Our favourite spots for a drink in the sun before summer strikes
We are obsessed with weather in Dubai. We couldn’t believe how cold it got last winter (thinking back, was it really all that cold?). And now it’s that time of year to again to panic – because summer is just around the corner! So after taking for granted the beautiful warm sunshine for months, only now, as it is about to get hotter than the devil’s armpit, do we truly realise how lucky we were. So let’s make the most of it! Here are our 10 favourite outdoor bars.
Winner – Best Outdoor Bar Time Out Dubai Nightlife Awards 2012
Jetty Lounge: It takes a lot to put a smile on our miserable faces, and even more to render us speechless with delight. So we’d like to offer hearty congratulations to the people behind The One&Only Royal Mirage’s new bar, The Jetty Lounge, because we were nothing short of mesmerised by the discovery of this new watering hole. A short walk along the beach through the Palace segment of the hotel, it’s as though someone ordered a chic European lounge that was accidentally delivered to the beach. But it works, and it’s better than anything we’ve laid eyes on this year. Miraculously, there wasn’t a pretentious idiot in sight during our visit; instead we joined a sprinkling of the post-work crowd and a few tourists soaking up the twilight and excellent drinks – even the cheapest grape on the menu is delicious. So civilised is this spot, even teetotallers won’t feel intimidated. It’s exactly as we’d imagine an Ibiza for grown-ups would look: comfy corner sofas and loungers, flickering candles and side-lighting (overhead lights are a sin against ambience), plus background Karma Kafé-esque chill-out tunes at just the right decibel. One&Only Royal Mirage (04 399 9999).
101 Dining Lounge and Bar: One of the most secluded new drinking spots to throw open its doors over the past few months, the new One&Only Palm Jumeirah’s 101 is seated at the end of the hotel’s jetty. By car, it takes a surprising amount of time to arrive at the end of the crescent, and then there’s the walk all the way down to the venue – it’s also worth booking a taxi in advance to pick you up, as otherwise you’ll be in for a long wait on the way out. But 101 is definitely worth the journey, and if you can get yourself organised, there’s also the option for guests to arrive by boat from the One&Only Royal Mirage – a great way to make an entrance if you’re entertaining visitors. The lounge itself is a cosy yet stylish outdoor affair, with a liberal scattering of sofas, cushions and pouffes, and plenty of heaters in place for cooler nights. Well-chosen aqua and brown hues fit with the beachside surroundings, and as the night wears on, the chill-out background music is cranked up a few decibels, but not so much that it overpowers the laid-back vibe. One&Only The Palm (04 440 1010).
Barasti: You can’t say Barasti hasn’t put the years in to earn its status – starting out as nothing but a shack on Mina Seyahi’s beach 13 long years ago, its popularity has never wavered. And since its extensive 2006 revamp, when the wood-decked, sun-drenched bar almost doubled in size, it’s become by far the busiest spot in town. Though this may put off some punters (though it can’t be many), we like to think the crowd reflects the different strands of Dubai’s expat population: while the old timers tend to frequent the more relaxed ground floor and shuffle along to live classics from the in-house band, newer arrivals are more likely to head downstairs for the trendy white decor, DJ, dancefloor and, obviously, the beach (while the hungry march straight to the first floor for their superb bar food). All, however, can get away with choosing to dress up or don flip flops – Barasti has room for all. Jumeirah, Dubai (04 399 3333).
Cabana: There aren’t many places in the world where you can soak up all the atmosphere of the seaside, while lying on a sun lounger in the midst of the tallest building in the world. Recently reopening after the summer months, The Address’s Cabana offers just that. Everything about the bar – down to shady decking and the staff’s lifeguard-inspired polo shirts – makes you feel like you’re by the sea. You can practically taste the salt water. But remove your shades, glance upwards and glimpse the Burj Khalifa towering overhead, and you’ll realise you’re hovering in the midst (well, on the third floor terrace) of one of the fastest-growing cities on the globe. But does the bar live up to its privileged spot? Well, yes, just about. The drinks menu, while not exactly an exercise in blue-sky thinking or reckless ambition, is well stocked, while the food is reasonable in price and quality, with a fair choice of classic salads, burgers, pizzas and meats. Plus the staff are generally friendly and efficient, so three big ticks there. Views and vibes aside, the real standout is the music. Recently introducing new resident DJ Richie, on our last midweek visit we were spellbound by his tasteful approach, seamlessly rolling old-school, bass-heavy funk into chillout lounge grooves, soulful house and even a dash of hip hop. At weekends, Afterdark (Thursdays) and Sunset People (Fridays) get behind the decks. The Address, Dubai Mall (04 888 3444).
Horizon Lounge: With undoubtedly one of the most enviable settings in the neighbourhood, Horizon already has an edge over its beachfront competitors. If you’re in search of a bar with a sea view and a lower riff-raff density than, say, Wavebreakers, but not quite as sophisticated as the One&Only Royal Mirage’s new Jetty Lounge, this may well be the spot for you. Thursdays and Fridays draw a young, attractive crowd, many of them moneyed (judging by the large bottles of beverages on most of the tables) and plenty of them wildly overdressed. This is absolutely not the place to take a teary-eyed girlfriend for a heart-to-heart or a recently fired colleague for a pep talk – the music can be astonishingly loud, and gentle sentiment can get somewhat lost when you’re shouting. On the other hand, if you’ve had enough of stuffy clubs and are looking for an alternative spot to lounge around (there are bed-like seats available, but we wouldn’t recommend these to the mini-skirted), this could well be the spot for you. You’ll be paying five-star prices for the drinks, but don’t expect any smiles from the bar staff. The Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa (04 399 5000).
M-Dek: Poolside bar M-Dek is increasingly popular thanks to regular hip DJs and friendly crowd. Media One's location in Media City makes it an easy hit with the after-work crowds. Media One Hotel (04 427 1000).
Sho Cho: With a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Gulf, and manga movies projected onto the fish tank-studded walls, the long-standing Sho Cho has managed to never let go of its status as a super-hip Japanese-themed bar. This is where the ‘beautiful’ people (at least in their opinion) go to play, pose and look pretty. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa (04 346 1111).
The Terrace: A pleasant spot for a drink overlooking the creek, though you’ll need a jacket if you’re sitting outdoors over the colder months. There are many places you can get a bite to eat in Dubai that serve up such fantastic views - although with Thai Kitchen and Traiteur right next door though, The Terrace doesn't waste a lot of time competing with food and only has a few options on their menu. Planning ahead? Earn brownie points by taking your special someone here for a romantic drink with a loved one. Park Hyatt Dubai (04 317 2222).
Uptown Bar: Jumeirah Beach Hotel sells Uptown Bar as ‘understated elegance’. Quite why they didn’t just use the tagline ‘Crikey, it’s got a cracking view!’ we’re not sure. Because it does – probably our favourite view in Dubai, to be honest. Stepping out of the cosy interior bar – which itself has a fine view of the Burj Al Arab – and onto the balcony, you’ll find yourself gazing down at an extraordinary panoramic view of Jumeirah, with roads receding to a vanishing point and the Burj Dubai and the Sheikh Zayed Road skyline glowing on the horizon. But come back at night and it’s even more extraordinary, as the city becomes an abstract drawing in fluorescent light. It’s hard to capture the effect on camera, so we suggest you see it for yourself. The food is all excellent stuff made with fine ingredients. But it’s also extremely expensive for what you get. Still, Uptown Bar isn’t really somewhere you go purely to eat; it’s there for al fresco chinwagging, soaking in an extraordinary view and showing off to visiting relatives. And on those counts, it’s flawless. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999).
Wavebreaker: We’re fans of the pretentious-less feel and set-up at Wavebreaker. Summer is almost upon us and soon the heat will dictate that the doors should be shut on outdoor bars for several months. This venue doesn’t actually have a door, just a flight of steps down from the hotel to the quaint (read: dated, but not past it just yet) beach bar, equipped with a lobster barbecue and pool table as standard. True, it’s not the most salubrious of locations, and yes, the accusation of a ‘poor man’s Barasti’ is fair, but JBR has very few beach bars, and even fewer places that do a truly tremendous surf and turf (they dispatch the lobster while you shoot eight ball). The table service is fine if you fancy eating from the hotel menu, otherwise sit at the bar, let the chatty staff pour you a cold drink and watch the sun go down in old Dubai style. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah (04 399 1111).