ode to 'culinary eclecticism', bringing together the best in fine dining from around the world and bridging more than trans-continental divides in its 7,000sq m sprawl just off the Qurm Heights road.
The 1,600 capacity, eight-restaurant complex, scheduled to open doors in a series of staggered launches starting Saturday will serve up “more than 20 cuisines” from Oman, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Asia and Latin America, among others. Inside the three-storey structure are seemingly-labyrinthine (but well marked-out) passages that draw patrons further inside.
Faux stalactites share ceiling space with embedded lighting and the occasional raised ground adds to the effect as does the impression of natural light filtering in through cracks in the weathered rock face. It's not old though, nor exactly rock even if it feels like both.
“Every bit of The Cave complex has been derived from prints of actual caves from Oman and abroad,” said Salim Nasser al Siyabi, chairman, Falcon Tourism Investments, which built the structure over three years beginning 2011.
“It looks like rock slabs screwed together, but it's not.” “The 'rock' is created here. It's a combination of three kinds of materials that have been sprayed in coats until the rigidity, adhesion and colour scheme was just right,” he added.
The locations and shapes of the grooves and juts that punctuate the walls are derived from natural features found in Al Hoota cave as also others from Australia and Latin America, for instance. “We built as we went,” he said.
But always in keeping with the design and taking the topography of the site into account. Starting with the skeletal building, to which the columns and beams were added, around which was enveloped a steel frame. Adding the layers of coating and pockmarking came after. “Every cave has its own nature and so every inch of The Cave represents a different identity.”
Al Manjur, the Omani restaurant, for example, takes its cue from its surrounds. The wooden beams and high walls being in keeping with the Omani aesthetic. The bas relief murals, about the only embellishment, lend further to the ambience. Besides Al Manjur, the complex houses the Harbour seafood restaurant, Asiana (for Chinese, Indian and Far East cuisine), Clouds: The Garden and The Terrace (offering Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare), Espeto Gaucho (Brazilian), Rumba Latina (Dine and Dance) and Rossini (Italian). For Naaman Abou Zeid, The Cave's food and beverages manager, it's a “unique combination of leisure and luxury”.
“A true food factory” offering guests a smorgasbord of high cuisine and culture. To cater to the tastes of a broader clientele, he said, “application for the relevant licence have been made to the concerned authorities.”
“Everything will be tasteful, in keeping with the fine dining theme and according to the customs of the society. We are not a club or a pub,” he added. That's not to say the target clientele is exclusively high-brow. “With the World Cup only days away, we welcome patrons who want to catch the game while grabbing a bite or some shisha,” Zeid said. “The Cave is meant for all Omanis and all residents of Oman, without emphasis on any particular segment, who appreciate an evening of fine cuisine with their families,” Siyabi said.
“The prices are neither as high as some international hotels nor as low as other city dining spots. It will be affordable and the experience will provide value for money.” The Harbour (reservations only at first) and the two Cloud restaurants will be the first to open doors on Saturday with the rest slated to follow shortly after. The connoisseur's chorus: “Open, says me.”