Left Bank, Souk al Bahar
Don’t walk into Dubai’s latest Left Bank addition expecting the rowdy, pub-club ambiance of its Madinat counterpart. Instead, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the little slice of chic inside, located in an empty shopping mall. With its moody lighting and music, squishy leather banquettes and impressive drinks list, the place is like a beaming light in the rocky seas of Dubai’s cocktail bar scene. It may be a struggle to find enough seating for a big gang on weekends – the place is usually busy, already – but once settled, it has a pleasantly intimate vibe. The staff is friendly and efficient – though perhaps not numerous enough to deal with the masses – and there’s a veritable rainbow of bottles behind the bar. We predict it will become a permanently popular fixture in the Downtown Burj Dubai locale - once Downtown is finished, that is.
Trader Vics Mai Thai Lounge
This relatively new Tiki bar, located on the first floor of the Al Fattan Oasis Beach Towers, is bigger and brighter than its siblings, but there’s still nothing authentic about it in the slightest. Still, the great tasting – and super strength - cocktails pull in a raucous JBR crowd every weekend. The signature Mai Tai, invented by Victor Bergeron (the brains behind the Tiki bar chain) rather impressed us, as did the rum rich Samoan Fog Cutter, while the excellent Cuban band performing sassy sounds rocked our salsa socks off. Arguably, the only downside is the prices. See how high that ceiling is? Chances are you’ll be presented with a bill to match.
Finally putting the manmade islands on the nightlife map, Bidi Bondi has proved a hit with the sunkissed surfy set during its first few months of opening. The bar looks out onto a sun-dappled terrace that in turn gives way to a pool, landscaped gardens and a beach. However, more of a sundowner spot than one for all-night partying, should you visit later in the evening you may feel a little lonely. But you could always just focus on the fabulous food. Run by the same company that launched Après and Left Bank, it hasn’t suffered the same teething problems that many start-ups face. In fact, our only real reservation is that a Friday afternoon visit can induce a severe dose of lifestyle envy.
You’ve no doubt heard wonderful things about Zuma, the new restaurant in The Gate. In fact, you probably heard them from us. But we think Zuma, the bar has a lot going for it as well. Located above the 300-seat dining area, the drinking lounge screams the same exclusivity as downstairs, with its brass tones, modernist design and chilled out trance leaking from the speakers. Evidently a hot spot for DIFC’s suited and booted, the refreshingly down-to-earth staff also make room for the intrepid drinker from elsewhere who fancies a taste of the super hip.
Neos, Sky Lounge
Once inside this new 63rd-floor bar off Sheikh Zayed Road, it’s the views that grab you by the eyes and drag you towards the glass. From the back you can spy The Dubai Mall, and soon the super jets of its 270m-high water fountain. From the front, you see dozens of projects in progress – an Etch-A-Sketch waiting to be filled in. In contrast, the decor inside harks back to another era, with pouting Art Deco paintings and wait staff in bow ties or slinky full-length satin. Although the menu prices may make you wheeze (the Dhs100 cover charges on Thursday and Fridays don’t help either), fortunately the food and drink that arrives is faultlessly five-star. ‘Neos’ scores no points for warmth or value – but is the ultimate place to watch Dubai bloom below.
Just Missed Out:
With its superb selection of Champagne and cocktails, 26-storey view of the Creek and gracious service, perhaps Eclipse will overshadow the rest next year…
This relatively refined enclave in the Atlantis wins points for absurdity – it boasts a shell-plated bar, grand piano (white, naturally) and so many ‘80s cocktails you’re ready for Tom Cruise to jump from behind one of the banquettes. And maybe, over New Year’s, he did.
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.