Before it was forced to shut with the closure of the Metropolitan Hotel, I2 was renowned as an alternative hangout for arty types. Less than a week after waving goodbye to Sheikh Zayed Road, the same team picked up the concept, dragged it 20km south and dropped it in the former home of Bartini, in the Marina’s Habtoor Grand. But does it work? It’s already popular for sure – come midnight on a Friday, it’s packed with a bustling crowd.
Bartini’s rectangular space feels rather more staid than the low-ceilinged, bare-bricked corner of the old home. New mirrorballs, ceiling lines and overpowering ads for Russian drinks fail to evoke the lawless speakeasy vibe of old, while a small wall of graffiti now feels somewhat forced.
The sense is of a slow shift from quirky boutique club to Dubai lounge bar, but we’re overjoyed to have an old friend back. If anything, the retro-tastic music – which is what defined I2 in the first place – is better and more consistently mixed than before. Yet if we have one grumble, it’s the frustrating elevator ride to reach the toilets.