BEIRUT: If the animal-print lighting doesn’t give it away, then fashion designer Roberto Cavalli’s familiar “RCC” monogram on the seating will. No it’s not a clothing boutique.
Cavalli opened Friday one of his signature cafe-lounges along the waterfront in Downtown. The Beirut version of this luxury cafe chain serves up typical Italian fare, a generous list of desserts and house drinks made from Cavalli-brand vodka.
A dinner with starters and drinks costs about $50 per person. Customers can also splurge on one of Cavalli’s bottles of wine or boxes of chocolates that line the mirrored walls.
Though Cavalli Caffé’s is not the most expensive plate in the city, a poor economy and low tourism make now a brave time to set up a luxury, concept cafe. The instability has already forced the closure of a handful of international restaurants located in Downtown, including the country’s Buddha Bar.
Cavalli showed little concern in a news statement announcing the opening, saying: “I believe Beirut will rapidly become a big fan of Cavalli Caffè.”
Some of the most promising menu items include Italian plates often served sub-par around Beirut – carpaccio, risottos, pastas and pizzas – as well as decadent finds like lobster, veal cutlet or Cavalli’s zebra-print ravioli.
For curious souls with smaller pockets, a basic margarita pizza costs LL19,000.
The dessert list spans two menu pages. The crème brulee alone comes in four flavors – caramel, vanilla, jasmine tea and coffee. There’s also tiramisu, baba Italian cakes in limoncello liqueur sauce, a range of gelato and sorbet flavors, ricotta-cheese-filled sponge cake and the decadent puff pastry Saint Honore dessert.
A long list of nonalcoholic mocktails also makes Cavalli Caffé an appropriate spot for nondrinkers.
The Italian fashion designer oversees a design and luxury goods empire in his namesake. Aside from clothing and textiles, Cavalli’s enterprises include making accessories, home furnishings, chocolate, grappa, vodka and wines.
Cavalli’s furnishing designs feature in the lounge with his signature zebra-print on the light shades and giraffe print on the lush, oversized couch booths. Mirror-lined walls and reflective silver detail gives the moderately sized cafe – suitable for 90 guests – a spacious feel.
Cavalli Caffe opened with a giant party as punchy as the designer’s vibrant fabric prints.
Egyptian-themed women, painted head to toe in gold, lounged on the roof above the cafe entrance, which shot spotlights into the night and greeted guests in red-carpet – actually gold-carpet – style.
Cavalli himself attended the launch in Beirut, as did major regional stars such as singers Haifa Wehbe and Nancy Ajram.
The event also gave rising local fashion designer Rami Kadi a moment to show off his talents. Kadi dressed the models in his own lacey evening wear.
Bedecked in oversized accessories cum serving trays, models wove through the crowd serving hors d’oeuvres: a plastic satchel filled with orbs of panna cotta with a fruity zing and white-chocolate covered strawberries skewered on an antler-like silver collar.
Cavalli’s resto-lounge concepts have done well in other cities in the region. Dubai’s Club Cavalli has won numerous awards as one of the best nightlife spots in the city, and Cavalli Caffés will soon set up shop in Kuwait City and Doha.
“Experiencing the enjoyment of exquisite food and surrounded by pleasant company, sipping a delicious cup of Italian coffee,” the designer said in the news statement, “this is the Cavalli Caffè philosophy.
“My desire was to transmit my deep passion for beauty and sensuality in a hospitality project.”