At first glance, it looked like the laziest rebranding ever. What used to be Keva Lounge became Kiza Lounge – the management would have only needed to tweak a couple of letters on the sign outside. But with just a few short letters they’ve also leapt several thousand miles across the globe. What was once an Indian restaurant has thrown a pin at the world map and turned over a new cosmopolitan leaf as an African hangout.
We were suspicious at first, but if we needed a signal to steady our doubts, it came with the first table we reached: instead of bar stools, it had conga drums on which to perch. This may be the only venue in Dubai where you’re actively encouraged to bash the furniture while you drink and dine.

While seated, somewhat awkwardly, on one of the drums, we were handed our second symbol of authenticity: the menu, neatly split into the four poles of Africa. We were only there to drink, not dine, so took a recommendation on the house mixed drink. Our waitress promised it was ‘traditional’ and, while we’re really in no place to vouch for its authenticity, it was certainly a memorable experience. Served in a wooden bowl and looking more like soup than a classy concoction, it tasted rather like a tree.

These massive conceptual changes rather eclipsed the cosmetic, which were sizeable, but felt somewhat unfinished. There’s a new, long bar on the opening wall, and the DJ booth has shifted to the other side of the room. But the floor lights from what used to be the stage (when the booth was in its old home) still remain, now burning light beneath dining tables. They’ve made a few big changes, but the signs of the old venue remain.

Perhaps our greatest worry is the painful division between drinkers and diners. In the best ‘lounge’ bars there’s a seamless mix of food, drink and dance, but here the back portion of the room is taken up entirely
with white tablecloths, despite its proximity to the hip-shaking dancefloor and bar area.

But maybe we’re wrong. When we visited on a weekday evening the vibe was good, with a dedicated crew on the floor dancing to a decent selection of modern R&B, dancehall and African fare. There was a genuine feeling about the place: the staff were warm, and it certainly offers something new to Dubai’s nightlife scene. Where else do you get to sit on a conga drum?