Out with the old, in with the new…
It’s been a big year of shake-ups in Dubai’s dining scene.
Here, we say one final farewell to those who’ve been left behind, and salute a new legion of openings who opened their doors in 2018.
Opened: 1 OAK
American export 1 OAK was one of a string of nightclub openings that took place in the first half of the year. (Toy Room, Gotha and Drai’s also opened their doors). 1 OAK replaced VIP Room in the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai and has thus far welcomed live performances from stars including Fat Joe, ASAP Ferg and Tyga.
Closed: Mahiki (2011 – 2018)
Polynesian-themed party spot Mahiki arrived from London back in 2011, bringing with it a celebrity guestlist, giant treasure chest cocktails and a sell-out Tuesday ladies’ night. The people behind Mahiki have promised its return in 2019, but we’ve not heard much since.
Opened: House Party Bar
Drinks in red cups, pizza boxes and a playlist of ‘00s hits epitomises House Party Bar. Cleverly split into a series of rooms, there’s a garden complete with giant jenga, a ball pit in the play room and even a life-sized tub in the bathroom. Its simple, no-frills approach to a fun night out has made it one of the city’s most popular places to party this year.
Closed: Little Black Door (2016 – 2018)
Little Black Door, fondly known as LBD, married a speakeasy style vibe with excellent mixology in a way few bars in Dubai had managed to master. It always seemed to be consistently busy, so it was a big surprise when it suddenly shut down over the summer. There’s still no news about what will replace it.
Opened: The Hideout
Part gastropub part club, The Hideout is Dubai’s first gastroclub, and it has been a brilliant new addition to the Dubai Marina scene. Delivering a no-frills approach to partying, it offers up value daily evening brunches, a brilliant ladies’ night and serves up footy on the big screens with a value happy hour when the big games are on.
Closed: Axe House (2017 – 2018)
It was an abrupt end to the Axe House reign when the venue closed its doors suddenly in September. We’re still not entirely sure why the popular JLT hangout closed its doors, but it will sure be missed. In its place, The Hoxton has just opened its doors. We hope it fares better than Axe, and indeed Cocktail Kitchen, which held its place prior to that.
Opened: Akiba Dori
Taking inspiration from Tokyo’s neon-filled electronics district Akihabara, Akiba Dori, located in Dubai Design District, paved the way for a new wave of casual, cool restaurant concepts to successfully hold their own in Dubai. Its Tokyopolitan pizza is a must-try.
Closed: Novikov (2015 – 2018)
It was a big space to fill when Novikov Dubai debuted a 280-seater restaurant in the Sheraton Grand in 2015. Sadly, a tricky location and growing competition from hot new neighbouring restaurants resulted in the demise of Novikov.
Opened: Crab Market
When Vladmir Mukin, currently ranked number 23 on the World’s 50 Best Chefs list, opened his Middle Eastern debut restaurant Crab Market this year, it came with some high expectations. The seafood spot focuses on crab dishes (no surprises there), which it delivers to an exceptionally high standard.
Closed: Crazy Fish (2018 – 2018)
Al Fattan Currency House is one tricky tower. That is, if you’re trying to open a restaurant or bar. The DIFC spot has seen closures including Cle, R Trader, Sass Café and Jekyll & Hyde, all in the last two years, and its latest victim is Crazy Fish.
Opened: La Carnita
Cool street art emblazoned on the walls, neon lights and a menu of simple but inventive Mexican street food made La Carnita stand out before it even opened. So it was no surprise that when it did finally open at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina, it was rammed. Don’t leave without trying the churros (if you can get a reservation, that is).
Closed: Peyote (2017 – 2018)
Hailing from London’s upscale Mayfair, Peyote promised gourmet Mexican dishes served in a high-end setting when it took over the space formerly occupied by Wheeler’s in 2017. However, just over a year later, it closed its doors. A loss to Dubai dining scene, in our opinion.
This year, Hakkasan said goodbye to its home in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and headed for pastures new on The Palm. In September, it opened its doors at Atlantis, The Palm, and where it struggled for custom in DIFC, it’s far more popular here.
Closed: China Grill (2014 – 2018)
When China Grill closed its doors earlier this year, it took with it one of Dubai’s most popular ladies’ nights. It wasn’t too long before Asia De Cuba, the Chino Latino chain (previously in Abu Dhabi, although that closed this year, too) occupied the space. Only time will tell how the Dubai branch fares.
One of several licensed venues to open in La Mer was Babel. A fresh venture in the UAE from an award-winning restaurant chain, the split-level venue delivers progressive Lebanese dishes. Warning – if you leave without trying the lobster, then you’ve probably missed out on the best dish at Babel.
Closed: Zahira (2017 – 2018)
Despite us being pretty impressed with the Levant-inspired cuisine at Zahira, it seems the Dubai crowd weren’t, and the restaurant closed less than a year after opening. It was the second restaurant celebrity chef Greg Malouf had to close after his DIFC venue Cle shut two years ago.
A cosy, Indian street food spot, Mohalla is the latest in a string of new openings that have burst onto the dining scene at Dubai Design District. The Indian street food menu is extensive and features family recipes that have been passed down through generations.
Closed: Spice & Ice (2016 – 2018)
Popular Indian restaurant Spice & Ice closed its doors on January 1. When it opened in 2016, it was an instant hit with the JLT community and went on to offer some value dinner deals and brunch offers. Nara Pan Asian has since replaced it.
Opened: Soho Beach
Meydan has firmly established itself as the Dubai party district this year. Along with the arrivals of Soho Garden and Drai’s, Soho Beach exploded onto the scene this year. So far it’s brought some huge events to its festival space, and its new ladies’ day is enormously popular, too.
Closed: El Chiringuito (2016 – 2018)
It was arguably Dubai’s most Instagrammable beach club – covered in leafy foliage and decked out with dreamcatchers. But just like Eden Beach before it, El Chiringuito closed less than two years after opening, having struggled to draw party people to the end of The Palm.