Home Behind the brand Behind the Brand with Natalia Freys – Curating the PAPA Dubai experience

Behind the Brand with Natalia Freys – Curating the PAPA Dubai experience

by Out and About Mag.
  • Tell us about yourselves and what brought you to the UAE.

My family brought me here. My kids are in school here. And, having the first project, PAPA Moscow, that is growing and quite good, I couldn't stop there. That's why I decided to extend the name, extend the brand, and we opened PAPA Dubai here, which is our second project.


  • Tell us about the PAPA Dubai concept.

It's a copy and paste of the PAPA Moscow concept, except for the target audience. So, we have completely different people and expectations of the crowds that we're inviting here, but the concept itself is based on the bar experiences.

We have nine bars. Each bar is infused with only one liquor… for example, a whisky, rum, gin, and vodka bar. Each bar has from 10 to 12 signature cocktails and real mixology. We don't mix syrups with alcohol; we produce all syrups or ingredients ourselves in our laboratory.

I think the next step will be when we start showing our laboratories, how complicated it is, how many machines we have, how we produce, and how much time we spend growing some plants. Also, how particular ingredients work.

All classic cocktails are served everywhere [at each bar], but each bar is based only on one liquor. So, for example, here is sake, the cocktails are based on sake. Each cocktail tells a completely different story, so it's a legend… like the Bible of this bar.

All the concepts are based on the same music, so each day we have a different concept of the evening—different DJs, different styles of music.

The food is the same. I can't say that it's international, but it's also like we have the touch of each region. So, for example, sake is from Japan, so we get some kind of Japanese cuisine; we have some Mexican, Italian. Actually, this is a very rich menu, and I'm quite confident in our chef from Peru.

  • How did you get started in business?

Actually, I studied business administration, but I'm quite creative. And, I can't sit in one place. I can't sit with papers and numbers. So, I was always eager to create, to invent.

I continued my education in the sphere of interior, hospitality, and I later tried to combine all this knowledge to produce one more child, which has been to involve and devote myself to this business.

I created the first restaurant in Moscow, it was a member's club; and it was a very fantastic place, with beautiful design. So later, we opened PAPA Moscow, and now we came here, and I was very much involved in the design and detail from the kitchen to staff hiring.

  • Who comes to PAPA Dubai?

Celebrities are not my goal. I really want to bring the people who would enjoy and appreciate each detail on display because there isn't anything that just came from nothing—each detail in this place took a lot of thought, time and people to create it.

papa dubai

That's why, for me, it's very important that it's people who could really appreciate this place, the sound systems, the colours, the different ways we combined everything in one place. So many different areas, but we tried to combine them in one place, and it still looks cosy and not overworked.


  • What is the secret to your success?

I actually can't call it success so far because we're just starting this project. And, honestly, it's quite challenging here in Dubai.

We still have so many quests. I really need so much help from partners, friends, and family... but I believe, of course, we will come to success at PAPA Dubai. So, actually, now I can't say the secret, but you know that I think it's my passion because I'm so devoted to this project.

24/7, my mind belongs to this project and ideas of how to create something meaningful, bring people, and make it more vibey.

papa dubai

  • What would you say is the most common misconception that you encounter in your business?

I've met so many challenges with cocktails. We have around 80 cocktails, signature cocktails, and each cocktail requires separate preparation. So it doesn't mean that, if we open at seven, staff can come at six to just change into their uniform. No way, they come at five, put plans into place, prepare the ingredients, prepare fresh syrups, fresh decorations. Also, it's quite a complicated system of calculation because you can't even imagine how many names of the liquors we have.

We have a lot of bottles that you won't find anywhere else in the city. Each cocktail consists of a minimum of 10 ingredients. It is very complicated to bring it to the base, make the recipe, and control all the spirits.

  • Would you say there are certain traits that an entrepreneur has?

I become bored with routine… So every day should differ from previous ones. And, even if I start to invent one idea, I've already thought about the next one.

I'm always very creative, and I can't sit in one place. I always need to communicate with people, to share ideas, and to see what's going on in the city, the country, and the world.

  • What are your thoughts on the current pace of digital transformation in your industry?

We're very advanced, so we have the best technologies. But, my personal wish is to bring some old things back, you know? I remember my new year celebrations when I got so many real emotions, real smells, and I really would like to move away from these technologies that work now and change our reality.

I really would like to bring more emotions and for people to feel the ambience, to feel their real smiles, not to always sit on their phones. I really would like to create an atmosphere that you don't need to touch the phone. So you don't exactly notice, but it's like it covers you, and you want to come back to this place.

This is what I want to create, like PAPA, that it becomes someone watching over you—it becomes family.

You create a very friendly atmosphere—starting from the team, service, music—[so] they feel that they're one tribe.

natalia freys

  • What advice would you give to someone starting out in business?

I think it's always good to have support. One person can't be a genius in every area.

I'm quite creative, but, as far as the numbers and budgeting go, I have really experienced people who I really trust and who can calculate and bring me, sometimes, to reality as to how this business can work.

I think we all should have some people who we trust; this is teamwork.

If you go for a big business, and you try to create and compete with big machines in the city, you can't rely only on yourself and overestimate your power.

  • Any major lessons you’ve learnt along your entrepreneurial journey?

Yes, I've had many lessons, but I can't say that this has been any kind of disadvantage because I learned things never to be repeated.

I trust people very quickly, rely on them, and believe in them. And, I met many people who didn't deliver what they promised. But, honestly speaking, I wouldn't change myself. I have learned from my experiences.

  • What inspires you?

My friends inspire, my family inspire, once they believe in me. When they come to PAPA Dubai and they say, 'Wow,' it really inspires me, because I don't do this business for money. Of course, this is a business, but I do it for my dream.

And when I see that my dream came to reality, of course, it inspires me; and I really want to continue to create something new.


  • What’s next?

Of course, I would continue with PAPA. I want PAPA to become popular, and by that, I mean popular worldwide.

  • How do you look after your mental health?

I'm not the person who reads a lot, but I'm the person who takes all information by eyes, in by ears. I travel a lot; I'm fond of design, decor, fashion, and learn a lot during my travels.

I enjoy attending exhibitions, from art to fashion, design, and furniture exhibitions.

  • If you were not doing PAPA and being an entrepreneur, what would you be doing?

I think I would go somewhere to maybe do interior design because I already have experience in this area.

  • What’s that one quote you live by? 

Actually, I can't say I have one. I just have very good standards and values from my family that guide me every day.



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