We round up the casual watering holes worth making tracks to
Ah, the local pub: there is certainly something comforting about it. Fight your way through a sea of swaying bodies to reach a rickety stool spied through thick plumes of smoke, only to find your cry of “the usual!” is met by a blank stare from your surly neighbourhood barman. Bliss.
But now and again, the urge strikes to venture outside Dubai’s stalwart saloons where everybody knows your, erm, name. So if you’re off on a road trip this week, here’s where to stop in.
1 3rd Avenue, Abu Dhabi Not so much a British-themed pub as an American take on one. The entrance directly off the street belies its hotel bar reality and it doesn’t get too crowded – the perfect tonic after too many nights in Rock Bottom. Open daily noon-3am. Sheraton Khalidiya Hotel Abu Dhabi (02 666 6220).
2 Al Ain Rugby Club If you should ever find yourself in the UAE’s fourth-biggest city and in need of refreshment, you could do (much) worse than this sanctuary for fans of the oval ball. The friendly home of the Al Ain Amblers is bedecked by prerequisite trophies and signed shirts. The bar is small and can get busy, but guests can head outside to sit in stands overlooking the pitch. Open Sun-Wed 11am-midnight; Thu-Sat 9am-2am. Al Ain (03 702 6431).
3 Captain’s Arms, Abu Dhabi Ever wanted to feel like you’re sipping pints on the deck of a mid-millennium sailing ship? Neither have we, but if we did, we’d be straight here to huddle around a barrel table while shouting “avast!” at unsuspecting punters. This old-London-style pub with mock-Tudor facade is made to feel extra cosy by its low ceilings. Open daily noon-12.30am. Le Méridien Abu Dhabi (02 644 6666).
4 Harvesters Pub, Abu Dhabi This well-established joint offers a change of scenery from the swish restaurants and shiny bars of Abu Dhabi’s Downtown area. Dark wood and horse brasses are reassuringly familiar. And tradition demands that first-time visitors try the famous ploughman’s lunch, a British institution for reasons that no one quite understands. Open daily noon-2am. Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi Downtown, Madinat Zayed, Abu Dhabi (02 615 6453).
5 McGettigan’s AUH, Abu Dhabi The winner of not only Time Out Abu Dhabi’s Pub of the Year award this year but also best Irish community pub in the “rest of the world” category at the Irish Pub Global Awards in Dublin in October. Wipe your feet on the way in, you unworthy rabble. A taxi ride of less than an hour from JLT makes it a reasonable alternative to The Irish Village for those in New Dubai feeling too fragile for the trip to Garhoud. Open daily noon-3am. Al Raha Beach Hotel & Resort, Abu Dhabi (02 652 4333).
6 McGettigan’s Fujairah You’ve been to one of the Dubai outlets so don’t expect any surprises from this powerhouse brand’s offering on the Gulf of Oman coastline. The dark interior, bookcases and chopped logs are all there. McGettigan’s hasn’t dominated the country’s pub scene by changing approach across its venues. And with an Al Ain outlet opening soon, your attempts to resist its reign are futile. Open Sun-Wed 3pm-1am; Thu 3pm-2am; Fri noon-2am; Sat noon-1am. Fujairah Tennis and Country Club (09 224 4880).
7 The Copper Lobster, Fujairah This fishy haunt features a London-style gastro bar with a Russian mixologist who creates his own mixed drinks and mocktails from locally sourced herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. The restaurant is inspired by San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, so ditch pub-style fish and chips for fresh Omani lobster. And you don’t get a fire show at the Dog and Duck. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort (09 204 1111).
8 The Tavern, Abu Dhabi It’s all what ho and toodle pip at this British-themed pub. Okay, that’s not really how Brits talk, especially during post-work hours, as you’ll find at this popular haunt among UK expats. This narrow establishment is slightly shabby but undeniably charming. Just don’t dress like an English gent at this unpretentious spot. Jolly good! Open Fri-Wed noon-2am; Thu noon-2.30am, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort (04 370 8999).
9 Village English Pub, Al Hamra, RAK Its exterior jars against the traditional, almost fort-like surrounds of the Al Hamra resort, while the neat interior is again more North American bar than English or Irish pub, though bar staff are instructed to take your pint seriously. Open daily 1pm-midnight. Al Hamra Village Golf and Beach Resort, Ras Al Khaimah (07 206 7222).
10 World Cup Bar, Ajman Football, football, football! Our obsession with the beautiful game borders on unhealthy, so any time we find a bar filled with club shirts, flags and TV screens lit up by the world’s top players, we get comfy. If you get tired of replays of Ronaldo’s stepovers, head outside to try watersports or relax by the gigantic pool. Just be back for kick-off. Open daily 5pm-2am. Kempinski Hotel Ajman (06 714 5555).