City Guide: Dubai
Splash image by Brandon Price
Dubai has long been seen as a crown jewel in the Middle East, synonymous with opulence and pageantry due to its over-the-top urban marvels and attractions. And while many will flock to Dubai for a taste of decadence, few know the ultramodern city quite like entertainment impresario, Sebastian Clarke. He’s produced, managed and collaborated with some of the world’s leading luxury hospitality brands in Dubai, plus been responsible for conceiving dynamic new concepts in emerging Middle East markets. As recommended by him, here are the places that you should check while in town.
EXPERIENCE: The Act
I’m biased because of my role [as producer] here, but The Act has to be seen to be believed. I’d be saying that even if I wasn’t involved. We’re a 10,000 square foot theatre on the 42nd floor of the Shangri-La, and the highest venue of its kind in the world. Our Victorian playhouse blends everything from vaudeville and cabaret to hip-hop themed evenings and big DJ bookings. NYC nightlife king Simon Hammerstein dreamed this concept up and it always makes an impression.
EAT / DRINK: Catch
Catch has quickly become my go-to. It doesn’t matter if it’s catching up with friends or talking shop with my partners and performers. Name aside, Catch doesn’t just do seafood either. I usually split the wagyu beef with whoever will share. It’ll burn a hole in your wallet, but welcome to Dubai. There’s some high level mixology going on in the lounge as well. They have a “Concoctions & Libations” list that I think is one of Dubai’s most creative handcrafted cocktail line-ups.
SOMETHING CASUAL: Burger & Lobster
It opened earlier this year in the DIFC, which is our financial centre. The line-ups have finally quieted down a bit so I can get here more often. They’ve only got two things on the menu at Burger & Lobster — you can probably guess what they are. My opinion is that they do both flawlessly however. The cost is reasonable too, even for Dubai. I like how the lobster comes with a set price, so it never fluctuates because of the market. Insider tip: don’t ask if they will combine the starring ingredients. Not happening. I learned the hard way on my first visit!
BE SEEN: Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE
I used to work in Ibiza and coming to Blue Marlin is always like taking a trip back to the island. It’s a beach club by day and open-air music venue by night. They really nail the Balearic aesthetic: there’s an artificial beach, turquoise waters, white canopies, Mediterranean cuisine, natural teak wood throughout and more. This may be where Dubai’s VIP clientele hang out. The vibe is surprisingly authentic and laidback, which I need!
The original in New York’s Meatpacking District may be the famous one, but I’m convinced we have the best Bagatelle here in Dubai. The ambience is reminiscent of a Provençal brasserie and, like the other locations, the focus is on French classics. I come for the dessert. They’ve got this over-the-top signature sundae that runs 275 AED (approx. $100 CAD) and it’s bigger than your head!
STAY: Fairmont Dubai
We’re in Dubai, so you won’t find much in the way of standout boutique hotels or anything. It’s pretty much the big chains only. I love Fairmont because it’s a perfect place to mix business with pleasure — especially the latter. The Hammam spa is amazing; it’s got adjacent outdoor pools for sunrise and sunset. Whenever I have a night off I also love to hit the rooftop lounge, Dokuz. It’s a Turkish grill where you can smoke shisha and chill out looking the Dubai skyline.