Time Out lists 15 of the best no smoking bars in Dubai, from Marina to JLT, Downtown to JBR, and including several new bars in Dubai and sports bars
By Luke Wilson12 July 2016
One of the first things anyone new to Dubai will notice is how smoking remains so present in everyday life.
Unlike the majority of Europe, America and beyond, lighting up in public places is not frowned upon in Dubai, let alone banned. And because of the low tobacco taxation, buying a pack of 20 cigarettes here is cheaper than in most places in the world.
Trying to quit after moving to Dubai can also prove a tough task, a bit like trying to nail water to a wall, with most people conceding defeat. But it seems the tide is turning and the smoky mist could soon be lifted as the government pushes for a blanket ban in public places.
To embrace this change of tact, we’ve scoured the city for some of the best smoke-free bars for you to enjoy.
A people-watching haven, this lobby bar at Atlantis The Palm oozes style and has a clientele that enjoys the finer things in life. As its name would suggest, the décor is azure blue, giving you the sensation that you’re at an underwater retreat. During the “Thirst Place” happy hours (8pm to 9pm and 10pm to midnight) you get two-for-one on house beverages. Barazura recently revamped its bar menu, adding such innovative dishes as home-cured sea trout pastrami and foie gras “cherries”, so you could have your three courses here, too.
This unique, standalone sports bistro on the Palm has swiftly made a name for itself as one of the cooler hangouts around. The wood and brick décor gives it a very contemporary feel, and if you take a seat by the window, you’ll enjoy some cracking views of the Arabian Gulf and other parts of the man-made island. If you love sport, you’ll be right at home here, as all the big matches are shown on the screens that sit on an oblong-shaped structure above the bar or on the wall beside it. Barrel 12 prides itself on its roasts, served on both Saturday and Sunday, and on match day, you can tuck into some great food deals. There’s also a daily happy hour from 4pm to 7pm.
After an afternoon trying desperately to keep your score in two figures, there can be few better 19th holes in which to kick back and relax than this swish bar at The Els Club. Named after the legendary South African golfer Ernie Els, Big Easy takes its lead from the man’s tastes, offering great food and beverages in a sociable environment. Not only is it smoke-free, the bar also serves a brand of gluten-free hops – a rarity in Dubai. It also stocks a number of grape varieties, while the food menu reflects Els’ love for travel and includes dishes from around the world. Anyone for some spicy lamb shank bunny chow?
Unlike its near neighbour Nola, Cocktail Kitchen isn’t frequented by chain-smoking patrons (except in its outdoor section), and that is one of many reasons to like it. The interior has a very smooth, modern feel with two separate bars at which you can grab a chair and watch the mixologists create. The layout lends this place a very sociable feel, with guests invited to sit and chat side by side at one of the ledge-like banks or take a table and sample some of the delicious grub on offer. At “Aperitivo Time” (5.30pm to 7.30pm), you get drinks for Dhs25 each. The bar also runs masterclasses in The Back Room if you fancy yourself the next Tom Cruise.
If you’ve just been smashing sixes, scoring screamers or working out in Dubai Sports City (or, of course, you just live there), Kickers is the place to go for a warm-down and some refuelling. The city’s largest sports bar has plenty of things to keep even the most exercise-phobic happy, thanks to food offerings that include some all-American favourites and daily specials to really get your teeth into. Happy hour runs daily from 3pm to 7pm, when you get a third off your total bill. And as you’d expect, there a plenty of flat screens to take in all the action on match day.
If you’re looking for a slice of refinement, the Palazzo Versace has it by the cake-load. This grape bar is as chic and sleek as they come, resembling a private members’ club in the wealthiest regions of Italy. Sit back and relax in your luxurious surroundings. Drinks on offer include premium grape and mixed beverages, and a happy hour runs daily from 5pm to 8pm, offering buy one get one free on certain drinks. Its “Mellow Mondays” offer has selected bottles of grape at Dhs100 and Dhs150 for sparkling.
Belgian bars are a popular part of the Dubai scene, but this elegant venue in Arabian Ranches stands out as one of the more refined options. Technically a restaurant and bar, it’s wonderfully airy, thanks to its high ceilings and massive French windows. Many guests come here purely for the food (breakfast is a big seller). The bar also offers ladies’ night on a Wednesday, with drinks for Dhs25.
A recent arrival on the city’s pub scene, this clean and neatly designed space has a real community feel to it, being one of the few bars in Dubai Investments Park. Sports fans are well catered for, thanks to the screens behind the bar and dotted around the walls, which mean everyone should have a good view, even if it gets busy on match days. Diners here can enjoy a large menu that incorporates a range of cuisines, with the addition of a separate dining area away from the TVs (if you don’t like sport) and unlimited sides if you order a main course. A quiz night and live music sessions also enhance the appeal.
A popular hangout with sports fans, this rugby-centric bar in Manzil Downtown Dubai survived a makeover to remain one of the best spots to catch a match with a good meal. Memorabilia adorns nearly every spare spot on the walls, giving it a clubhouse feel, and you can certainly feel the team spirit when you meet the staff. Nezesaussi has a range of themed evenings throughout the week, including Men’s Night on Sunday, its “Monday Fun Day” happy hour and “Non-stop Ribs & Wings” each Wednesday, while if you’re a fan of a full English, try the “Fry-day Brunch”. The grub will remind you of trips to the Southern Hemisphere. Bonzer.
Although renowned for having one of the best gardens in Dubai, as well as its Lad’s Den this summer, Reform has much more to offer those looking for a smoke-free afternoon or evening in the great indoors of a British gastropub. The drinks menu includes a number of unusual varieties and staff are knowledgeable and accommodating. For those looking for an authentic taste of Blighty, the chef and his team will freshly prepare you some traditional British fare including roasts and fish and chips, which you can even take away. On Fridays, its daily happy hour is extended by 90 minutes – from 5pm-8.30pm.
With its vibrant, funky design, this JBR bar wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy district of New York, and that is precisely the feel it’s aiming for. Everything in Soul screams NYC – from the murals to the food menu. But if you haven’t come to chow down you’ll be welcome to sit at the bar as you choose between the large list of creations on offer. Knowledgeable staff will also help you pick from the selection in the walk-in grape cellar. A daily 6pm to 8pm “Happy Evening” offers house beverages for Dhs25.
A cosy bar that has far more to offer than a clever name. Escape from the smokers and enjoy a warm welcome from the attentive bar staff and a very relaxed environment. The food is well worth the effort, with steaks, charcuterie and cheese boards particularly popular with the punters. Head here before 8pm, when the happy hour offers everything on the food and beverage menu at a discounted price. All in all, it’s a refreshing alternative to its more pricey rivals and has a certain Gallic charm that will make you feel at home, even if you’re not French.
Situated just off The Walk in JBR, The Hub at Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach is an alternative, laid-back Irish bar with a contemporary feel rather than the chintz and knick-knacks you might find in venues of a similar theme. Perhaps in a nod to the fact that the Republic of Ireland was the first nation in the world to impose a smoking ban, The Hub is the only Irish pub we know of in Dubai where the smokers have to head outside. With plenty of TV screens if you’re there to watch some sport and serving a good selection of traditional comfort food to help you take the edge off your team’s latest defeat, The Hub wants to be the heart and soul of JBR. Themed nights help its cause.
The Dubai Marina Yacht Club has long been pushing itself as a stylish yet relaxed destination for a night out with friends. Its sports bar, YOTS, falls perfectly into this model, offering guests a great place to hang out after work. All major sporting events are shown on the big screen and around the bar, and there’s a daily happy hour from 5pm to 7pm during which you get a house beverage for Dhs25. Plus, YOTS’ Thursday night special lets you kick off the weekend with unlimited barbecue ribs and gourmet chips from 7pm to 11pm for just Dhs99. Who cares about sticky fingers.
This cosy circular bar off the main lobby at Media One Hotel has a very fresh feel to it, attracting office workers in the area who are looking for somewhere a little different to have a few sundowners. The mood lighting gives the venue an intimate ambience, but this place can also become really buzzing later at night when the DJs are pumping out the tunes. Happy hour runs from 5pm to 7pm, and if you’re feeling a little peckish, Z:One will have you covered, as it serves up some delightful Asian bar bites along with more substantial specials.