Raising the bar

Twenty five years on, The Hyatt Regency Dubai proves it can still bring a new twist to the market with The Bar, a martini bar offering 140 different cocktails

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By  Laura Barnes Published  April 1, 2006

|~|hyatt#2.jpg|~|Patrick received his first cocktail book at the age of 13|~|The Hyatt Regency Dubai is celebrating its silver anniversary. After 25 years, it claims to have the only revolving restaurant in Dubai, the first chocolate buffet, and the first Japanese restaurant to open in Dubai. However, the hotel now has another string to add to its bow, in opening its first martini bar. The Bar, which opened in April last year, is managed by Patrick Regenbrecht. Regenbrecht, a German national, has been working in the industry for over 10 years, and got his first cocktail book when he was just 13 years old. Although he has worked in a number of restaurants, Regenbrecht’s forte is working in cocktail bars, with his last posting in a popular bar in Germany. “I opened a cocktail bar in Cologne, Germany. It was very successful and was one of the best bars in the region. But after two and a half years I decided it was time to move on,” says Regenbrecht, bar manager of The Bar. Arriving in Dubai two months before the opening of The Bar, Regenbrecht adopted a very hands on approach. He undertook intensive training with his staff, and created the cocktail menu from scratch, with many late hours trying out new cocktails with his food and beverage director, Michael Braun. But the late hours have paid off. The cocktail menu boasts 140 cocktails, of which, 70 are martinis, with the remaining 70 made up of non-alcoholic, champagne and classic cocktails. With one of the largest cocktail menus in Dubai, The Bar is proud of its martini menu, and although there are classic cocktails as well, Regenbrecht has tried to install as many new creations as he could. “We have one category called Bar Martinis that were created specially for this bar. When you look at the market there is no bar that focuses on martinis. Sure you have generic cocktail bars but this is a new concept to Dubai. It is something fresh and modern,” comments Regenbrecht. Although Regenbrecht thinks the market is still in an infant stage in Dubai, he is eager to point out that it is growing, and The Bar is helping to increase the cocktail lounge profile. As part of The Bar, creating a cocktail menu unique to the outlet was very important to Regenbrecht, and he wanted to create a menu that reflected the outlet. “I think about recipes a lot when I’m at work. But most importantly, it is about looking at the outlet, and deciding what works best to help portray The Bar,” says Regenbrecht. For example, The Bar’s most popular drink is the Ocean View martini. Created especially for the outlet it consists of vodka, watermelon liquor, Malibu, lime juice and pineapple juice. True to the name of the martini, the drink is clearly inspired from the view out of the bar. Looking out onto the Corniche in Deira, the outlet has a unique positioning, and capitalises on this position, with the exterior wall being floor to ceiling glass, looking out over the Persian Gulf. There are also a number of other popular concoctions in The Bar, including Fireman sours. Consisting of grenadine, gold rum, lemon juice, lime juice and powdered sugar, it is not only one of Regenbrecht’s creations, but one of his favourite drinks on the menu. Despite offering a range of unique cocktails, the outlet still sees a number of people asking for the classics, like pina colada and whiskey sours. However, management put the popularity of classic cocktails down to the region still being new to the cocktail bar concept. As such, Regenbrecht says that, although it may be hard at times to educate the drinkers, it also allows them the scope to promote and recommend new drinks. “As it is a relatively new market we can recommend drinks that are unique to the outlet. Over time, we have noticed that regular customers will trust our judgement, and therefore we can suggest other cocktails that we know will suit their taste,” comments Regenbrecht. “It is a very personalised service. We remember guests and what they like, so it is more than just a cocktail bar,” he adds. While the outlet also offers a range of wines, beers and champagne, the cocktails are the main focus, with infused vodka becoming an increasingly popular attraction. Rather than purchasing pre-flavoured vodka The Bar has five different flavours, using brewed ice tea from the hotel’s tea supplier, The Tea Company in Canada. Offering a range of flavours, including lemongrass, peppermint vodka, lemon and chilli vodka, the outlet’s most popular variety is vodka infused with mountain berry tea, helping the outlet get through the 30-40 litres of vodka ordered each week. “The drinks are interesting for our guests to try. But this is what we are trying to do...offer them something different. We also have cocktails that complement our restaurants, like a chocolate cocktail, and Japanese inspired cocktails and martinis,” says Regenbrecht.||**|||~||~||~|Sourcing beverages is not as easy for Regenbrecht as it was in Europe. Although the distributors are able to provide most ingredients, he has to look at what is available in the market and create drinks from that. “There are a couple of drinks that are not yet available in the region, but that makes it all the more fun. I have to think a bit more and find another drink that will work. It actually makes it more interesting, and sometimes you come out with better results,” comments Regenbrecht. “We also ensure that we only use premium products and the freshest ingredients wherever we can. There may be times when we cannot always source every single fresh juice so we have to use canned juices, but this is very rare,” he adds. Fitting in with the hotel’s already strong portfolio of high quality outlets was paramount for The Bar. And although a lot of thought goes into the sourcing of ingredients, the design of the outlet was also important in order to capitalise on what the existing customers and hotel guests expected from the hotel. “We have a mix of drinkers, those that come just to drink at the outlet, and those that come for an aperitif before dining in one of our restaurants. Most then return to the bar later,” says Michael Braun, food and beverage director, Hyatt Regency. “We also have our own snack menu, it is typical bar food like Caesar salad, but it is more upmarket, and also healthier. Nothing is deep fried on the menu,” adds Braun. Fitting in with the hotel’s portfolio, which recently underwent a complete revamp, the outlet has a very modern yet comfortable look, with large sofas and cushioned bar stools. Capitalising on the view, all of the 65 seats have a view of the Gulf, providing a relaxed and calming atmosphere. “The sofas help provide a laid back atmosphere for our customers. It is the kind of atmosphere where guests can relax with friends and chat. The problem with so many bars in the region is that you cannot hear people talking, but here it is about creating a trendy and relaxed atmosphere,” says Regenbrecht. As well as having a multicultural clientele, the outlet also has a multicultural team, which was impressed upon by the management in keeping with the hotel’s standard. “We brought in Patrick because of his vast experience. He has brought with him a new concept in drinking, and in that respect he is a pioneer,” enthuses Braun. The team working for Regenbrecht were hired more for their motivation than for their industry knowledge. However, they underwent intensive training prior to the opening, and since then have regular re-familiarisation sessions. “If you have motivated and inspired staff then you have no problem teaching them as they want to learn. We wanted to focus more on personality than professional background, and have young, crisp and fresh staff, as it is the initial guest contact that makes a lasting impression,” says Regenbrecht. “Product knowledge can, and has to be trained. At Hyatt, the training and well being of staff is very important, so three weeks before we opened we had eight hours of training a day. It was about getting the staff to familiarise themselves with the ingredients, know what goes into each cocktail, and be able to make cocktails that are not perhaps on the menu,” adds Regenbrecht. Since the initial training session, Regenbrecht conducts regular training with his staff at least four days a week, holding refresher courses as well as training sessions on new additions to the menu. Although the menu has some regular features, it is changed regularly in order to complement special events and seasons. Despite providing a quiet haven for people wanting to relax at the end of the day, the outlet will also be hosting a number of cocktail events. Beginning this month, The Bar will offer cocktail classes with lessons for people wanting to learn more about cocktails, ranging from martinis, classics, sours and non-alcoholic cocktails. “People like to drink. So why not let them learn how to make the perfect cocktail? The cocktail culture is growing rapidly so it is all about creating awareness and variety,” says Regenbrecht.||**||

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