***Rivi Bar will no longer be showing the World Cup***Our well-connected Eating Out editor is the first to point out that the new Rivington Grill restaurant in the Madinat Jumeirah is the talk of the town. You, our dear readers, are keen too – our web stats tell us that Time Out’s review of the restaurant last month is among the most viewed all year. So you can imagine the anticipation when we heard that, unlike its Souk Al Bahar predecessor, Dubai’s second branch of the fancy British brand would host its own standalone bar, opening in the weeks after the restaurant’s grand launch. And now, after much pseudonym-touting and opening-date-change tomfoolery, we can report back.
When we visited, the staff were almost too eager to usher us up to the Madinat’s top floor, listing drinks deals as we ascended a not-especially-inviting staircase. But the frenetic welcome was dispelled the moment we stepped out onto the bar’s terrace. Resting on the top floor, more or less on top of The Agency, it boasts what might be our favourite Madinat vista: the complex’s Lego-like Arabian towers have never looked so dreamlike. The dim lighting and wicker furniture serve the mood well, and while the upbeat house soundtrack was perhaps a little misplaced on a school night, it failed to crack the otherwise tranquil mood.
The staff’s attentive gaze didn’t falter throughout the evening, the regular visits to our table just the right side of intrusive; this is the kind of place where you wouldn’t need to even touch your own bottle of grape (of which there’s quite a range on offer). Food menus were yet to be printed when we stopped by, but staff recited a few rudimentary snacks – mini burgers, fish cakes and the like. When our goujons were excessively late, we were happy to see they knocked them off the bill.
For a bar a little over a week old, the terrace had already recruited a lively buzz of mixed groups, and by our second glass we were sold on this place. It was only stepping back inside to leave when the mask slipped slightly. In contrast to the terrace’s carefully constructed charm, the indoor bar felt slightly stale. The oppressive wood panels lining the walls create the impression of gastropub rather than hip hangout, and the lack of any real decorative adornment leaves a largely dry and stale space recalling a waiting room. This is what this bar will be for many: a place to cradle a drink while awaiting a table in the restaurant.
As an al-fresco bar the Rivington shines, but we fear the sudden onset of summer could scupper this place’s chances of creating an independent nightspot capable of charming the non-dining crowd.