Bar of the month: Ray's Bar, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
Ray’s makes the promise of an elevated bar experience…
We arrive at the arching columns of Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, just after dusk on an autumn Friday night. It’s been a long warm summer, but then again, aren’t they all? And despite the fact almost every joint in town with a terrace and a toothpick parasol, is now open, we’re here specifically to meet a consummate insider. With good reason.
As the sun’s last light lingers low on the horizon, we ride the elevator to the 62nd floor. The carriage slows to a stop, a tinny-Siri clone announces our arrival and the scuffle-board sounds of a lively night spot sluice throw the opening elevator doors. We’re here at Ray’s Bar a venue that, on first impressions, could have been quantum-teleported atom-by-atom from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. There’s a vein of polished urbanity running right through it, it’s civilised and sophisticated, but somewhere below the surface, there’s something altogether more edgy.
An element of that Big Apple buzz comes from the neon blue statement lighting and, in no small part, those other twinkling city lights in the virtiginous view beyond the yawning windowscape. As we scan the seating nooks, there’s an exciting mix of clientele — we could imagine big handshake deals being done here, sign-off for ‘the Johnson account’ — then, just a few tables along, a pair of newly signed imaginary rap hopefuls toast to their fictional success. It’s not pretentious, anything but, Ray’s passes all kinds of vibe checks it just doesn’t care about slowing down to get the result.
There is an apothecary of blended mixology on offer, whisked up by skilled bartenders with steady hands. We sample a pair of signature ensembles — aromatic, profiled, it is faultless alchemy.
It is, we remark to ourselves, the perfect place for a date night too — the ambient DJ-spun soundtrack fills the space, but whether sitting at the long sleek bar or one of the sofas, the volume permits deep courtship-brand conversations. And although the menu is a little limited, mainly nibbles with a few more substantial sandwiches, in this hotel you’re only ever a short stroll away from a catalogue of other A-List dining options.
We’re hungry though, so we share the shawarma, and it represents a solid enough rendition of the classic regional snacking staple. The fried potato accompaniment, weirdly, is the star — crunchy and salty on the outside, whispy and fluffy on the inside — done well, as these are, fries really are unbeatable barroom snacks.
Verdict: We love the network of alfresco haunts in the capital, but sometimes you yearn for more traditional nights. And Ray’s offers a Carrie Bradshaw, olives ‘n’ cocktail sticks variety of classy urban charm. It’s an important part of Abu Dhabi’s entertainment identity, and will always be one of our favourite inside jobs. Rating: A.
Level 62, Conrad Abu Dhabi, W Corniche Road, Tue to Sat 6pm to 1am. Tel: (02) 811 5666, @raysbarabudhabi