There may be no pain greater than that of losing an old friend. But still, new pals can be made, and over time they can grow to fill at least some of the gaps left behind. At least this is what we told ourselves when we set off for Lucien Belgian Café for the first time. With our handkerchiefs still moist with tears shed over the loss of the Old Vic, (the longstanding spit-and-sawdust-style Brit pub that stood in the same spot), off we trundled to meet Lucien.
The advance publicity campaign did little to set our hearts alight, with Lucien marketing itself on little more than a picture of a grinning blonde model and a rather shameless similarity to a certain international pub chain (look at the name again).
There really is little point in even pretending Lucien isn’t derivative of a well-known Dubai hops hole – even the menus are presented in the same large laminated slabs and Roman fonts – but in this case, we’ll take imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.
With exposed brickwork, framed retro Euro tourism posters and hastily scrawled blackboards, Lucien is similar in so many ways to the pub chain which shares an acronym with the British Broadcasting Corporation. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, and even charming, in its own right.
Divided by transparent, Victorian-style window panes, the venue is tastefully split into three areas; smokers, non-smokers and non-smoking diners. Thankfully the selection of hops is nearly as extensive as you’d hope for all this Euro-hype, and not unreasonably priced (from Dhs35). We’d recommend sticking to them, because the mixed drinks we tried failed to impress.
But despite everything that should feel fake or imitative about this place, with a healthy mid-week crowd, friendly staff, daily acoustic live music and (of course) the wide selection of hops it markets itself on, Lucien feels some way towards genuine. And as a pleasant, modern but relaxed watering hole in Old Dubai, it represents a relative novelty for the area, and a more than welcome addition to Bur Dubai’s nightlife options. So, afscheid Old Vic, and welkom Lucien!