31 things we loved (and didn't) in 2017

2017 was huge. From great restaurants to bad gigs, here's what we made of it

It’s that time of year when we take a look in the rear-view mirror and reflect upon the great things (and some of the other things) to have happened over the past 12 months. From the opening of hotly anticipated attractions to new nightlife crazes, to needlessly aggressive rock stars to underwhelming dining experiences, this is what we loved – and didn’t really love all that much – in 2017.


Adorable monkeys at The Green Planet
We almost spontaneously combusted when this cuteness overload popped up at The Green Planet in City Walk. The Tamarin monkey brothers can be found at the bio-dome, and are here to help educate children (and adults too, of course) about the dangers facing the world’s rainforests. We’ve been promised they will be given the best possible care, and will be able to live as they would in the rainforest. *Heart eyes emoji*
Dhs95. City Walk, Al Safa Street, www.thegreenplanetdubai.com.

Ain Dubai edging closer to completion
Watching the gradual completion of what will be the world’s largest observation wheel has been one of the most satisfying sights over the course of 2017. Like filling the cheese-like segments of your Trivial Pursuit wheel, the Ain Dubai development has been a perennial source of conversation for residents of Dubai Marina and the surrounding area. Meraas has confirmed the project is more than half finished, given that much more work needs to happen after the basic structure is complete (pods will be added in 2018), but we’re already extremely excited about taking a ride on the finished product.

Bongo’s Bingo taking Dubai by storm
It’s almost indescribable how Bongo’s Bingo has been embraced by Dubai. We don’t know if we’ve seen anything like how this truly alternative, absolutely bonkers night out has whipped up a frenzy in this city. The UK export is, in essence, a night playing bingo. It’s also a night at a rave. And some weird post-modern sort of circus show. Whatever it is, we love it, and we wholeheartedly endorse many more of these monthly nights cropping up on the 2018 calendar. Stay close to Time Out Dubai for details of next year’s events.

Cobra Kai springing into town
This Bangkok-themed bar is one of two co-dependent 2017 openings at the Media One Hotel in Dubai Media City. Whether you’re playing a friendly round of hops pong, enjoying its generous happy hour or meandering back and forth between this place and the restaurant arm of the operation, Mr Miyagi’s, Cobra Kai is full of good times. Long may it continue.
Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City (04 420 7489).

Classic musicals at Dubai Opera

What a year it has been for Dubai’s first purpose-built opera house. In the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the theatre has hosted some of the biggest names in classical music, musicals and even its own standing-only pop rock gig (thanks to Scouting For Girls). Alongside the BBC Proms’ second ever festival outside of the UK, the opera house played host to legendary theatre productions including Mary Poppins, Les Misérables and The Jersey Boys. Next year has even more big names due, and we can’t wait.
Downtown Dubai, www.dubaiopera.com.

Dubai Frame’s lights coming on
The Frame was launched by Dubai Municipality in 2013, and has become one of the most Instagrammed structures of the last few weeks of 2017. Set to open in January 2018, it’s going to be a unique tourist attraction, literally framing the sight of New Dubai and Old Dubai at either side. It gives a perfectly clear view of the various districts in Old Dubai from one side, including Deira, Karama and Al Qusais, representing the city’s history. Meanwhile, the view to the south encompasses Downtown Dubai, Business Bay, DIFC and, of course, the Burj Khalifa, showcasing everything about the city’s present and its progressive future. It’s gold, it stands proudly and is sure to be a massive hit. Bravo.

Every manakish we had from Manoushe Street

And every single one was savoured, loved, cherished (though akkawi cheese above all others, obviously), and slathered in hummus. Seriously, it’s the perfect breakfast. And if you’ve not tried it yet, you’re not really a Dubai resident. We can just leave that one there.
Dhs13 (akkawi cheese). Various locations across Dubai, including Barsha Heights (600 566 667).

Everything about Jolie Floral Boutique
It’s delightful, it’s quaint, you can get fresh flowers, and avocado on toast. The café is kitsch, but cute, with tea-shop-style white-washed furniture and, of course, plenty of fresh blooms. The flowery theme is strong: the ceiling is covered in silk roses, while your coffee will come with a fresh rose. Your meal will most likely contain edible flowers, too, in case your main course isn’t enough.
City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 345 6922).

Jennifer Lopez at Autism Rocks Arena

Jennifer Lopez, JLo, Jenny from the Block – whatever you want to call her – proved she is still the ultimate diva during her lively performance at Autism Rocks. Energetic routines, numerous outfit changes and a troupe of brilliant backing dancers left audiences chanting out her (many) names. As well as belting out the classics from the 2000s that we all know and love (Get Right, Ain’t it Funny, Love Don’t Cost a Thing), we were stunned by her vocals during Spanish songs from her latest album, while Not Your Mama left us (yes, even the boys) with an undeniable feeling of girl power.

Just all of La Mer
The latest major opening from master developer Meraas is an urban seaside wonder. Phase One opened to the public in October, and when it’s complete will feature more than 130 retailers and eateries (some of which will be licensed). When it’s officially finished in early 2018, you’ll be able to head to the massive water and surf park opening up, or stay at the huge hotel complex being developed, or go to the new cinema. There’s tonnes more too, so go have a meander along the 2.5km-long promenade in Jumeirah.
Jumeirah 1, www.lamerdubai.ae.

Ladies’ Day at Le Petit Belge

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to ladies’ nights in Dubai. But ladies’ days? Now that’s an event worth talking about. From noon until 2am (that’s 14 hours) at Le Petit Belge in the Pullman Dubai Jumeirah Lakes Towers, ladies get unlimited selected house beverages, and 50 percent off selected bar bites. Little wonder it’s packed every week.
Cluster T, JLT (04 242 7794).

Lucky Voice
If you haven’t gone home totally hoarse and unfashionably sweaty, you’ve done Lucky Voice wrong. Every time we’ve gone to Lucky Voice we’ve had the best time ever. That’s why we hosted our Christmas Jumper Party there at the start of December. Get a karaoke pod after brunch on Friday or Wednesday night (which, in themselves, are spectacular), and croon or warble your way through its nigh-on infinite library of current and classic hits. Pure, tone-deaf bliss.
Grand Millennium, Barsha Heights (800 58259).

McGettigan’s being crowned the world’s best Irish pub
That’s right, JLT has THE BEST Irish pub in the world (outside of Ireland, obviously). McGettigan’s is a Dubai institution, which has just celebrated its seventh birthday. That’s seven years of welcoming all-comers with its open Irish arms and some of the best craic you’ll find this side of Waterford. Head along on any given night for either some cracking live sport, barnstorming live music or an array of miscellaneous and brilliant-spirited fun.
Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster J, JLT (04 356 0470).

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera
We’ve already said how we loved the arrival of Dubai Opera, but we also loved the mid-2017 opening of decorated chef Sean Connolly’s first Dubai restaurant. Its outdoor terrace sits in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, and provides one of the most stunning dining vistas in a city that’s chocked full of them. Plus, the food is excellent, too. Perfect accompaniment to a charming night at the opera, darling.
Downtown Dubai (04 362 7312).

Sundowners at folly by Nick & Scott

If you’re at Souk Madinat just ahead of sunset, don’t miss out on catching the views from folly by Nick & Scott. The trendy bar and restaurant has a pretty terrace that offers up picture-perfect views across Madinat Jumeirah and beyond. Sip on one of the signature mixed drinks, perhaps indulge in a bar snack (we heartily recommend the guinea fowl sausage rolls) and enjoy the sunset vibes.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 430 8535).

The arrival of cheese toastie-encased burgers from Blaze Burgers

A riot of cheese, cheese, meat, cheese and a basting of butter, the 6abooga burger from this Bahrain-born brand rocked our world this year. It features two almost intimidatingly cheesy toasties, with two burger patties and fillings (including more cheese) in the middle. Go hungry.
The Walk, JBR (800 25293).

The brand-new XLine Dubai Marina

We were so excited about this opening that we were front of the queue to try this new 1km zip line that darts through Dubai Marina. It’s a quick ride, and you reach a top speedof 80kph. Plus, it’s accompanied by some of the most spectacular views New Dubai has to offer. What’s more, your helmet-mounted GoPro films the whole thing for you to keep forever.
Dhs650 per person, Dhs1,200 per couple. Dubai Marina, www.xdubai.com/xline.

The floating bar at Barasti’s Sunset Festival

Sadly, it was such a short-lived affair, so we could easily put the brevity of Barasti’s utter gem in the Indifference List. However, purely because it was so much fun, it deservedly sits proudly on the Love List. This hops bar sat afloat the waters of the Arabian Gulf during the arrival of the winter season in October and early November, and the one-hour experience was worth getting on the waiting list for. More of this next year, please.
Le Méridien Dubai Mina Seyahi, Al Sufouh (04 318 1313).

The launch of La Perle
It will leave you hand protecting your agape mouth as this truly extraordinary acrobatic performance compels and terrifies you in equal measure. Chuck in a spectacular visual, sensory and aural experience to go alongside it, oh and a couple of million litres of water for good effect, and you have La Perle, Dubai’s first-ever permanent aqua theatre. Go. Now.
Al Habtoor City, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.laperle.com.

The grand unveiling of Louvre Abu Dhabi

The world’s most anticipated museum opened in the UAE’s capital in November, and it was the news that culture vultures across the country had been desperate to hear. The glittering crown jewel in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, a striking structure is every inch the work of art itself and plays host to original famous works from masters like da Vinci, Matisse and Manet, amid 300 masterpieces on loan from 13 key institutions. Get a ticket now, because this is a marvel.
Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, www.louvreabudhabi.ae.

Traditional Irish music at Fibber Magee’s
We’ve waxed, well, lyrical about this folksy jam at the classic Irish pub, and for good reason. If you still haven’t caught them, head down on the first Saturday of each month from 2.30pm onwards and perch at the bar while the impromptu band play. Hungry? A bacon and egg bap (served all day, don’tcha know) will go down a treat.
Saeed Tower One, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 2400).

Wow That’s What I Call Brunch bringing back all the classics
The most ’90s party brunch of all the party brunches. Having hosted Chesney Hawkes last year, Wow Brunch came back with a bang this year, doubling down on the retro pop fun. Firstly with Atomic Kitten (with two of the three original members, plus Michelle Heaton formerly of Liberty X fame), then latterly Peter Andre, who everyone just loved. We whole heartedly endorse this piece of nostalgic, throwback fun, and want more of it throughout 2018 please.
Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Garhoud (04 217 0000).

We were
indifferent to…

An underwhelming performance by Toni Braxton
We love Toni Braxton, which was why watching her perform at The Irish Village was so underwhelming. The R&B diva started off sorely, seemingly forgetting the words to Unbreak My Heart and struggling to make it through a single song without thrusting the microphone into the audience with a pleading look in her eye. We were, however, in awe of her flowing gold gown. Lush.

Being asked to download an app in a bar

We’re here for a drink, not to update our software. Whoever dreamt up the notion of asking punters to download the bar’s app in order to find out drinks prices should perhaps spend less on tech development and more on market research. Cheque please.

Jebel Ali Recreation Club’s demolition

The Old Ship’s Wheel is no more, and how we’ve mourned for it. Established decades ago, we’ll miss its well-worn carpets and the scribble-covered walls of its sports room. Thankfully, the new amphitheatre-style dining arena, built just behind the old site, is marvellous. The new Ship’s Wheel is a sensitive relaunch, and the likes of The Clubhouse and Seafood Kitchen seem promising, too.
Jebel Ali Village (04 459 5198).

Morah closing

In 2017 we said goodbye to one of our favourite restaurants, Morah. The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fusion restaurant, set on the 72nd floor of the JW Marriott Marquis, shut its doors, depriving us of some seriously superb pide for evermore. It was a sad goodbye to a place that wowed us with 360-degree panoramic views across the city. But, onwards and upwards, as they say, and we look forward to seeing what emerges in its place.

The Music Room’s final curtain call

A Time Out Dubai award-winner time and again, the live music stalwart in Bur Dubai shuttered its doors at the end of September, signalling the end of an era. Where diehard fans of Egyptian death metal will get their kicks now, we’re still unsure, but the bar has since announced it will return to the city’s nightlife scene at an as-yet unconfirmed location. Stay, erm, tuned.

The Pretenders slating their audience and storming off early

Full of anticipation about this gig, Dubaians turned up in force to rock out to Chrissie Hynde’s classic rock act The Pretenders at The Irish Village in October. Such is the way of gigs these days, many in the audience wanted to capture the moment on their smartphone. But Ms Hynde did not like that, no siree. We literally can’t print what was, repeatedly, said by the lead singer, but it was broadly (and quite acutely) offensive to everyone in the audience, and resulted in what was otherwise a solid musical performance being cut short. Shame.

The queues getting into and out of the Guns N’ Roses gig

Reports of excessive waiting times at Guns N’ Roses gigs aren’t uncommon, but that’s usually down to rather more questionable timekeeping from the band. At the Autism Rocks Arena gig in March, Axl Rose and his crew delivered a fist-pumping, barnstorming set that stretched into the multiple hours, complete with hair-raising moments to be remembered. The kilometres and kilometres of congestion on the way in, and four-hour wait for a taxi afterwards, sadly, marred proceedings somewhat – and are still cause for trepidation by some music fans.

Unicorn latte at Gourmet by Kcal
It’s green, it’s full of good things (so not really a conventional latte, if that’s what you’re expecting), and it’s made from matcha and lots of other healthy ingredients. It looks great, but looks, as the saying goes, can be extremely deceiving –it’s far better to look at than to drink. It’s thick and gloopy. If were ever to get a mouthful of pond water, we imagine this is how it might taste…

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