We've found Dubai's best bars, from the dodgy dives and the sportiest pubs to the coolest clubs and the swankiest spots in town
Barazura Adjacent to the did-Walt-Disney-throw-up-in-here main lobby of Atlantis, Barazura’s view of the atrium’s mighty glass sculptural mess and giant rotating oyster shells is, alas, obscured by an ineptly plonked pillar. But worry not: there’s still plenty to amuse (and bemuse) the eyes and ears in this relatively refined enclave: an iridescent shell-plated bar, jaunty cocktail stirrers adorned with blue plastic crustacea, a grand piano (white, naturally) and a Celine-channelling singer whose heart goes on and on and on and on. You get the impression that, if it were possible, all drinks orders at Barazura would come stacked in pyramid formation. The emphasis is on high-quality staples – Singapore Slings, Manhattans and the like – although some of the cocktails are so very ’80s you expect Tom Cruise to jump from behind one of the banquettes. Now that’s a scary thought. 04 426 2626 Taxi: The Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah
Bidi Bondi This Aussie-themed sports bar finally makes the Palm’s social scene worth shouting about. Although hard to find on the beachside of the Shoreline apartments, once you’re there, you’ll feel like you’ve really arrived. The light, airy bar looks out onto a sun-dappled terrace that in turn gives way to a pool, landscaped gardens and a beach. The stunning setting has already attracted the surfy chic set. The food’s also good – the same company that launched Après and Left Bank is in charge, so it hasn’t suffered from the same teething problems that many new start-ups face. In fact our only real reservation is that a Friday afternoon visit can induce a severe dose of lifestyle envy. 04 427 0515 Taxi: Palm Jumeirah, Shoreline apartments 1-5
Eclipse Bar Views. It’s all about the views. Which is kind of fortunate considering the decor at Eclipse – while undoubtedly plush (the carpets could successfully cushion a fall from a 10-foot drop, let alone one from grace) – is a little, erm, ’80s. But somehow this works for, rather than against a bar where service is sleek and gracious (complimentary pashminas to offset the arctic aircon, mobile table lights if you find reading the menu in the low light difficult, a selection of tasty bar snacks that are more amuse bouche than Walkers crisps) and the atmosphere elegantly subdued.
The emphasis here is on champagne, with an excellent selection available by both bottle and glass. There is also a decent range of cocktails and spectacular 26-storey views over the Creek and beyond. 04 701 1111 Taxi: Inter-Continental Hotel, Festival City
1897 ‘You have to go there – it looks like it’s been dropped in from New York.’ So speaketh the friend who popped into 1897 to pick up a packet of cigarettes only to drag us both back there an hour later. And she wasn’t kidding. Low-level lighting and even lower-slung sofas with padded banquettes hugging the walls are countered with a laid-back atmosphere that’s rarely seen in a city where style is measured in flash. A DJ sets the tone with chilled beats and the drinks list offers some surprising combinations – lavender and black pepper martini, anyone? Not the kind of bar you’d expect to find next to a mall – but that makes discovering it for yourself all the sweeter. 04 341 00 00 Taxi: Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates
I2 The Metropolitan has never really been on the hipster radar, but perhaps that will finally change with the opening of I2 earlier this year. This snug new basement bar has the feel of a speakeasy thanks to an unmarked door and staircase next to the hotel car park. And due to its pint-sized proportions, it fills up quickly at the weekend with a mixed, vibrant crowd and music selection.
During the week it can be practically empty, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plop yourself down in a white leather chair, choose a decent drink – though beware, any decent vintages are pricey – and enjoy the surroundings. One word of caution: the music comes courtesy of a VJ who has a habit of playing Bon Jovi and Eagles videos on the flatscreens. You might want to steer him towards something more suitable to your tastes before you get comfy. 04 343 0000. Taxi: Metropolitan Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Interchange 2
Left Bank This new link in the popular bar chain hasn’t been open for too long, but it’s already pulling in plenty of punters. The clientele is largely dressed up to the nines – or at least the sevens – but it’s still possible to get in with just a T-shirt, jeans and trainers. Inside it may be a little bit of a struggle to find enough seats for a big gang – like we said, the place is popular – but once settled, the crowd gives it a pleasantly intimate vibe, as does the low lighting and plush surroundings. The staff is friendly and efficient – though perhaps not numerous enough to deal with the masses – and there’s a veritable rainbow of bottles behind the bar. 04 368 4501 Taxi: Souk Al Bahar, Palace Hotel near Dubai Mall St Andrew’s English Pub St Andrew’s sits on the ground floor of Rydges Plaza, in among the clutter, traffic, dust and dizzy pace of Satwa. It makes the surprise of finding a quintessentially English boozer more of a full-blown shock when you turn off the marbled corridor and find yourself in its cramped, but nonetheless, comfortable, homely surroundings. Don’t expect anything too sophisticated. But if what you’re after is a British local (complete with living-room wall paper and crisps) then this could be just the place for you. Or take your drinks and sit by the pool, which is, handily, just outside. 04 398 2222 Taxi: Rydges Plaza, Satwa Roundabout
Neos, Sky Lounge The USP for any bar on the 63rd floor is perhaps not so unique. On making our way skywards through this remarkably chic new hotel, we have to switch to a special second lift at the 61st (note: the 62nd mysteriously has no stop).
Once in, it’s the views that grab you by the eyes and drag you towards the glass. From the back you spy The Dubai Mall, and soon the super jets of its 270m high water fountain. From the front, you see dozens of projects in progress – an Etch-A-Sketch waiting to be filled in.
In contrast, the decor inside harks back to another era, with pouting Art Deco paintings, wait staff in bow ties and white tuxedos or slinky full-length satin. Although any character this might conjure is immediately wiped out by the masses of shiny chrome, as well as menu prices to make you wheeze (the Dhs100 cover charges on Thursday and Friday nights don’t help either). Fortunately the food and drink that arrives is faultlessly five-star (even if finding something without foie gras in it is a mission).
‘Neos’ scores points for warmth or value – but this is the ultimate place to watch Dubai bloom below. 04 4270515 Taxi: The Address Hotel, The Dubai Mall