If there is anything we’ve learned from years of writing Time Out Abu Dhabi, it is the importance of wearing the right trousers. Wear ripped jeans to a society ball and you stand out like a roast turkey on a brunch’s dessert table.
It’s the same if you wear tuxedo pants for a dessert hike or sequinned Bermuda shorts to a job interview. It just isn’t right.
And so it is with a venue, too. Different places fit different moods, intentions and friend groups. The nightclub, sports bar, beach terrace and pub all serve a purpose. But, sometimes, you need a quiet location with comforting chairs and mellow music to enjoy a sedate night and hushed conversation with friends. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the grape bar.
1. Crystal Lounge
Despite a slight lobby feel, this St. Regis lounge has garnered a reputation for two distinct aspects: sophisticated afternoon teas and, at night, serving vintage bubbly. It is not uncommon to see suited and booted types sipping from a tall-stemmed glass and gazing up at the elegant chandelier of blown glass art. And it is their absolute right to do so.
Bar 11am-midnight. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Towers, Corniche Road West (02 694 4444).
2. Havana Club
Grape drinks are not, necessarily, a speciality at the gentlemen’s club-style Cuban bar in the luxury Emirates Palace hotel. But, along with the comfortable low leather chairs and whiff of hand-rolled cigar smoke, is one of the most expansive drink menus in the city. It contains plenty of bubbly mixed drinks and bottles and glasses from around the world.
Daily 5pm-2am. Emirates Palace, Corniche West (02 690 7999).
3. Jazz’N Fizz Bar
It is the fizzy stuff that makes it into the name of this lounge, but the variety makes it one of the most interesting for grape enthusiasts. Vintages from Lebanon, Chile, Austria, America and plenty of French drinks are here along with, no surprises, a tinkling jazz soundtrack. It kind of does what it says on the tin.
Daily 5pm-3am. Sofitel Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road East (02 813 7800).
4. La Cava
The most complete grape-focussed bar in the city has hundreds of varieties from all around the world. Whether you are looking to sample new wines from India and Germany, classic grape-producing favourites or, spend several month’s salary on a single bottle, this is the place it can be done. Designed to resemble a boutique cellar it has wall-to-wall cabinets and sommeliers are on hand.There’s a reason it holds our Best Grape Bar award.
Mon-Fri 5pm-1am. Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 813 5550).
5. Latitude 24
PJ O’Reilly’s, in the same hotel, attracts the nightlife crowds leaving this quiet lounge to offer an entirely different ambience. A range of bottled grape is available and you’re unlikely to be bothered by any noise.
Daily 7pm-11.30pm. Le Royal Méridien, Khalifa Street (02 674 2020).
6. Ray’s Bar
The wow factor at this premium lounge pops with all the subtlety of a cork flying with a bang from a bottle of premium bubbly. Up on the 62nd floor it has the best view of any nightspot in the Emirate. Not to mention a selection of grape beverages from around the world. Stunning.
Daily 5pm-3am. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 304 8048).
7. The Lounge
In Abu Dhabi’s competitive nightlife scene it would be possible to overlook the understated charms of this Hyatt Capital Gate spot. Were it not, that is, for its frequent cheese and grape nights, which see it pairing drinks with around 20 types of artisanal cheese. Mmmmmmm, 20 types of artisanal cheese.
Daily 7pm-1am. Hyatt Capital Gate, Embassies District (02 596 1430).
8. The Park Bar
Floor-to-ceiling displays showing off grape displays at this upscale, down tempo lounge. The mellow pace of the shotel is typified by the relaxing drinkers, many of whom use it as a pre- or post-dinner spot.
Daily 5pm-2am. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1234).
If you’re in the neighbourhood and not looking to head to more picturesque parts of the city, be reassured you will find grape from all corners of the world here.
Daily noon-3am. Ramada Abu Dhabi Downtown, Salam Street (056 201 8520).
10. Zsa Zsa
Why wouldn’t there be a lounge in an Abu Dhabi hotel in honour of a Hungarian actress born more than a hundred years ago? It makes perfect sense. It’s the sort of place where you get olives and spiced walnuts with a drink and it has a list of drinks based or named after the star. Also, we’re dreaming of the day when we hear a certain French electronic musician played in the bar and we can tweet “Listening to Jean Michelle Jarre and drinking jars of Zsa Zsas in Zsa Zsa bar”.
Mon-Wed 5pm-1am; Thu-Sat 4pm-1am. Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 333 2222).