Best Al Fresco

Everyone likes a tipple in the sun, over the cooler months. Here are the top spots.


It was a tight contest, but Barasti came up trumps in the finals. You can’t say the venue hasn’t put the years in to earn the accolade – starting out as nothing but a shack on Mina Seyahi’s beach 13 long years ago, its popularity has never wavered. And since its extensive 2006 revamp, when the wood-decked, sun-drenched bar almost doubled in size, it’s become by far the busiest spot in town. Though this may put off some punters (though it can’t be many), we like to think the crowd reflects the different strands of Dubai’s expat population: while the old timers tend to frequent the more relaxed ground floor and shuffle along to live classics from the in-house band, newer arrivals are more likely to head downstairs for the trendy white decor, DJ, dancefloor and, obviously, the beach (while the hungry march straight to the first floor for their superb bar food). All, however, can get away with choosing to dress up or don flip flops – Barasti has room for all (even Fatboy Slim on February 11).


There can’t be many bars in the world like 360°. Set at the end of its very own pier, the heli-pad shaped outdoor space boasts panoramic views of Dubai’s coastline, the Burj al Arab’s light show and vivid sunsets over the Arabian Ocean. During the week, it’s all about the shisha, comfy seats and laidback tunes. Come Friday night, however, and it’s transformed into a hedonistic, electronic playground with local and international talent. The superbly showy crowd arrives in two waves: the first at 5pm for sundowners, followed by the after-8pms, who come and don’t leave until they’re forced out at 2am. A must for tourists and residents alike – just be sure to get your name on the guestlist at the weekends, and remember to pack a fat wallet.

Location is every-thing at QD’s,. The passable bar food rarely raises itself above run-of-the-mill, the service can be inattentive, and the resident DJ has been known to play The Lighthouse Family. Several times. But the bar’s evocative setting on the banks of the Creek always overrides any nagging concerns. The best time to visit is on weekend nights, when the large, predominantly Arabic, crowd socialise through wafts of shisha into the small hours. QD’s closes in the summer months, when the idea of drinking al fresco is rarely harboured, even in the most addled mind. However, when the weather is kinder, you’ll struggle to find a more spectacular setting in the city.

Sho Cho
With a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Gulf, and Manga movies projected onto the fish tank-studded walls, the longstanding Sho Cho has managed to never let go of its status as a super-hip Japanese-themed bar. Sophisticated, classy and dead trendy, this is where the ‘beautiful’ people (at least in their opinion) go to play, pose and look pretty. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying they do what they do extremely well. One word of warning: Tuesday, Sunday and the weekend nights are rammed, so phone ahead for reservations or arrive as a couple – the door policy is notoriously anti-single men.

Irish Village
While there might be a billion other Irish hooch houses between Dubai, Delhi and Derby, how many of them have a duck pond right by the tables? Exactly. It’s this attractive setting coupled with decent drinks, consistent food and live music that makes this one of the city’s longest serving and popular haunts. The occasionally brusque service is admittedly not to everyone’s tastes, but we like to think the bar staff are refreshingly honest, and they do know how to pour a pint – which is a distressingly rare trait in Dubai. So hats off to the IV and may it outlive us all. Slàinte!

Like everything at Atlantis, Sanctuary is big, bold and completely over the top. With an outside area, separate lounge bar, private booths and - on the opening night at least – pole dancers, the new superclub has thrown the gauntlet down to every other club in town. Can their music policy match the grandiose surroundings? Watch this space to find out.

Tamanya Terrace
Located at the heart of Dubai Media City, the open-air eighth-floor Tamanya Terrace is a hive of activity every night of the week during the cool weather, thanks to the media types who talk shop over shisha. There’s also a good range of live music, with regular performances from local and visiting jazz, house, soul and hip hop acts. Drinks are standard in both price and variety, as is the rather expensive bar snacks menu – but it’s the rooftop venue you go for, and the feeling that you’ve discovered your own chic little hideaway treasure, right in the middle of a half-built crop of skyscrapers.

Just Missed Out:

The Terrace
As cool as the shimmering raw bar inside, the at harbour-facing outside deck at The Terrace is – if the weather’s right - a little slice of paradise in Deira.

Rooftop at the One&Only
A tranquil spot for couples serving up varied cocktails and chilled beats. It’s just a shame you can’t make more of the view.

See the winners of the indoor category click here
See the winners of the pubs category click here
See the winners of the nightclubs category click here
See the winners of the venue category click here

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