By Lindsay Trivers
April, 03 2018
Traditionally you can identify a wine bar
at twenty paces. Atmosphere? Check. Wooden surfaces and a cheese selection? Check and check. Lighting a quarter turn from pitch black? You got it. In Dubai
though, it can be hard to find a place that ticks all these boxes. However, if you’re willing to stretch the concept just a little, there are still places that have the feel of a classic wine bar – venues with cosy corners, an extensive wine list and a decent selection of bites, where you can hunker down for the night without needing to indulge in a high-end meal. So here are our top 10 picks for those looking for a great glass of wine in Dubai
– in alphabetical order.
- Barbary Deli & Cocktail Club – Barsha Heights: somehow successfully blending retro club, European lounge bar and comfort food, Barbary feels like it should be in the back streets of Melbourne or San Francisco, rather than Barsha Heights. However, with a reasonably priced wine list, extensive pork selection, Magnum Mondays and a raw bar that’s as tasty as it is photogenic, it also ticks some serious wine bar boxes.
- Bistro des Arts – Dubai Marina: true to concept, this cosy venue has the slightly retro vibe of a quintessential Parisian café and a staggering 27 wines by the glass to choose from, all displayed on a blackboard – primarily from France and broken down by region, plus a few interesting international options for good measure. It’s a great option for dinner with wine and a movie, as it’s just a short stroll away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai Marina Mall.
- Bleu Blanc – Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Business Bay: Bleu Blanc may feel like you’re dining in the most glamorous farmhouse in Provence, but there’s enough quiet corners and melt-into-the-couch cushions on the nearly hidden terrace overlooking Dubai Canal, as well as a wine bar to make it perfect for kicking back glass in hand. As you might expect, the wine by the glass options are primarily French, but the sommelier has also included a sprinkling of off-the-beaten-track and rarely seen varieties, including a Hungarian Tokaji dessert wine, as well as several well-priced bottles for under AED200.
- Boca – DIFC: as well as a great selection of very affordable wines and arguably one of the best priced glasses of Champagne in Dubai, Boca also has a mind-bending array of high-end offerings, plus an active calendar of wine events – so you can sit in on a wine lesson with The Tasting Class, or grab a seat at a winemaker’s dinner. You can also book the working wine cellar for events (photo above right), but be prepared for the sommelier, George, to pop in and out, as it’s not just for show.
- Chez Charles – Dubai Design District: Chez Charleshas created a haven not only for sophisticated diners, but also for the creative souls of D3 looking to unwind in a cultured bar or out on their cosy patio. The design throughout is of a modern airy French brasserie with high ceilings and natural light. However, the white linen-topped tables are restricted to the dining room only, whilst the bar and patio boast high-top seating and cosy couches. Reflecting the menu, the wine list is largely French. However, memorising what a wine should taste like from Reims to Marseille won’t be necessary in order to pick a familiar drop here, as the list is divided into helpful categories to help you choose, like ‘rich & complex’ reds, and ‘dry & aromatic’ whites. If you’re inclined to treat yourself to some fine Bordeaux, there are plenty of bottles for under AED1000!
- Couqley – JLT: with red brick walls, stained-glass windows and chequered napkins, Couqley conjures up a distinctly European feel. However, one of the most astonishing things about this French bistro and bar is the price. And we’re not talking the HOW MUCH moment Dubai all too often provokes, but how reasonable it is, with nine bottles for less than AED150, and a further 17 for under AED200. So if kicking back with friends without a seizure-inducing bill waiting at the end is what you’re after, then Couqley is certainly worth a visit.
- Folly – Souk Madinat Jumeirah: if it’s a sundowner you’re after, then look no further. Folly’s two private courtyards both offer amazing views of Madinat’s waterway, so you can watch the sun set behind the rooftops and the traditional abra boats sailing away. The wine by the glass list, meanwhile, is thoughtful and interesting with plenty of tipples you probably haven’t tried. Also, they serve an Instagram-worthy Prosecco cocktail with a strawberry popsicle. Just saying.Grapeskin – La Ville Hotel, City Walk: a wine bar in the truest sense of the word, this low-key spot lets you know where its heart really is – rugged wooden surfaces, rustic metal, and unfinished-on-purpose interiors, even emphasising the sizeable cheese and all-beef charcuterie on offer. To top things off, Grapeskin also uses the Coravin wine preservation system, ensuring the 50+ wines by the glass are all in perfect drinking condition. They even have two different sizes, so you can decide what ‘just one glass’ really means to you.
- Ruya – Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina: as well as some incredible Turkish food, this cosy restaurant-cum-lounge venue also has funky beats; warm, low lighting; and a terrace overlooking Dubai Marina – making it a great choice for a glass of wine. The well-rounded wine list has plenty of by the glass options, and even includes varietals from Lebanon and Turkey, making it one of the few places where you can get stuck into a decent exploration of wines from the Middle East. Ruya even has a selection of super-premium wines available by the glass for those looking to try something extra special.
- Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera – Downtown Dubai: it should come as no surprise that a venue with an oyster happy hour served at an impressive bar centrepiece also offers no less than 27 wines by the glass, including five sparkling options. Even better, the sommelier has taken the time to feature an array of smaller, less featured regions, including Yarra Valley and Martinborough. There’s also a lovely garden terrace where the roof has been sliced out to embrace an up-close view of Burj Khalifa.
Any other wine bars we may have missed?
Lindsay Trivers, the founder of The Tasting Class is on a mission to improve wine culture in the Middle East. Host a tasting at home with one of their private sommeliers, enrol in their certified Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses, join one of their public tastings, or meet the team on FooDiva’s Dine Around Dubai experiences.
First posted by: Foodiva
The Wines we tasted