Any bar that boasts of being ‘up on the seventh’ is clearly betraying its age; with Dubai’s rapid vertical expansion, it takes a view from the dizzying 52nd (The Observatory), 63rd (Neos), or even 122nd floor (At.mosphere) to produce a gasp in most Dubaians. But thankfully with Mushref Bar it’s less about the vertical vantage than the horizontal. Stationed on Jebel Ali Hotel’s upper deck overlooking the beach, floor-length windows run the length and breadth of the bar, offering striking view of sunset on the horizon.
Mushref may be old (it opened in 1981), but it remains one of the better-kept secrets in Dubai. Few people we’ve spoken to have even heard of the quaint, slightly dated watering hole, which is why we decided it was high time for a fresh appraisal. It’s dated, yes, but only in the best way. The warm red and orange furnishings may have been the height of fashion 20 (or 30) years ago, but now they just feel rather welcoming – as welcoming, in fact, as the pleasant retro armchairs, the kind you imagine Sherlock Holmes lounging in to ponder his latest case. We were left pondering whether Dubai’s current breed of trendy lounge bars would feel just as welcoming if they were caught in a time-warp, and visited a couple of decades from now.
The nostalgia was heightened by the bar’s very best attraction: the house band. A trio of acoustic guitar, bass and female vocals – which harmonised movingly with the guitarist’s some-time lead croon – they gave warm, twanging takes of old-school Americana classics such as The Eagles and Mamas & Papas. While musically more suited to a roadhouse than a lounge, the relaxed groove blended well, aided by the room’s great high-ceilinged acoustics.
Elsewhere, Mushref’s score sheet earned a full set of ticks – service was fast and friendly, the menu was well stocked with short drinks and prices were fair. Really, the only thing playing against this place is the location: Jebel Ali Hotel is a long way from pretty much anywhere. But perhaps it takes that distance to maintain the time- warp that’s kept Mushref Bar just the way we like it.