Wondering where to stay in Dubai? Where to eat and hang-out at night? Well, wonder no more. Here are my faves in all three categories:
Sass Café. In 2014, this sassy (pun intended) Monaco-restaurant opened up in Dubai’s financial district to rave reviews. I loved the red, plush interior, mellow piano music, divine food (the burrata is delicious – and try the chocolate cigars for dessert) and drinks to die for. The skilled bartenders have a trick: they ask you which spirits you don’t like, then take on the challenge of creating a drink with just that spirit that you’ll love.
Signature drink here is a Sass Royal: Laurent-Perrier Champagne and 24 carat gold! Turns out you can drink gold (although Moctezuma might disagree). At 200 dirham (EUR 48/USD 51), the drink is not cheap, but for a one-time experience…
qBara is another newbie on Dubai’s restaurant/lounge scene, near Wafi City (you know, the mall with the museum entrance.) We went on an impulse on a Thursday night and were lucky to get a table for our rather large group of nine people. Spectacular interior here as well: ancient Middle East meets the hypermodern, and it really works. The atmosphere is lively; we sat next to a round table full of Emiratis in dishdashas clearly enjoying their dinner and conversation. As for food, we tried the qBara Experience, an enormous sampling menu. Here you’ll taste all sorts of weird and wonderful dishes, including (but certainly not limited to) crispy raw vegetables with labneh, sea bream, lobster kibbeh (all delicious), and roasted bone marrow (which I didn’t like that much, but then I’m not very fond of meat). Loved the creative petit fours for afters.
Friday Brunch is a Dubai institution. Now, brunch doesn’t mean eggs and pancakes here. It’s really more lunch. Sadly, I wasn’t in town on a Friday (note to self for next time), but we tried lunch at the Palm Grill at the Ritz-Carlton on the lively JBR Walk. If brunch is anything like our lunch, I’ll highly recommend it. Friday Brunch here lasts from 12.30 to 3.30pm, and you will probably need the entire three hours, as a Dubai brunch is a lovely, lazy meal. You can always take a break to swim or play in the waves – or even ride a camel along the beach.
I don’t write much about bars and nightlife here on Sophie’s World. I usually travel on my own or with my daughters; neither situation lends itself to vigorous bar hopping. In fact, I (with or without kids) often go to the cinema at night, catching up on films I never seem to find time for at home.
This time in Dubai I was with a group of bloggers and we were all keen to see what Dubai had to offer on the nightlife front. And so, on an impulse, at 1.15 am on a week day, we popped into Buddha Bar in Dubai Marina. I liked the decor: red and gold, with huge bay windows and fab, flamboyant chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, and there’s a giant Buddha, of course. Cool music and a nice vibe. Buddha Bar serves food as well, but we only tried the drinks. The signature tipple is a KamaSutra, a coconutty, sugary concoction – sexy name, but a wee bit too sweet a drink for my taste.
Sass Café transitions into a club/lounge in the after-hours, so if you’re at the dinner table long enough, (or even brunch table; their brunch is on Saturdays), you’ll find yourself at a club, with smooth, jazzy tunes and irresistible rhythms. People get up and dance in front of the bar and beside their table. The music never becomes so loud you can’t carry on a conversation. Don’t know about you, but I like to dance and talk.
We stayed at JA Oasis Beach Tower on Jumeirah Beach/JBR Walk. This is an excellent option for a large family or a group of friends. Three of us shared a spacious apartment (240 sq. metres) with a large, airy sitting room and balcony with ocean views, a dining room, a fully equipped kitchen and three en suite bedrooms. It even came with a semi-stocked refrigerator, enough for a quick breakfast or midnight snack; very convenient for late arrivals/first breakfast.
The price for this apartment is 1950 dirham and up (EUR 468/USD 531), which isn’t bad at all, considering it accommodates six people very comfortably. The breakfast buffet offers just about anything you could possibly want: Arabic and Western dishes, and a huge variety of healthy, yummy options. I had the chef make me a particularly delicious cheese/pepper omelet every morning.
If you’re ready to splurge, the Executive Suite at the Ritz-Carlton cost 60 000 dirham per night, is super-elegant and comes with all kinds of extras, like dinner being served in your own dining room by your own waiter, or a masseur popping in to give you a massage in your very own gorgeous marble spa bath room. If you can’t – or won’t – spend that much on accoms, a double room cost from 1600 dirham and is more than plush enough. What I especially like about the Ritz-Carlton here in Dubai is that it isn’t a skyscraper, but rather a long, low, elegant building, with an old-world 1920s-type feel.
Finally, if you want to stay in the historic part of Dubai, we’ve stayed at Arabian Courtyard on earlier visits. This hotel is across the street from Al Bastakiya, Dubai Museum, the souks and Dubai Creek. In Al Bastakiyah, there are also little B&Bs in wind towers.
So, there you have it. Now hop on the first plane and go.