Top spots which offer books, board games, shisha and more
Time Out Dubai staff
Arguably, the Middle East is the cradle of coffee and café culture, and modern day Dubai certainly reflects this heritage in the complexity of its café scene. Inspired by café cultures from Arabic, to Greek, to French, Dubai’s coffee shops reflect the diversity and vibrancy of the emirate itself. They offer every style of coffee, every style of menu. And they offer every style of activity to keep you entertained, whether that’s golf simulators, a round of backgammon, interactive tables, somewhere to watch the World Cup final this week, or just the chance to mix your own shisha flavour. Since many of Dubai’s cafés are open until the early hours this month for suhoor (and many of you might be staying up late to catch the games in Brazil), we’ve selected Dubai’s best café experiences with a fun twist.
Best for board games Indulgence Café Nestled in International City’s France Cluster, it’s the café that’s got pretty much everything. A few classic board games including Scrabble, shisha, games console tournaments, painting parties and screenings of big sporting events, from football (including 2014 FIFA World Cup games) to cricket. There’s also karaoke after Eid. Open daily from 6.30pm until late during Ramadan. R26, France Cluster, International City, Dubai to Hatta Road (E44), www.facebook.com/indulgencecafe (04 447 4145).
Public Café There are dozens of restaurants surrounding the lakes and park of JLT. Many, however, seem set up for a casual dining experience or specifically with takeaway food in mind. That’s why we were happy to find chilled out hang out Public Cafe. Clean, simple and welcoming it is also home to a decent selection of board games so don’t be surprised to find tables filled with people playing chess, backgammon or even taking on a competitive trivia challenge. Full length windows mean the light filters through in the daytime – a great spot for a slice of delicious cheese pie at lunchtime for non-Muslims who aren’t fasting. Open daily 8am-7pm during Ramadan. Lake Plaza Tower, Cluster T, JLT. www.facebook.com/publiccafeme (04 451 9670)
Reem Al Bawadi Head to the Jumeirah branch of this established Arabic eatery and immerse yourself in an iftar buffet (Dhs130, or Dhs65 for suhoor, served from midnight onwards) and the fragrant scents of fruity shisha. There are a number of backgammon sets available for customers to play before, during or after their meal, and with the restaurant open until 5am, you can play right into the small hours should you wish. Open daily 5pm-5am during Ramadan. Jumeirah Beach Road, www.reemalbawadi.com (04 394 7444).
Tea Junction Café & Lounge As the name suggests, this Oud Metha café specialises in tea beverages – one of few in the city to do so. Try more than 30 different hot and cold varieties – chai blends such as Kashmiri tea, tea blends including Wild Arabian (combined with mint and, strangely, orange juice) or classics such as Earl Grey, camomile and hibiscus. But it doesn’t end at tea, there are games including Scrabble, Jenga chess, dominoes and Uno for customers to play, and an intriguing menu of snacks and meals. Open daily 6pm-2am during Ramadan. Behind the Mövenpick Hotel & Apartments Bur Dubai, Oud Metha, www.teajunction.ae (04 357 6677).
Best for shisha Choix Patisserie and Restaurant par Pierre Gagnaire The second Dubai venture by three-star French chef Pierre Gagnaire, for Ramadan, Choix offers a bento box iftar, which is a selection of Gagnaire-style savoury treats in a traditional Japanese lunch box. There is also a colourful, creative, chocolate box array of macaroons, éclairs, cakes and more at the patisserie counter for you to choose from. After sunset, the café will offer shisha outside on the terrace, which has pleasant views with the Burj Khalifa visible in the distance. Daily 11am-2am. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).
Fudo There aren’t many places in this city that combine sushi and shisha, but this comfortable Jumeirah haunt does just that (don’t be alarmed – the tobacco isn’t fish-flavoured). While the pleasant patio with majlis-style set-ups is popular in cooler months, summer sees the indoor portion of the restaurant fill up fast after dark. Open daily from 6.30pm-4am during Ramadan. Next to Mercato Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 8896).
Lila Café A cute café decorated in lilac and white that offers cheap eats, sports and shisha. Situated alongside the Dubai Museum for Moving Image it’s a popular spot for TECOM residents and visitors to the museum to stop for a bit to eat. There’s simple seating is inside as well as outside, and the winter terrace is converted into an air-conditioned tent for summer time. Shisha is affordably priced at Dhs44 and you can have a puff inside the tented area, there’s also free Wi-Fi. Daily 7pm-4am. Ground Floor, MCN Building, TECOM (04 454 3064).
Nofara Café Nofara is a charming neighbourhood spot that prides itself on offering a slightly Middle Eastern twist on the modern café experience. As such, you can try recipes such as lamb and feta burger, or chocolate brownies flavoured with cardamom, coffee and pistachio. There is a dedicated indoor, air-conditioned shisha area, which offers a selection of reasonably priced flavours, including a rarities such as cappuccino flavoured shisha. Daily 8am-10pm. Swiss Towers, Cluster Y, JLT (04 432 2023).
OWN Café This large café is popular throughout the year for a late night with an Arabian twist and attracts diners looking for classic mezze and shisha. Shisha is one of the USPs at this hookah lounge, since you can mix up your own flavour of shisha from any of the ten flavours on the menu. During Ramadan, the venue will serve an iftar buffet, but also remain open until the early hours, making it a good option for suhoor in the area. Daily 7pm-4am. Gold Tower, Cluster I, JLT (04 441 3519).
Picolo Mondo Bay It’s hard to miss this hugely popular Dubai Marina shisha spot – but not for the huge crowds that take over every evening. It’s the exterior that will truly catch your attention, a large seating area jam packed with a mesmerizingly peculiar collection of statues, fountains and wagon wheels, colourfully lit in hues of blue and red. Shisha varieties include classics such as apple and lemon and mint, as well as coconut, peach and a Piccolo Mondo special (prices start from Dhs50), while cuisine ranges from sushi to saj, sandwiches to shish taouk. Open daily 7pm-4am during Ramadan. Waterfront, Marina Tower, Dubai Marina, www.piccolomondobaydubai.com (04 447 5449).
Best for books Bert’s Café While the service at this café is dithering at best, the collection of well-thumbed books stacked and squashed into every available crevice on a corner shelf go some way to making up for it. Lose yourself in a pre-loved spy thriller or chick lit novel and you’ll hardly notice the staff getting your order wrong. There are also a few board games available to play, including Scrabble, and large sofas that are great for sinking into at the end of a long weekend. Open daily from sunset until 11pm during Ramadan. Greens Village, The Greens, www.facebook.com/berts.dubai (04 361 9292).
Book N Bean Tucked away inside Dubai Festival City’s Ace Hardware, this café and bookstore is more than just a place to chill out while your other half peruses the wall mounts. Selling a huge range of second-hand books, find a title you like, buy it, read it by the pool, then bring it back and get a 50 percent refund. Another incentive to keep coming back is the café’s loyalty scheme – collect stamps for every cup of coffee you buy and get your tenth free. Great for hardware and caffeine enthusiasts alike. Open daily 9am-midnight, food served from 7.30pm during Ramadan. Ace Hardware, Dubai Festival City (04 232 6992).
Kino Cafe Dainty Japanese salads, a large selection of teas and coffees, incredible (no really, incredible) views across the Dubai Fountains – this tiny cafe has all the makings of a Dubai favourite. What makes it really special, however, is the feeling that you are sipping in one of the city’s best secrets. Kino Cafe is actually hidden away inside the enormous and wonderful Kinokuniya book store in Dubai Mall. This theme park for book lovers is the type of place we could spend an entire day so the quality cafe makes for a perfect lit stop. Thumb through your purchases while trying out a green tea ice cream and simple sushi dishes. Open daily sunset until late during Ramadan. Book World by Kinokuniya, The Dubai Mall, www.facebook.com/KinokuniyaDubai (04 434 0111).
Kuttab Cafe Spend any time at all in this Uptown Mirdif cafe and it feels like you are part of a cultural revolution. Styled like an intellectual’s study, the cafe is only reached after first passing through a book store. Dominated by Arabic texts, although there are some English crowd-pleasers as well, there are plenty of titles to look through. Depending on your mood there are philosophical tomes and children’s comic books and the high-backed designer armchairs and sophisticated decor give you an air of thoughtfulness whatever you read. Visit on a night when there is a book signing by a local author, film screening or poetic debate and you get the strongest sense of cafe culture in Dubai. Open daily sunset until late. Uptown Mirdif Mall, Mirdif, www.twitter.com/kuttabcafe (no number).
The Magazine Shop Aptly located in Dubai Media City, The Magazine Shop is a trendy little hub that’s popular with the media execs in the area. If you like to flick through beautifully designed special interest fashion, lifestyle, and travel mags while you sip ethical coffee, then this is your spot. Décor is very minimal and industrial making it seem a bit cold but the shop is actually a community hub for creative and literary lovers, and hosts regular book clubs and film screenings. Daily 9am-3pm. Loft #2, Al Madaar Street, Dubai Media City (04 457 4283).
Urban Bistro Delicious food isn’t the only thing this bustling Media City café serves up. Dining alone? Pick up one of numerous novels and biographies lining the shelves, flick through one of dozens of magazines or play a game of solitaire. Lunching with a friend? There’s also chess. Open daily 8am-5pm during Ramadan, iftar available for large group bookings. CNN Building, Dubai Media City (04 362 4330).
Best for entertainment Academy Café Located within the grounds of the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, the café has recently introduced an indoor golf simulator to their repertoire – a great summer solution for golfers that can handle the heat. Players can choose a course from over 140 options around the world, while high-speed camera technology will capture elements such as swing path, impact and ball flight. You can also opt for one of the course packages, where a professional can help you improve your technique. Dhs240 per hour for use of the simulator. Daily 7am-11pm. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).
Ebony This African restaurant is a real rarity in Dubai. Not only is it one of very few venues serving food from this continent in the emirate, but the tables you dine at are just about as intellectually empowered as HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Use the sensor enabled tables (which double up as huge tablet screens) to order your meal, watch it being cooked in the kitchen, play games, check social media, read the news, call a taxi. You name it, these tables can probably do it. For Ramadan, the restaurant will also be offering a special three-course set menu for iftar of Sudanese cooking, priced from Dhs75 (for one). Daily sunset-11pm. Executive Towers, Bay Avenue, Business Bay (04 368 8015).
Mi Café Devoted to computer gaming, this café opened earlier in 2014 with the promise of tournaments and world-class facilities. Here PC devotees can play Call of Duty, Global Offensive and the like, with rates starting from Dhs10 per hour. For keen gamers, there are discounts to be had – buy five hours, get two free, buy ten hours, get five free, or buy 24 hours and get 24 hours free. Open daily 10am-1am during Ramadan, food and beverages served after sunset. Al Ain Center, near Al Fahidi Metro Station (050 525 2191).
Que Club Perhaps one of the city’s best-known billiards cafés, Que Club houses Brunswick tables, along with 120 gaming computers (plus a VIP gaming section) and a dedicated café area with projector and plasma screens, showing whatever customers wish to watch. It also hosts regular billiards tournaments. Open daily 10am-3am during Ramadan. Oud Metha, www.queclub.com (04 336 5551).
Shooters Billiards & Café Escape the heat by challenging a mate to a game on one of this café’s 12 pool tables or several PlayStation 3s. There are also LCD TVs at every table, meaning you can catch that essential football match while you’re there. The venue also offers free wi-fi, has three large projector screens plus an extensive menu of snacks and drinks. Open until 3am every night, it’s a good choice for watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Open daily 7pm-3am during Ramadan. The Torch, Dubai Marina, www.shootersdubai.com (04 368 5645).
The Living Rooms Hidden away in Festival City Mall’s annex-like second floor, this sprawling premise houses dozens of ‘living room’-type set-ups with sofas and games consoles including PlayStations 3s and X-Boxes dotted around the room and yet more outside in the corridor. It’s a popular hangout for teens, with refreshments readily available. You can also play X-Box Kinect games in a designated area, or try your hand at classic board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo, as well as foosball, chess and billiards. Open daily 10am-1am during Ramadan. Opposite Fitness First, Dubai Festival City Mall, www.livingroomscafe.com (04 232 9291).
Best for watching sports La Liga Sports Restaurant This sport-centric spot isn’t just all about football, despite what the name may suggest. Watch all manner of matches and games at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers café, or challenge your teammates to game on the PlayStation. Open daily 6pm-2am during Ramadan. Lake Level, Cluster R, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 454 7752).
Real Madrid Café The first of its kind anywhere in the world, the swanky new football club-branded hangout at The Beach in JBR is showing the remainder of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on massive, wall-mounted plasma screens, and will show games from the world’s best football leagues once the domestic season starts up again after the summer break. As well as sporting action, guests can also try dishes from a menu of Spanish favourites including paella, omelettes and gazpacho. Open daily sunset-3am during Ramadan. The Beach, The Walk, JBR, www.ginzaretail.com (04 440 9302, ext 984).
Villa Barcelona Café A football-loving location in Al Safa, just off Sheikh Zayed Road, head here to watch live 2014 FIFA World Cup action and plenty more football once the season gets back underway after summer. As the name suggests, it’s a hugely popular place for fans of Barcelona (Tip: book a table before heading down), who turn out in force to cheer their team in La Liga. There are also a few Catalan gems on the menu. Open daily sunset until late during Ramadan. Al Safa, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.villabarcelonacafe.com (04 338 2522).