The worst thing about Mansion is finding it. Part of the brand new Meliá Hotel in Bur Dubai, there isn’t a taxi driver under the sun who seems to know where it is (tip: tell them it’s near the Capitol Hotel). But judging by the popularity of the club’s opening weekend, that will change fast. Also home to neighbouring Titanic, the latest restaurant from Marco Pierre White, we’re sure any self-respecting taxi driver will have the Meliá’s GPS coordinates grafted into their brain within weeks.
When we did finally find it, we were greeted by typically snotty door staff – this place is exclusive, and wants you to know it. Eventually we were ushered up a long entry corridor, lit by glowing orange circular lights on the walls, which gave a classy first impression. Inside it was a loving haze of beats, smoke, strobes – and cages. The club may be called Mansion, but it didn’t call to mind a large manor. Instead the club’s contours are lined with rows of steel bars. Coupled with a black paint job blanking out all the walls, it’s overpoweringly oppressive – but in a kind of seductive way, exuding a gritty charm you’d find in a club in arty cities such as Berlin, or Melbourne. Mind you, we’ve heard others point out that the right-angled corners, omnipresent bars and dark colours make it perfect for a game of Laser Quest.
Luckily the clubbers we encountered had more in mind than pointing plastic guns at one another. And there were plenty of them, with a more-than-healthy turnout for opening night (something of a PR victory in a place like Dubai, where word of mouth speaks volumes). From here the roar can only get louder.
We were particularly impressed with the music policy, with hard house and a crew of Ibiza-types lined up for coming weeks. It marks a welcome rebuttal of the R&B takeover of our dancefloors, especially for a club openly courting the higher-end crowd. Further proof of Mansion’s exclusivity is found simply by looking at the club’s opening hours – just two nights a week, less than both Movida and Cirque du Soir, which open three evenings apiece.
Yet this is a club built on contradictions: choosing minimalist decor in the face of Dubai’s unashamed glitz, programming old-school house rather than pumping generic chart hits, and opening on a side of town that many have been drifting away from recently. We just hope Mansion can keep it up, and that the contradictions don’t force a compromise of taste. Right now, though, Mansion is a welcome sign that the ‘older’ part of town is not only fighting back, but that it can fight on its own terms with integrity and flair.