Hidden Gem: Fine fare with a French flair

Hidden GemIt took a year to zero in on the perfect vill for the store l Image Credit: Comptoir 102

Comptoir 102, one of Dubai’s earliest concept stores, is warm and welcoming, offering a homely atmosphere and balanced cuisine.

With typical French flair, owners Alexandra de Montaudouin and Emma Sawko transformed a villa into a contemporary store that stocks fine furniture, clothing, designer jewellery and other accessories. It also houses a café that offers healthy food, beverages and snacks. Last month, the duo celebrated Comptoir 102’s second anniversary.

Ideal location

It took them a long time to set up shop. “Finding the location to open the place took a year,” says Montaudouin. “The problem was finding the ideal villa that had plenty of parking space.”

Montaudouin and Sawko were determined to set up in a prime location, either on Jumeirah Road or Al Wasl Road. It took around seven months to find the perfect spot. “When we saw the villa that was it,” says Sawko. “We knew it was right for us and didn’t even negotiate — just went to the landlord and paid everything.

“We didn’t have an ac- count at the time because in Dubai you cannot have a bank account if you don’t have a licence, which, in turn, you can’t have if you don’t have a location.”

Little work was required on the villa apart from break- ing down some walls. The original kitchen and dining room of the house remain intact, and 60 per cent of the 350-sq-m space is occupied by the shop, which offers products including designer jewellery from Pip- pa Small, Ileana Makri and Ginette NY. The remaining 40 per cent is taken up by the café, excluding the outdoor seating area. A temporary bamboo-and-plastic struc- ture was put up behind the kitchen last May for dining with an al fresco feel.

Both Montaudouin and Sawko moved into homes near the store six months after opening so they could walk to work and the beach, and have more time to spend with their children. But they are concerned about the sky- rocketing rents on Jumeirah Beach Road and ongoing construction in the area for La Mer, a mixed-use devel- opment by Meraas Holding.

Getting started

Montaudouin moved to Dubai for the second time from France in September 2010, and Sawko arrived from New York around the same time. They met at the fur- nished hotel apartment they were staying in. “We would meet each other for break- fast and chat about our dif- ficulties,” says Montaudouin, adding that both of them ound living in Dubai initial- ly difficult to cope with.

“New York is very lively with lots of people on the streets, concerts, healthy res- taurants, the arts and so on. When you first arrive here the way of life is very differ- ent and it takes a while to ad- just,” says Sawko.

However, when they put their heads together and de- cided to launch Comptoir 102, they changed their opin- ions about living here.

A confident touch

“[It] sounds a bit over- confident but we never had any fears about launching Comptoir 102. We knew we had to do it together and knew it would work,” says Montaudouin. “We never had a restaurant before and absolutely no experience, only common sense.”

So how did they know it would work? “Sometimes, if you don’t think too much about an issue, it gives you the confidence to just do what you want to do,” she says.

Sawko adds, “We strongly believed we needed to bring something to Dubai that we were missing, and that was a shopping and eating place that would be cosy and inti- mate, beyond the big mall ex- perience that we both hate.”

Moreover, she points out, the trend of healthy eating was happening everywhere in the world, so why not here too? “Dubai was ready for the concept and that’s how it all started.”

The food is not all organic but it strives to be so as much as possible, and limits the use of unhealthy ingredients such as sugar, salt, additives and fat. Fresh and inviting, it includes salads, healthy des- serts and lovely teas served in quirky enamelware.

Comptoir 102 is located at 102 Jumeirah Road, Jumeirah 1. It’s open from 8am-10pm every day.

Source: Cheryl Robertson, Features Writer, Property Weekly

This section features lesser-known places and events that are delightfully distinct in their own way. It could be a quaint little café or simply a charming lake. If it’s got character and brings a smile to your face, it’s a hidden gem that will find a place on this page. If you know of a hidden gem, email the Editor at enag@gulfnews.com

For Rent


View more properties

For Sale


View more properties