A crop of new drinking venues have opened in town lately. But are they worth your drinking money?
Chill: It was supposed to be Bur Dubai’s answer to the Royal Mirage’s Roooftop Terrace. And if you squint at the four-poster beds, stylised seating and trained reflexologists you can see how close they got.
Look closer, however, and you’ll see that the furniture could have come from Ikea and the funky grass crawling up the wall behind the bar is actually Astroturf. Astroturf? Really?
If it wasn’t a bar, it would be a… Volkswagen Beetle.
Male: female ratio: 60:40, dropping to 90:10 on Circus nights.
Misery quotient: one
Fashion: post-office businesswear with loose ties and open collars.
Number of businessmen with nieces: two.
The most interesting thing about the toilets… is that you must walk down twisty-turny corridors to reach a changing room for the hotel’s sauna. Well, it’s memorable, at least.
The verdict: Rather than distracting from the atmosphere, Chill’s idiosyncrasies add to the place. In a city saturated with tedious ‘exclusive’ bars and full of self-consciously – and sometimes neurotically – dolled-up crowds, something a little goofy and shoddy like Chill is incredibly endearing. The helpful staff and the flamboyant, fancy-dress monthly Circus night help. Chill, Royal Ascot Hotel, open 12 noon-2am daily.
Cow Boys: It took three attempts to locate Cow Boys bar. Camouflaged by construction boards, it turned out to be a cosy ground floor bar filled, unsurprisingly, with ‘Boys’. The faux fur on the walls masquerading as cow hide and saloon doors to the toilets are the only indicators that this bar is themed – don’t go expecting line dancing and lassoing.
The challenges Shawarmas per cocktail: six
If the place wasn’t a bar, it would be a… cowboy ranch, naturally. Or a teenage boy’s den.
Male to female ratio: 90:10
Misery quotient: two
Most interesting thing about the toilets… is the saloon doors (though there are full doors behind them).
The verdict: The key word here is basic: basic stock of drinks, basic service, basic pop music – and a pool table. Cow Boys is somewhere you go to lay your hat without pretensions, frills or a whole lot of other people. Cow Boys, Trade Center Road, next to President Hotel, 04 334 6565, 12 noon-3am.
Hive:Now, if we were going to name a venue, we wouldn’t use a euphemism for allergic rashes. Still, maybe it’s rather appropriate – after a little while in Hive’s gloomy environs, we were itching to leave. Ostensibly a lounge bar, the dim lighting and dark decor make it seem more like a charmless black hole.
The challenges The bar stools: Fight for those comfy cushioned ones, because the wood stools aren’t going to be fun at all (cushions: 4/5, wood 2/5).
Shawarmas per cocktail: 10
If it wasn’t a bar, it would be... a lead weight around the soul.
Male to female ratio: 50:50
Misery quotient: eight
Most interesting thing about the toilets is… almost whacking a guy stepping away from the hand-dryer.
The verdict: The deafening house tunes make conversations more about exchanging flecks of spittle while shouting than ideas. It’s not like there’s even a real dancefloor. No wonder the crowd of thirty-something business types moved out to the patio, where they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the sticky evening air. Hive, Souk Al Bahar, open 12 noon-3am daily.
Rain: Rain seems like a strange name for a club with a roof garden. Indeed, Rain has a general strangeness about it – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Enter via Ramee Hotel’s back door, head up the stairs and you’ll find yourself in a bar brandished with celebrity murals – Barry Manilow and Tina Turner decorate the bathroom doors.
The challenges Shawarmas per cocktail: Seven
If the place wasn’t a bar, it would be… a Las Vegas show inside; a country park outside.
Male too female ratio: 60:40
Fashion: Strange. PVC, pleather, PJs – anything goes this side of Bur Dubai.
Did they flatter you by asking for ID on the way in? Yes – at age 28!
Most interesting thing about the toilets is… the hair straighteners available for hire.
The verdict: While we couldn’t handle the tinny soundsytem for more than 10 seconds, some might enjoy the all-female in-house ‘band’. We prefer the garden. Tiny hedges separate the area into cosy booths, and a trickling fountain (and bubbling shisha) complete the tranquillity. Ramee Royal Hotel, Karama, 04 334 4088, 8pm-3am daily Dhs50 entry for men.
Spirals: Visiting Spirals was perhaps one of our most bizarre experiences of recent months. Located at the heart of Grandeur Hotel – there are no windows and you can hear the dull thud of the restaurant band next door.
The challenges Shawarmas per cocktail: Three
If the place wasn’t a bar, it would be… a hallucination.
Male to female ratio: 90:10
Fashion: T-shirts and khaki pants.
Most interesting thing about the toilets is… their size. It’s like visiting a doll’s house.
The verdict: The clandestine setting (you have to walk through an Indian restaurant to reach it) lends it a hideaway feel. It’s for people who like sport, pool, and the colours blue and red, as well as anything spiral shaped. You see, Spirals has Dubai’s biggest concentration of spiral furniture: spiral chandeliers, spiral-painted walls and spiral glasses (well, those leaning ones). It’s dizzying. Grandeur Hotel, Al Barsha, 04 341 8777, 12pm-4pm; 6pm-3am daily.
Warehouse: Wander in and you’ll find yourself on an up-lit ‘catwalk’ of sorts. In front of you is a staircase – and a little up-lit pond. Do not step into the pond (it has happened).
The challenges Shawarmas per cocktail: Six
If the place wasn’t a bar, it would be… a luxury villa.
Male to female ratio: 50:50
Most interesting thing about the toilets is… the very high mirrors at the back of the cubicles. Are they expecting giants?
Fashion: Daring. The city’s scensters are still scoping out this new hottie spot.
The verdict: The wine list boasts more than 5,000 wines and they have a tasting room. Don’t like wine? Check out the posh whiskies instead. But whatever you do, steer clear of the (oven chip) fries. They just don’t gel with the kind of ‘classy cool’ that Warehouse is angling for. Warehouse, Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud, 04 217 0000, 5pm-3am daily.
Zuma: The oh-so-stylish lighting, the chic design, the way the bottles have been made to look like a masterpiece above the bar – everything about this place screams hip.
The challenges Shawarmas per cocktail: Seven and a half.
If the place wasn’t a bar, it would be… an underground members’ club, strictly for royalty – and James Bond.
Male to female ratio: 50:50
Fashion: Suits and pencil skirts.
Most interesting thing about the toilets is… that they prove toilets can be beautiful.
The verdict: Yes, the prices induce nosebleeds, but the bartenders are so well trained they can knock up your ideal long drink just by looking at you. And the bar snacks may be on the micro side, but they come from the Zuma kitchen. Need we say more? Zuma, Gate Village 6, DIFC, 04 425 5660, Sun-Wed 12.30pm-1am; Thur 12.30pm-2am; Fri 7pm-1am.
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Heba Hashem Sep 19, 2009 09:13 pm
I love the honesty of this article. It reveals everything- good and bad and that's what a true review is about. Not like other articles whhere you find positive comments on everything almost like they've been paid to write that. Thanks timeout for your real opinion which could be counted on!
Derek Mullings Sep 09, 2009 08:56 am
Yes, hats off to writer Becky Lucas. The lady skillfully maintains the wit, humour and tone of voice I found in Time Out London. :-)
Doc4good Aug 02, 2009 01:03 pm
I like the sense of humour of the writer. Its been fun reading all.
Keep it coming.
AW Jul 16, 2009 02:42 pm
Better Call it Fast food at Zuma.... reservations are only for 60 minutes.... after which you HAVE to leave...Terrible service, took too long, got the wrong drinks and waiter poured water into our drinks at the table...