International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
As much as Dubai has been attracting record numbers of tourists – more than nine million in 2012 – it’s also becoming the sought after entry point for luxurious bar, restaurant and nightlife brands eager to get a high-heel-hold into the lucrative Middle Eastern market. And in a city where the streets might not quite be paved with gold (but plenty of houses and cars are pretty close) the city is awash with new openings keen to attract the international jet set.
London’s Mahiki cocktail bar and Hakkasan restaurant opened last year, while 2013 has already welcomed Marco Pierre White’s seafood fine dining concept Wheeler’s and Beirut’s infamous Musichall, which is part theatre hall, part nightclub. And the latest star to walk up Dubai’s red carpet is Ibizian powerhouse Café Del Mar, the legendary beach bar/music label that invented chill out music and the sunset session. But before you get too excited, there is no pole dancing, itsy bitsy thong bikinis or gyrating on the sand. Dubai is a Muslim city and the dance brand, housed at the new upmarket beach club Meydan Beach at Jumeriah Beach Residence, is rather more restrained than the original.
Currently in its soft launch phase, the wooden-decked dance area on the sand is cordoned off from the regular beach, while the zebra print low slung sofas and armchairs in the bar are comfortable and elegant. Dubai does nothing better than cater to VIPs (it’s even now home to Monaco’s favourite nightclub, the VIP Room), and this is one city that likes to see and be seen, preferably in high-heeled Christian Louboutins.
Formally opening on 8 March, with a mix of international and local house DJs and a focus on attracting the sundowner cocktail crowd, it will remain to be seen whether Café Del Mar can make it work in a city where it’s expected to turn off the music at 11:30 pm.
Although the bar is on the beach, visitors should dress up rather than down. Entry is free, although some special events might have a cover charge.
Georgina Wilson-Powell is the Dubai Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes the hotel review blog sogoodtogetoutofthecity.wordpress.com.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Dubai as a country. This has been corrected.