"It's fun to help drive urban development".


"It's fun to help drive urban development".

The exceptional restaurateur Walid El Sheikh reveals what drives him and what he dreams of.

In just five years, restaurateur Walid El Sheikh has left his mark on the nightlife landscape in Düsseldorf's old town. It all began in 2016 with the opening of the Elephant Bar. This was followed by the club bar Sir Walter, the radical conversion of the former Anaconda Lounge into the electro club Oh Baby Anna, and finally the Boston Bar. El Sheikh's concepts are pointed, detailed and elaborate, promising sensual experiences and encounters in a special atmosphere. His recipe for success: He listens, feels the pulse of his guests, senses the zeitgeist. The proof is his latest baby, a gastronomic chord of restaurant, bar, bistro and club: The Paradise Now, which opened in the harbor in late summer. There, El Sheikh gives us an insight into his gastronomic world and a glimpse of what's to come.

We sit here in an elegant interior that exudes the aura of an urban place of longing with palm trees, eucalyptus and rattan. How was the idea for The Paradise Now born? Can you explain the concept to us?

The concept that I developed with Moritz von Schrötter and Charles Bals from Parasol Island arose from a need that was not being met in Düsseldorf. Namely, for a place where I can dine in peace and then perhaps switch to a bar, but which is also fully bar. And that I still have the option of visiting a club that is 100 percent club. We wanted to make that happen at a single location, without catering to the clichés that exist in Düsseldorf, so without being overly fancy and posh. We wanted to create a new lightness, to fulfill the longing for an unpretentious place where you feel just as comfortable in jeans as in a cocktail dress. This idea is implemented in the interior design we developed and realized with local craftsmen - in the bright colors, organic shapes and natural materials.

You have already realized some very different gastronomic concepts. What was your career like?

About twenty years ago, I worked in the Anaconda Lounge parallel to my studies in performing arts at the Folkwang University in Essen. It was then that I realized that the design of a space plays a decisive role in the quality of the encounter. I wanted to incorporate this insight into my own gastronomic projects. In 2016, I opened Elephant Bar in the former Q-Stall, a classic American bar with the ambience of an English man's room, where we consistently play only old school hip-hop. Shortly thereafter, I opened Sir Walter on Heinrich-Heine-Allee, which already has something cosmopolitan about its massive dimensions. It continued a little later with the Anaconda Lounge, which I completely redesigned and which is now the Oh Baby Anna. I opened the Boston Bar, Düsseldorf's first sports bar, with my partner Andreas Apostolakis in the summer of 2020.

"Reconquest of the Old Town by the Young Düsseldorfers".

As different as the concepts are - they all have in common that they are not exactly typical for Düsseldorf's old town.

Yes, that is indeed a concern for me. Of course, we also demanded a bit of courage from the guests. With the Elephant Bar, I wanted to make a public statement and create a reason for a discerning audience to go to the old town. Kurze Straße, for example, has now experienced a renaissance thanks to Elephant Bar, Brauerei Kürzer, Bar Cherie and Knoten. There has been a reconquista, a reconquest of the old town by young Düsseldorfers. It's fun to help drive this kind of urban development.

Where do you see the future in terms of gastronomy?

I think places like Bouillabaisse on Neustraße or San Leo are great if they focus on their core competencies, i.e. bouillabaisse or pasta. If you want to please everyone and offer bowls and pasta in addition to burgers, you become too arbitrary. A sharp profile and authenticity are more important today than ever.

Where do you go out yourself?

I like to go to Münstermann Kontor, Saitta in Oberkassel or for a drink at Bar Ellington. 

What are your plans and what are your dreams?

My personal dream after these eventful and intense years would be a moment of rest. But I have many ideas that I would like to implement. At the moment, I'm working on two specialized concepts for the old town. I would like to establish even more high-quality gastronomy there. I won't reveal what exactly is being created there, but there will be two new restaurants: One will open in half a year, the other in eight months.

We are very excited! And talk to you again when the time comes.

Cover photo: Club owner Walid El Sheikh at Sir Walter © Tourismus NRW e.V. Photo Holger Hage

Gallery 1: Robert Riege

Gallery 2: © pureX Event

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