Inspired by the launch of a new celebrity rock café and new live music nights, Penelope Walsh tracks down 30 eateries offering aural pleasure in the coming months.
Dubai loves a celebrity-backed restaurant, but how about a rock star-backed café? Classic Rock Coffee UAE has just opened in collaboration with Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal. And September sees new live music nights coming soon to Bushman’s, Frankie’s Italian Bar & Grill and caféM, as well as at Café Belge and Pai Thai in October. With this new and improved soundtrack to dining out in Dubai, we find out where else you can eat along to more melodious sounds than the scraping of your knife and fork.
Acoustic music covers a broad spectrum, but if this is your scene, then September spells the beginning of two new acoustic music nights. The first, starting from Monday September 1 is the brand new ‘unplugged and unlimited’ night at caféM (Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City, 04 427 1000). It will offer live music from a solo guitarist in addition to an unlimited beverage package and choices from the main course menu for Dhs165 per person. Also starting this month at new Australian restaurant Bushman’s (Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, 04 567 8304), (starting from Saturday September 20, Mon-Sat) is a series of acoustic performances from Australian act Josh McCartney. Josh has worked with the likes of Gene Simmons (of Kiss fame) and will play classic covers. For Dubai’s old favourites for live music, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Irish pub stalwarts The Irish Village (Garhoud, 04 282 4750) and McGettigan’s (Jumeirah Lakes Towers, 04 356 0560), which both have regular live acts.
There’s plenty of Arabic entertainment to enjoy at Dubai’s restaurants. Head to Al Basha (Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina, 04 408 4198) for the full gamut, that includes belly dancing, as well as Arabic singing, accompanied by a pianist and drums, taking place Monday to Saturday each week. Or, if you dine at Lebanese restaurant Nay (DIFC, 04 351 6660), a new musical repertoire has been introduced
with two Arabic singers, who (between them) serenade diners in a multilingual mix of Arabic, English and French. Not very Lebanese, but Nay also has Latin dancers performing on Thursday and Friday nights, although the dancers perform a ‘modern take on belly dancing’ on alternate weeks.
Diners are spoilt for choice when it comes to dinner-with-a-show cabaret concepts in Dubai. For swanky theatre surroundings, a fine-dining meal of Peruvian plates and live performances, head to The Act Dubai (Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road 04 355 1116). The current season of shows is entitled ‘Showtime’ and inspired by the backstage shenanigans and details that go in to bringing a theatre production to fruition. For entertainment, singers, musicians and more, brought in to Dubai from around the Arab world, choose Beirut-born concept MusicHall (Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumierah, 056 270 8670). Russian restaurant Tchaikovsky (Marina Byblos Hotel, 04 448 8222) and (on Fridays nights) Korean restaurant Pyongyang Okryugwan (Deira, 04 298 1589) both offer fairly eccentric entertainment along with your dinner. Finally, if a night at The Act Dubai has inspired a visit to Las Vegas (where the original venue can be found), look no further than Dubai’s Boracay (Asiana Hotel, Deira, 04 608 2056), where Thursday nights are taken over by a Las Vegas inspired cabaret show, along with a buffet of Filipino cooking for Dhs99.
If you’d like a little music and menu matching, then Indian is possible the best option in Dubai, with plenty of Indian restaurants also offering regular live musical performances. At Ananta (The Oberoi, Business Bay, 04 444 1444), a sitar player gently strums in the background on most nights of the week, providing a perfect ambience to your dinner. At Antique Bazaar (Four Points by Sheraton, Bur Dubai, 04 397 7444) theatrical entertainment is key to the dining experience, with sitar players and singers performing on a central stage every evening, as diners enjoy the spectacle. At Gharana (Holiday Inn, Al Barsha, 04 323 4333) there is a resident Indian band that performs nightly between Monday and Saturday. While Sunday is the band’s night off, diners can still enjoy music since it’s karaoke night. Finally, dinner at Indian restaurant Handi (Taj Palace, Deira, 04 223 2222) is enlivened with live music by an excellent duo, playing Indian classical music.
Arguably, jazz is the easiest live music style to track down over a meal in Dubai, with live performances taking place in many venues. There’s Jazz@PizzaExpress (JLT, 04 441 6342) for one, where regular live music is performed alongside a menu choice of pizza and pasta at this Italian-inspired chain. At The Ivy (Jumeirah Emirates Towers Boulevard, 04 319 8767), guests can listen to jazz performed in the evenings on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, in a rather suitable setting for this style of music too. The Ivy’s jazz takes place during the Friday brunch too, and for more brunches with jazz you can try Imperium (Jumeirah Zabeel Saray,
04 453 0444) on a Saturday for the New Orleans inspired event. More Louisiana style jazz takes place at Cravin’ Cajun (Novotel Al Barsha, 04 304 9000) with a trio performing every evening and at Friday brunch.
After all that jazz (sorry, we had to), if you’d like to try something different, we recommend ‘gypsy jazz’, a jolty and exciting Parisian variety made famous by Django Reinhardt. At new French grape bar Tolosa Bodega (Souk Al Bahar, 04 453 9220), alternate Mondays are ‘lundi manoushe’ (gypsy Mondays), with this genre played all evening by a guitarist and double bass player. The next confirmed dates are Monday September 8 and 22.
Highly commended as a newcomer at Time Out Dubai’s restaurant awards, Izel (Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, 04 444 7111) is an unbeatable venue for live Latin music. There is a huge central stage and plenty of space to dance. Bands are brought in from Latin America to perform for a period of residency, and the standard tends to be very high. At Café Habana (Souk Al Bahar, 04 422 2620) you’ll find vocalist and guitarist Redouane Elbergui performing every Sunday. And, despite being a Polynesian-themed haunt, Trader Vic’s has two resident Cuban bands, who rotate between the Souk Madinat and Festival City branches.
If you’re a rocker, try out brand new Classic Rock Coffee UAE (Oud Metha, 050 656 0113), a café concept launched by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal. With rock-themed decor and a juke box of classic rock, it is aimed at providing an unlicensed environment in which Dubai rock fans can listen to this style of music. And finally, there’s Hard Rock Café (Dubai Festival City, 04 232 8900), where even the staff have been known to sing and dance.
More live music to try
Burj Al Arab
This ‘seven-star’ hotel is a hub of luxury, but also a hub of live music. The programme for diners includes jazz band trio RBQ, playing in Skyview Bar and Al Muntaha, as well as pianist Olena Hutbulya. Inside afternoon tea spot Sahn Eddar there are also daily performances as diverse as an Arabic band, a solo harpist and a classical quartet.
Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600).
Frankie’s Italian Bar & Grill
Owned by miniature Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, guests at this restaurant will have a soundtrack of live music in the evenings, starting from September. The entertainment is provided by duo Kevin and Donovan, who perform a mix of soul, R&B, and ‘old school’ classics.
JA Oasis Beach Tower, The Walk, JBR, Dubai Marina (04 399 4311).
This popular Italian restaurant and bar has a British duo entertaining guests on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The pair play contemporary hits, commercial pop and take requests from the crowd. Currently playing inside the restaurant, once the weather cools down, the music will be moving on to the outdoor terrace.
Amwaj Rotana Hotel, The Walk, JBR, Dubai Marina (04 428 2000).