Old Dubai guide: Best restaurants, bars and nightlife
Hit the road and escape your usual haunts
Amy Mathieson and Holly Sands
The nightlife haunt: 961LB
A nominee for this year’s Time Out Dubai Music & Nightlife Awards in the Best New Nightlife Venue category, 961LB brings a slice of Lebanon’s party scene to new Creekside development Al Seef. Serving up classic Beiruti dishes by day and injecting a massive dose of live entertainment by night, expect to find the upper floor of this place full of fun and revelry on a typical Friday night. If you can’t manage the four-hour flight for an evening out in Gemmayze, hopefully you’ve got the time (and funds) to at least grab a cab to this place. Open Sun-Wed 9am-2am, Thu-Sat 9am-3am. Al Seef, Umm Hurair, Bur Dubai (04 392 0961).
The great outdoors: Aventura
Until Saturday April 7, outdoor adventure park Aventura is running a promotion on tickets. Use the code SPRINGBREAK and you’ll get 50 percent off the second ticket you purchase, saving you cash on a tree-surfing, zip-lining, rope-climbing day out among Mushrif Park’s ghaf trees (the national tree of the UAE, don’t you know…). Circuits range from the all-abilities level to “Extreme” – which features a 25-metre Tarzan jump. Think you’re brave enough? Dhs150 (adults above 1.4m), Dhs125 (kids below 1.4m). Open Sun-Wed 9.30am-6pm, Thu-Sat 9am-9pm. Mushrif Park, Al Khawaneej Road, Mirdif (052 178 7616).
The live music hangout: Bar Baar
Now open where long-standing spot The Music Room once lived, new Indian social hub Bar Baar keeps the stage and regular live entertainment, but has dialled the décor up and shifted the venue’s focus. In addition to live bands, stand-up comedy and DJs, another reason to visit this colourful newcomer is its Tuesday night deal, “Wholesale Night” which serves up selected drinks for just Dhs10 between 7pm and 3am. Well, what are you waiting for? Open daily noon-3am. Majestic Hotel Tower, Mankhool Street, Bur Dubai (04 501 2631).
The Locked Minigolf Challenge at space-themed Tee & Putt will put your creativity, logic and problem solving skills to the test, while also seeing if you can nail those 18 holes. Plus, it’s all glow-in-the-dark, and that is always, always a good thing in our books. In order to play each hole, you you’ll need to first unlock it – and to do that, you’ll have to pay attention to hidden clues dotted around the room. If you get the code right, you get to play the next hole. It’s as simple as that, allegedly, so you’ll see us on the first tee, scratching our heads. Dhs50 per person. Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Tee & Putt, Wafi Mall, Oud Metha (04 357 3290).
The dessert café: Freeze Yes, you’ll find the ubiqitous (and edible safety blanket that is) soft serve ice cream here, but it’s really more about the quirkier options. Smurf milkshakes, pancake kebabs, a refreshing, ice-cold glass of laban topped with, erm, Chips Oman. Yes, Dubai’s love affair with those spicy crisps is going nowhere. There’s even a giant treat called a Positive Cake (the only thing we’re positive about is that it’s got pink cake in it – after that you’re on your own). Open Sun-Wed noon-midnight, Thu noon-2am, Fri 1pm-1am. 39 Street, Al Wasl Hub, Karama (04 358 3833).
The globe-trotting bar and restaurant: Headlines Café This sprawling new spot at the IBIS Dubai World Trade Centre has a fittingly international menu (it is primed to host businessfolk from all over the world, after all), from wonton soup to chicken tikka tacos, shawarma biryani to fettucine alfredo. It’s all paired with rocking live music and sports on TV screens dotted around the room. It hasn’t been open long, but is already making noise – head down to see what all the fuss is about. Open Sat-Wed noon-2am, Thu-Fri noon-3am. IBIS Hotel World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 559 7875).
The bargain Korean spot: Kimchee by Shogun Jettison those japchae cravings – Kimchee by Shogun is a super little spot in Satwa that demands you drop in for dinner. Serving up excellent eats at seriously reasonable prices, this casual eatery proves that Korean food doesn’t always need to be costly (for some reason, it does often tend to be in this town). Nibble on customary complimentary kimchi before having a blow-out with the pajeon pancake and a bowl of bulgogi. Bibimbap fans won’t be disappointed with the beef and veg option here, with its crispy rice bottom. At Dhs48, it’s one of the more pricey dishes on the menu, but there’s more than enough to share. Open daily noon-midnight. Manila Centre, Satwa (04 550 9241).
The sandwich shop: Tibbs Frankie Ever heard of a frankie? No, not a hot dog. We’re talking about the Indian street snack – essentially a tasty, buttery roti wrap packed with either veggies or meat. Options here range from the classic veg with tamarind and mint sauce, to the more exotic, Indo-Chinese chilli paneer, filled with cheese, peppers, chillies and a soy-based sauce. But it’s the cracking omelette-filled number that gets our vote. At Dhs14, it’s eggcellent value, too… Open Sun-Wed 11.30am-11.30pm, Thu-Sat 11.30am-midnight. Khalid Bin Al Waleed Road, Meena Bazaar, Bur Dubai (04 351 9505).
The groceries go-to: Waterfront Market
Following the closure of Dubai’s iconic Deira Fish Market (which had been operating in the city since as far back as 1958), Waterfront Market represents the new generation. The modern, indoor facility may lack some of the rustic charm of the original, but you’ll still find a huge array of fresh fish, meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, dates and more. There’s loads more planned for the destination, including shops, cafés and restaurants, and it’s well worth adding to your itinerary. Fish Market: open daily 24-hours (closed 10pm-11pm for deep-cleaning); Meat & Poultry and Fruit & Vegetable Markets open daily 6am-1am. Al Khaleej Road, Deira Corniche (800 627 538).
The nightlife haunt: QD’s
A popular spot next to the Creek, this bar boasts excellent views across the water and is a great place for a chilled-out drink or a spot of dinner. Visit at sunset for the best views. Open Sun-Wed 5pm-2am, Thu-Sat 5pm-3am. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).The quirky night out: Al Nasr Leisureland Bowling, tennis and ice skating, all in one place? Take a trip to Al Nasr Leisureland and you’ll be in you element. This licensed venue has sports, games and entertainment all in one area. The ten-acre site opened back in 1979 and boasts an ice rink, bowling alley, ferris wheel and a whole host of restaurants including Moghal Room and Viva Goa. Open Mon-Sat 9am-3am. Oud Metha (04 337 1234).The live music hangout: Boracay
Named after Boracay Island in the Philippines, this cavernous Deira venue prides itself on live music. There’s a range of acts on the roster, including Article 8 and Glimpse, so you’ll always be entertained. And with ladies’ nights on both Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a great place to start (and end) the week. Open daily 7pm-3am. Asiana Hotel, Deira (04 608 2056).The cultural day out: Dubai Museum and Shindagha Heritage Village
If you’re in Old Dubai, you shouldn’t miss trip to Dubai Museum. It’s housed within the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1799 and thought to be the oldest building in the emirate, making it a fitting spot to teach the history and birth of Dubai. There are loads of galleries showcasing the history of the emirate from its pearl diving heritage to today, plus there are fascinating maps and photos. The Shindagha Heritage Village meanwhile, shows Dubai how it was, and aims to illustrate the traditional lifestyle in the emirate. A fascinating and educational day out for the whole family. Dhs3. Sat-Thu 8.30am-8.30pm, Fri 2.30pm-8.30pm. Bur Dubai (04 353 1862).
The must-visit pub garden: The Irish Village
If you’re after a lazy afternoon with a pint, you won’t do better than at The Irish Village. Winner of our Best Pub category at the Time Out Dubai Music and Nightlife Awards for the second year running, this Dubai institution is hugely popular. With its sprawling and pet-friendly pub garden, proper Irish pub grub and warm, welcoming vibe, you have to visit this top-notch spot. Open daily 11am-1am. Garhoud (04 239 5000).
The essential street snack: Pan de Manila
This Filipino bakery and restaurant has several branches across the city. Not only is the buffet a popular choice, the baked goods, cakes and treats are a speciality – think pandesal (sweet Filipino bread rolls) banana cakes, brownies, cheese doughnuts et al, all for under Dhs5. Open daily 5.30am-11.30pm. Mankhool Road, Satwa (050 908 2427).
The ultimate old favourite: Ravi Restaurant
If you’ve been in Dubai for more than a week you’ll certainly have heard of, if not visited, Ravi and its vibrant green and white signage. A Dubai institution in Satwa, here you’ll find affordable, authentic Pakistani food. Forget the menu, go on the recommendations of the staff, and you can’t go far wrong. Plus, you’ll leave with change from Dhs100. Bargain. Open daily 5am-3am, Satwa (04 331 5353).
The kebab shop: Al Ustad Special Kebab
If you love a kebab, you’ll love this. This kebab restaurant has been serving up proper Middle Eastern grub for nearly 40 years. Always packed, this small Bur Dubai canteen-style eatery is decorated with thousands of pictures of people who have eaten in the restaurant and met its late proprietor, plus various trinkets from around the world. The menu is simple – kebabs, kebabs and more kebabs. Your only decision is what kind to have... Open daily noon-4pm,6.30pm-1am. Mankool Road, Bur Dubai (04 397 1933).The shopping spot: Meena Bazaar There’s nothing better than getting a good bargain, and that’s what you’ll find at Meena Bazaar. You’ll also find heaps of things to spend your dirhams on, from textiles to ceramics and spices, plus some top tailors. Bur Dubai.