Irish, Cuban, Spanish, American, Jamaican, Swiss and more theme bars in Dubai
1 Africa African Beats There’s something of an old-school feel to this Africa-themed bar, not least because you have to cab it into Deira to go there. The beats are, indeed, African, and it’s a great alternative to the glitz of spots elsewhere in the city. Open daily 7pm-3am. Fortune Grand Hotel, Deira (04 271 9998).
2 Cuba Cubano Lito Cuban bar with fedora-wearing bartenders, old dentist chairs instead of bar stools and a live band providing a soundtrack from Havana. On the menu are cigars, more than 40 kinds of Caribbean short beverage and 30 mixed drinks including all the Cuban classics. It even makes the traditional Elena Ruz sandwich. Open daily 5pm-2am. Ibis One Central, Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 519 5555).
3 India Spice & Ice The menu features a spread of Indian favourites and some seriously good takes on common classics – we’re looking at you, chilli cheese toast. Come for happy hour (daily 4pm to 8pm) when house drinks cost from Dhs18. On Tuesdays, ladies get unlimited drinks from 8pm to midnight and 25 percent off food (fill up on that cheese on toast). There’s also a Bollywood-themed ladies’ night on Wednesdays with the same drinks offer, though not the discount on food, sadly. Open Sat-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Fri noon-3am. Cluster A, JLT (04 275 9088).
4 Ireland McGettigan’s Madinat Jumeirah The brand is famed for offering firstly some of the city’s best Irish pubs, and secondly, for offering a straight-up good place for a night out. The new McGettigan’s in Madinat Jumeirah, though, is quieter and seriously chilled out, but without losing any of the brand’s lively spirit. It still has the wooden floors, leather chairs, emerald décor and groups of football fans and a menu of proper traditional grub, but with a charming waterside setting. Open Sun-Thu noon-3am, Fri-Sat 9am-3am. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 447 0219).
5 Jamaica Ting Irie The venue is now finally licensed. TV screens play old Jimmy Cliff films, the lights are dimmed and you can prop up on one of the stools with a can of Jamaica’s most popular hops. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat noon-2am. Souk Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai (04 557 5601).
6 Japan Nippon Bottle Co. It’s been open for a while now, but this Japanese venue is still one of the coolest – and more underrated – little bars in the city. You enter through a secret door disguised as a bookcase in the lobby of the Dusit Thani Dubai and inside, the speakeasy has the best collection of Japanese beverages anywhere in the country. Open daily 6pm-3am. Dusit Thani Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 357 0779).
7 Mexico Muchachas Mexican Cantina The extensive drinks menu is packed and the food list is also a greatest hits of everything Mexican. Check it out right now, while it’s still a bit of an off-the-radar gem. Open Sun-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Sat noon-2am. Holiday Inn Express Safa Park (04 327 5878).
8 Peru Lima Never rule out a good restaurant bar, and this one has a whole upstairs floor to itself with lounge area and balcony. The mixed drinks menu is varied and traditional and the bar’s food menu is straight from the Michelin-starred London venue. Open Sun-Tue noon-1am, Wed- Fri noon-2am City Walk, Al Safa Street (800 5462).
9 Philippines Boracay Your time in Dubai is not complete until you’ve visited one of its famous Filipino clubs. Boracay is the best of the bunch. It offers authentic snacks, dazzling shows with some of the jazziest LED screens and lights we’ve seen. Resident acts include raucous cover band Gravity and vocal powerhouse Rubi J. Open daily 7pm-3am. Asiana Hotel, Deira (04 608 2056).
10 Scotland Copper Dog Based in the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, Scotland, it now has its own bar down in JBR. It holds a large collection of Scottish short beverages and offers an authentic taste of Scotland’s northern valleys – we can also recommend the full Scottish breakfast (Dhs90) as a fry up to match any in the UAE. Open Sun-Thu noon-2am; Fri- Sat 10am-2am. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai – Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR (04 559 5355).
11 Spain El Chiringuito This elegant beach bar brings the spirit of the Ibiza original to Dubai. On the tip of the Palm’s east crescent, it’s got a nice, isolated, waterside feel and the décor feels suitably Spanish. The bar menu is extensive and of course there’s a DJ playing Balearic beats to round off the transported-out-of-Dubai feel. Open Tue-Sat 10am-midnight; Sun 10am-6pm. Rixos The Palm Dubai, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 5555).
12 Switzerland Publique On the site of the old Rivington Grill in Madinat Jumeirah, this Swiss venue’s interior resembles a mountain lodge with wooden bar, DJ booth in a cable car and a chalet-style terrace for an après-ski feel. There are also Alpine-themed mixed drinks you won’t get elsewhere in Dubai. Open Sun-Thu noon-2am; Fri-Sat noon-3am. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 430 8550).
13 UK The Scene By Simon Rimmer Quirky décor that looks straight out of your grandma’s house, beautiful Marina views and classic Brit grub are the order of the day here. Have a relaxed drink from the varied list, which includes craft hops. Then grab a seat outside and enjoy a plate of proper fish and chips, too. Open daily 8am-2am. Pier 7, Dubai Marina (04 422 2328).
14 US Black Tap The New York institution famed for its burgers and craft hops recently opened a Dubai branch. It also serves the notorious freakshakes – giant 1,600-calorie milkshakes that come with everything from ice cream and M&Ms to a slice of cheesecake. Stick to craft brews and the tasty burgers, we say. Open daily 11am-12.30am. Jumeirah Al Naseem, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 422 9904).