Outside a closed Shakespeare and Co. branch in Al Barsha Mall on Wednesday
Outside a closed Shakespeare and Co. branch in Al Barsha Mall on Wednesday Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The news of the closure of Shakespeare and Co., a popular café-restaurant chain in the UAE, has evoked an outpouring of emotions from more patrons, with some saying they sorely miss the “community hub”, with its shutting marking the end of an era.

Gulf News on Tuesday first reported about the homegrown chain shutting down operations last week at over 35 branches across the country.

While a comment from the company was not immediately available, several customers expressed sadness about the chain, established in 2001, closing all its Victorian-themed outlets with a menu and atmosphere that appealed to a broad segment of society. The marquee branches in some areas in Dubai were in the heart of the communities and were chosen by residents for their classy interiors and unfailing culinary fare.

The place to be

Ifra Khan

Ifra Khan, a resident of the Springs community, said: “It’s heartbreaking to see Shakespeare close down as it’s not just a cafe, it’s an emotion. Ever since I moved to Dubai after getting married in 2013, it’s been a regular joint for me and my husband for breakfast, and me and my girls to chill. We’ve had so many brunches and evening tea there.”

She said the one at Meadows Village was their favourite “as being within the community, it was ‘the place’ to take all our family and friends visiting us because it had such an elegant interior and served the best cakes.”

“Back in the day, there weren’t any cafés with a fine dining feel, and till today there is no match for its beautiful interiors, giving Bridgeton vibes…so for all our mums’ coffee mornings and brunches, it was The Place to Be. Their Mirabel cake was a must for all our celebrations. My children would definitely miss their scones and cookies.”

Old timer’s favourite

Shweta Dembla

Shweta Dembla, who has lived in Dubai for 42 years, said the restaurant offered her many memories as a Dubai kid and it will be sorely missed. “I do remember the first time I visited Shakespeare and Co. back in 2001 when it opened its doors, which is why I was saddened to read about its closure in the paper. Is it really shutting down, I asked myself. I’m still hoping that they are just renovating.”

She recalled that she and her college friends used to save the date - and money to dine in there.

“Dubai at that time wasn’t inundated with cafes and restaurants. There were a few good ones and Shakespeare and Co. was definitely one of them. Not only did it pass the vibe check, it genuinely had delicious food. My favourite was and still is the Penne Arrabbiata and their tomato soup, laced heavily with garlic and ginger. I’m really sad to see them go especially because old residents like us are always looking for familiar places to visit in this city, which boasts an ever-changing landscape,” she said.

End of an era

The closure of Shakespeare and Co. signifies the end of an era, said Tony Farah, director of PR agency Clickon Group.

Tony Farah

“It was a place where we created cherished memories. The ambience, with its charming Victorian-inspired decor, transported us to a bygone era, making every visit a unique and enchanting experience. The exquisite food, from delectable pastries to hearty meals, was a source of comfort and delight,” he said.

For Farah, the restaurant held a special place in his heart for many celebrations. “It was our favourite when it came to anniversary and birthday cakes. As we bid farewell to this beloved place, we carry with us the memories, flavours, and the sense of belonging that it offered. We will miss it dearly, but the legacy of Shakespeare and Co. will always remain in our hearts,” he added.

Seemingly shared identity

For Ananda Shakespeare, founder and CEO, Shakespeare Communications, the name of the café-restaurant chain itself was extremely relatable, though it was in no way connected to her.

Ananda Shakespeare

“The closure of Shakespeare and Co. is sad news. I have been a patron since I moved to Dubai in 2005. It is also a loss to the vegan community, who enjoyed the extensive vegan options. It was fun to go to a café with the same name as mine and I often enjoyed a shisha on their terraces around the UAE. I will miss their quirky décor, menu and the front-of-house teams who knew me well,” she said.

Feeling of cosy romanticism

Jay Mordani

Another long-term resident and businessman, Jay Mordani, said: “The most striking aspect of Shakespeare was its eclectic decor that evoked a feeling of cosy romanticism. It will always be remembered for its high-quality desserts and warm environment.”

Mordani said the café-restaurant chain has a “special place in our hearts for being a home-grown concept.”