Dubai's top homegrown haunts
Dubai’s eating and drinking scene is unrecognisable from what it was ten years ago. Over the past decade, the city has seen a huge influx of globally acclaimed international brands, but every bit as much development of home-grown restaurants and bars from local entrepreneurs.
Competition is now fantastically fierce.
It’s an incredibly exciting time to be hungry in the city. Bur Dubai’s iconic curry corridor route is no longer the fairly sole example of an organically occurring food destination. Newer neighbourhoods such as Jumeirah Lakes Towers now represent an equally fantastic place to eat your way through brilliant independent restaurants and cafés.
And after a wave of enthusiasm for high-end, fine dining restaurants in the city, triple-ironed tablecloths and all, a period of maturing has seen demand shift to more casual experiences. Industrial-chic now has a solid grip on the interiors of many of Dubai’s coolest haunts, while gourmet fast food and sustainable ingredients are all having an extended moment.
With hundreds of new outlets opening every year (427 in the first four months of 2019 alone), Dubai’s eating and drinking circuit is certain to continue evolving at lightning speed, with venues moving swiftly in and out of favour, closures giving way to determined new arrivals.
The future looks mouth-watering. But if you want a taste of the sensational home-grown scene, look no further than these, for starters.
This trendy, brightly coloured bar replaced Dubai’s longstanding The Music Room when it closed in 2017, but continued the venue’s commitment to entertainment and lively nights out. Since the space shifted its focus to Indian food and drink, performances and DJs, it’s never been a more buzzing place to be. Head down late on a Thursday and be prepared to elbow your way to the bar.
Where: Majestic City Retreat Hotel, Bur Dubai
Contact: +971 4 526 9199
BARBARY Deli + Cocktail Club
Part industrial warehouse, part art deco speakeasy, this mixed drink bar and restaurant attracts a diverse crowd every night of the week. Expect DJs playing everything from disco to Latin, elaborate mixology, and a hot dog that people can’t seem to stop talking about. We’re bigger fans of the crispy cauliflower.
Where: TRYP by Wyndham, Barsha Heights
Contact: +971 4 247 6688
This hugely popular Filipino bar and club is rarely far from packed, but still finds itself outside the mainstream. Entertainment is class, with an ever-changing roster of the venue’s house bands and dance troupes taking the stage every night to belt out chart hits and classic ballads from around the world. Friday nights see the 700-capacity space hit peak, with good vibes all round.
Where: Park Regis Kris Kin, opposite BurJuman, Bur Dubai
Contact: +971 4 377 1213
Some think it’s an urban legend, but this Korean karaoke restaurant and bar is one of the city’s best hidden haunts. Grab one of eight private karaoke booths and be prepared to empty your pockets as you empty your lungs. A quirky night out awaits.
Where: Byblos Hotel Dubai, Barsha Heights
Contact: +971 4 432 7966
Lock, Stock & Barrel
If there were a ‘most likely to export’ watch list, we’d put this on it. This industrial bar (of which there are now two) is part American dive bar, part Shoreditch hipster haunt, with a massive dollop of live music, sumo wrestling-packed brunches and a daily two-for-one happy hour. While the second branch in JBR has become Dubai’s biggest party bar, head to the original for a smaller-scale vibe.
Where: Grand Millennium Dubai, Barsha Heights
Contact: +971 4 526 9086
One of the city’s smallest pubs, and all the better for it. Squash yourself into an armchair next to the fireplace and tuck into a cheese toastie, or keep an eye on the website for details of the next performance from Trad, an Irish folk music jam that typically takes place once a month. Fibbers has long been popular with the city’s jockey crowd (and horse racing fans), and, well, pretty much anyone with a penchant for proper Irish pubs.
Where: Behind Saeed Tower One, Sheikh Zayed Road
Contact: +971 4 332 2400
Despite being a relatively new bar, it has the look and feel of a Bur Dubai haunt far more well-lived-in. There’s a buzzing atmosphere, street access, great value drinks and snacks, and if you’re on a stroll around the historic Al Fahidi neighbourhood or exploring Dubai Museum, it’s less than a five-minute walk away. A great place to rehydrate and refuel in the older quarters of the city.
Where: Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, Bur Dubai
Contact: +971 4 526 0803
Decked out in all manner of knick-knacks, tongue-in-cheek neon slogans and even an original tuk-tuk from Thailand, this bar and restaurant does a surprisingly good impression of a backpacker’s night out in Bangkok. It’s kitsch, it’s clichéd, but post-brunch, it’s never far from a full house. Hops are served in cans, other beverages by the bucket, or you can take them down with a game of pong…
Where: Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City
Contact: +971 4 420 7489
Q’s Bar & Lounge
Quincy Jones’ first-ever bar? It would be rude not to. This place has superb sound engineering, an ever-changing line-up of acts performing three-month residencies (handpicked by QJ himself), and the feeling of a true, world-class jazz club. Visit in summer and you may find the minimum spend is waived, while throughout the rest of the year it can be upwards of AED200 per head. But it’s worth it. With its low ceilings, cosy seating and (warning) audience participation, this place is the real deal for fans of jazz and soul.
Where: Palazzo Versace Dubai, Al Jaddaf
Contact: +971 4 556 8865