The pub: invented by the British, perfected by the Irish and, in Dubai at least, frequented by an increasing number of sun-dodging folk, all looking for a little respite as temperatures hit a brow-bothering 40°C and al-fresco clubbing and eating become nothing but a fond memory. But with such an impressive number of options available, from the food-tastic McGettigan’s to old favourite Fibber Magees, choosing a summer haunt isn’t easy. Luckily, the plucky Time Out team have done the hard work for you, braving doormen, long queues and late nights to bring you the very best of the city’s indoor venues. Hungry? Thirsty? Game of pool? Read on, friends…
Aussie Legends This salt-of-the-earth drinking den is laid-back to the point of being shabby, but it has a loyal following who love its anti-five-star vibe. The venue: Medium-sized, smoky and decorated with lots of cheesy Australian memorabilia. The crowd: An eclectic mix of metal-heads and sports fans, due to rock nights and large televisions respectively. The deals: Four free drinks for ladies on Thursdays, 8pm-midnight. The Games: There’s a decent pub quiz every Monday, plus a pool table, a darts board, a rock-oriented jukebox, table football and plenty of screens showing live sports. Fun Factor: 3/5 Open daily 6pm-3am. Rydges Plaza, Satwa (04 398 2222).
Bidi Bondi This cool Aussie bar has been a hit since first opening on the Palm Jumeirah at the end of 2008, and it helps that the food isn’t half bad. The Venue: The indoor area is light and airy, and there’s a reasonably-sized outdoor terrace that overlooks the beach – perfect for the cooler winter months. The Crowd: A robust twentysomething crowd relaxing before or after a big night out. The Deals: The bar offers 30 per cent off house beverages plus selected drinks for Dhs20 for ladies on Thursdays, 5pm-8pm. The Games: There’s a pool table, and the several TV screens ensure it’s as good a place as any to watch live sports. Fun factor: 3/5 Open Sun-Thu 10am-midnight; Fri-Sat 10am-1am. Shoreline Apartments 1-5, Palm Jumeirah (04 427 0515).
Crown & Lion This recreates the Brit pub vibe rather well – it’s only let down by a dearth of tatty sofas and the fact it’s a bit too shiny and new. The venue: A sizeable place bejewelled with flatscreen TVs and dartboards. The crowd: Expect to see plenty of grown men wearing football shirts without any sense of irony. The deals: As well as two free drinks for cabin crew on Thursdays, there’s a daily happy hour (noon-8pm); plus daily cocktail hours (9pm-10pm). The games: There’s a darts board, plus a quiz night on Mondays and a pool competition on Tuesdays. Fun factor: 4/5 Open daily noon-3am. Byblos Hotel, TECOM (04 448 8000).
Dubliner’s As it sounds, Dubliner’s is fashioned after an Irish pub, located in Garhoud among the cobbled streets of Le Méridien Dubai’s al-fresco strip. The venue: It’s as traditional as a pub located in a Dubai hotel can be. The crowd: Friendly and football-focused, especially if you’re a Celtic fan. The deals: Guests can enjoy 20 per cent off selected drinks, daily 5pm-8pm. The Games: Other than the sports screens, there’s a pool table in the corner, and every Tuesday is quiz night. Fun factor: 2/5 Open Sat-Thu noon-2.45am; Fri 11am-2.45am. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000).
Double Decker This London transport-themed venue is one of Dubai’s top spots for old-fashioned pub fun. The Venue: Open plan and set across two tiers indoors, with a garden outside. The Crowd: Often teeming with sunburnt Brits. Expect hordes of Manchester United fans on match days. The Deals: Selected beverages are 20 per cent off every day until 8pm. Get five bottles and a portion of Buffalo wings for Dhs99 on Saturdays. The Games: With pool and table football, there’s plenty to do here during half time. Fun factor: 4/5 Open daily noon-3am. Al Murooj Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 321 1111).
Dungeon Billiards It’s not technically a pub, but it’s a good alternative unlicensed hangout in JBR: grab a bite and rack up a few games of pool. The Venue: A funky underground vibe combined with swanky furniture creates an ultra-modern atmosphere. The Crowd: Dungeon Billiards usually attracts a younger crowd, but anyone who fancies a couple of games of pool is welcomed with open arms. The Games: There are three pool tables and a foosball table, so you’ll never have to wait too long for a game. Fun factor: 2/5 Open daily 4pm-2am. Plaza Level, Sadaf 5, JBR (04 447 3856).
Fibber Magee’s One of the smallest pubs in Dubai, this backstreet den is ideal if you’ve got your heart set on a plate of hearty food and a pint of Ireland’s finest. The Venue: Tucked away behind Sheikh Zayed Road, expect a cosy (aka tiny) pub with retro decor and traditional Gaelic slogans. The Crowd: Mainly old-school expats (read: bald large men). The Deals: There’s 25 to 30 per cent off selected drinks Saturday to Thursday, 4pm-7pm. The Games: A fun pub quiz on Monday nights, plus foot-tapping live music on Thursdays and Fridays. Fun factor: 4/5 Open Sat-Thu noon-1am, Fri 12.30pm-4pm, 6pm-1am. Between The Fairmont and Crowne Plaza Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 2400).
Fudo Again, not a pub, but get past the details and you’ll whoop with joy at this unlicensed shisha venue, which is determined to provide a heroic alternative to the underwhelming range of eateries in the nearby malls. The venue: Regularly busy thanks to an intriguing international menu, and there are plenty of strange trinkets on the walls to get the conversation started. The crowd: A healthy cross-section of Dubai society – expect to rub shoulders with everyone from Jumeirah Janes to stressed-out bankers trying to unwind after a hard day at work. The deals: Shisha itself is Dhs35, though you can snap up a main course, soft drink and shisha for Dhs50. The Games: There are computer touch-screen games on selected tables that seem to be surprisingly addictive. Fun factor: 2/5 Open daily, 9am-3am. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 8586).
Icon This place has all the right ingredients for an after-work haunt. The venue: Located over two levels, the ground floor is dedicated to smoke-free food, while upstairs concentrates on loud after-work fun. The crowd: A fun media crowd letting off steam after a hard week. The deals: On Saturday to Thursday 6pm-8pm, selected bottled hops are Dhs22, house shorts are Dhs19 and selected mixed drinks are Dhs25. On Fridays there’s a 40 per cent discount on selected drinks all day. The Games: There’s a jukebox, which is free on Mondays, and you can play Wii during the Friday brunch (Dhs129; Friday noon-4pm). Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily noon-1am. Radisson Blu, Dubai Media City (04 366 9111).
Krossroads Krossroads positions itself as Dubai’s ‘friendly neighbourhood bar’ – a bit like Cheers Bar was to Boston, but without Ted Danson. The venue: Certain aspects of the decor are undeniably ’70s discotheque. The crowd: A mature shade of expat male. The deals: There are daily happy hours from noon until 8pm, (Dhs20 for regular beverages; Dhs25 for selected premium beverages), two free drinks for ladies every night, and the Time Out City Card deal (20 per cent off your final bill). The games: Pub darts is the main attraction at this traditional venue. Fun factor: 2/5 Open daily noon-4pm, 6pm-3am. Imperial Suites, Khalid Bin Walid Street, Bur Dubai (04 351 5100).
Lounge W Situated in Barsha, unlicensed shisha café Lounge W is a haven for weary travellers staying in nearby hotels and residents looking for a break from rush hour. The venue: From the bizarre pillars breaking up the room to the modern art engulfing the walls, this pristine white shisha lounge is certainly interesting. The crowd: Expect plenty of lost tourists and traffic-stressed locals. The deals: The business lunch includes a meal, a drink and shisha for Dhs60. Regular shisha is Dhs35, and ‘royal’ shisha is Dhs50. The games: They have backgammon, and you’re more than welcome to bring your own board games. Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily noon-midnight. Next to Ibis Al Barsha, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 399 0882).
Maxx Music Bar & Grill A surprisingly lively venue in Barsha, Maxx is a hotel bar that seems to aim for a more underground reputation. The Venue: Decked out in crimson hues, there is a stage for the live band and brave karaoke singers. The Crowd: The weird and the wonderful – a real sample group of the city’s population. The Deals: There’s 20 per cent off selected drinks from 6pm-9pm every day. On Monday, ladies get two selected drinks for Dhs22 from 9pm. The Games: Quiz night on Saturdays from 8pm and karaoke on Sundays from 9pm. Fun factor: 2/5 Open daily 11am-2am. Citymax Al Barsha (04 409 8000).
McGettigan’s It’s been open less than a year, but this laid-back yet modern Irish venue in Jumeirah Lakes Towers already commands a loyal following. The venue: Quirkily decorated, with a variety of different seating arrangements surrounding the bar and a well-stocked bookcase along one wall. The crowd: Drink-guzzling, chain-smoking English and Irishmen. The deals: On Fridays its Dhs99 for three pints and a main course. The games: Take part in the iPaddy quiz every Tuesday for the chance to win an iPad, or catch football and rugby matches on the big screens on Saturdays and Sundays. Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily noon-3am. Bonnington Hotel, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 356 0560).
Nezesaussi Grill This New Zealand, South African and Aussie pub (Nezesaussi is an amalgamation of the three – get it?) is popular for its smoke-free status, no-nonsense grub and plethora of sports screens. The venue: A five-star pub with a lively vibe and trendy open kitchen. The crowd: Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans, and all other sports or burger fans. The deals: On Tuesdays, ladies get a free meal up to the value of Dhs120, plus there’s a two-for-one deal on selected food items for all. The Games: All live sports are screened, with a special emphasis on rugby and football. Fun factor: 3/5 Open Sun-Thu 6pm-2am; Fri-Sat noon-2am. Al Manzil Hotel, Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 428 5888).
Rock Bottom TECOM It’s much like Rock Bottom in Bur Dubai (the main differences being that it’s newer and not in Bur Dubai). The venue: The decor is more noticeable than that of the original, simply because there are less people obscuring it – think classic Chicago-style dive bar. The crowd: Verges on intimidating early in the evening (with lots of staring regulars), but gradually becomes more convivial as the night progresses. The deals: Get 20 per cent off selected drinks daily 4pm-6pm. The games: There are two pool tables, plus darts and ‘sing for your free drinks’ karaoke. Fun factor: 4/5 Open daily 7pm-3am. Ramee Rose Hotel, TECOM (04 450 0111).
The Music Room After reinventing itself of late as a first-class live music venue, The Music Room has wisely held onto its pool room. The Venue: High-ceilinged, well designed for mingling and in possession of one very powerful sound system. The Crowd: This place attracts a diverse following, from 21-year-old metal fans to fiftysomething rig workers. The Deals: Happy hour takes place every day from 6pm-9pm, with standard doubles, bottled hops and house grape for Dhs20. The Games: In the intervals between live music acts, guests can play pool on one of three tables. Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily 6pm-3am. Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 501 2534).
The Locker Room Towel-whipping and smelly sports shoes are thankfully absent from this pub, which is dedicated to screening any game that involves a ball. The venue: Cool blues and chromes dominate the colour scheme. The crowd: Rowdy sports fans. The deals: Unlimited grape for ladies on Thursdays 9pm-midnight, and up to 75 per cent off selected drinks on Fridays 9pm-1am. The Games: If the darts board isn’t your thing, Monday night is Xbox Kinect night (ie playing sport without breaking a sweat), and there’s a quiz every Wednesday night. Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily 1pm-1am. Golden Tulip Al Barsha (04 341 7750).
The Odd Spot Pub As well as housing a pub, Al Nasr Leisureland has enough variety for a very competitive night out, including a popular bowling alley. The Venue: The Odd Spot isn’t the most glamorous venue in town, but the Filipino band will keep you swaying into the night. The Crowd: Despite its family atmosphere, you’ll often find groups of high-spirited co-workers egging each other on by the lanes. The deals: Drinks are dirt-cheap: selected pints are just Dhs19 and bottles are Dhs18 Friday to Wednesday 7pm-10pm, then Dhs25 and Dhs23 respectively after 10pm. The Games: The Al Nasr Leisureland complex has lots to offer, including boxing and swimming – though we recommend a cold pint and night of bowling. Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily 7pm-2am. Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha (04 337 1234).
The Red Lion This is one of the oldest pubs in the city, with a garden that’s worth a try if you can brave the heat. The venue: Dark, grimy and smoky, and all the better for it. The crowd: Dubai’s most gnarled expats. The deals: There’s a daily happy hour (Thursday to Saturday 4pm-6pm; Sunday to Wednesday 4pm-7pm), which offers 20 per cent off selected drinks. The games: Darts is the name of the game here. Fun factor: 4/5 Open daily noon-1am. The Metropolitan Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 0000).
The Underground This cavernous venue has long served the needs of sunburnt tourists and expat football fans. The venue: Dark and rather pokey – but these characteristics add to the authentic pub feel. The crowd: Prepare to fight for space with groups of devoted Liverpool FC supporters. The deals: It’s ladies night on Thursday and happy hour every day from 6pm-8pm (or 4pm-8pm on Fridays). The games: There are two pool tables, with competitions on Thursday, plus a well-hidden dartboard and now a Playstation. For the less energetic, there are small screens showing sports mounted on the draught taps. Fun factor: 3/5 Open daily noon-2.30am. Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 5000).
Waxy’s No one visits this pub expecting a quiet (or expensive) night. The Venue: Small and sun-starved, it’s essentially a backstreet Emerald Isle dive bar located in busy Bur Dubai. The Crowd: Despite the unruly few, the patrons here are usually a friendly, unpretentious lot. The Deals: Get 25 per cent off draught beverages, and two-for-one on selected drinks Sunday to Thursday noon-9pm. Ladies get free selected drinks 8.30pm-3am on Thursdays, while Friday brunch costs Dhs85 and includes five drinks vouchers. Pay Dhs85 on Saturday and get a full breakfast or roast dinner plus five drinks. The Games: Waxy’s houses both foosball and pool tables. Fun factor: 4/5 Open Sat-Wed noon-1.30am; Thu-Fri noon-3am. Ascot Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 352 0900).
During my time in Dubai with SCB, I loved frequenting WAXY's.
Lots of attractive young northern British ladies up for a good time.
Serves a very good quality lager. Hard to find elsewhere. Much better than the Bullfrogs I see the younger guys drinking these days.
Jonny 'chin deep master' Halle-miseter.
Ben McBride Aug 10, 2011 02:56 pm
kieran breen Jul 26, 2011 09:44 am
Just want to comment on the above "21 best indoor events" reference to the "Underground, Habtoor Grand".
This is no longer Liverpool supporters clubs choice of venue, there was a bit of barny, and disrespect to the supporters, but we are now residing in the "Rockafella's" bar in Tecom :)