It's no mean feat to relocate London's most talked about nightspots to the desert, but it's become a growing trend in the UAE. Is it possible to recreate the glitz?
Mahiki brings something different to Dubai's club scene
It is no mean feat to relocate one of London's most talked-about nightspots to a city in the desert, but it is becoming a growing trend. In what is becoming a war of the nightspots, several have sprung up in recent weeks. Embassy, a supper club in London's plush Mayfair, a favourite with WAGS and celebrities alike, has opened its doors in Dubai's Grosvenor House hotel, while Movida, located in Argyll Street, near Oxford Circus, has opened up at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road.
But it is Mahiki that seems to have really got people talking. Famed for attracting London's rich and famous, the most exclusive set from the partying princes Harry and William to Rihanna, politicians to sports stars, it is a brave move to bring this "exclusive" nightspot to Dubai, a city without the old money of London or the number of A-list stars. Instead, it attracts a consumer market made up of affluent young people and a royal family more inclined to privacy than partying, happy to pay the minimum Dh3,000 for a table for the evening.
So is it possible to recreate the glitz and glamour and retain the exclusivity? Without the celebrity culture found in cities such as London, Los Angeles or even Lebanon, a club of this calibre is immediately lacking that "party with the rich and famous" quality. Paparazzi can be found camped outside Mahiki's Dover Street location, knowing that, without fail, they will spot someone, whether they be royalty or a D-List celebrity, usually falling out of the club surreptitiously in the early hours of the morning.
In 2009, it was even the chosen location for former prime minister Tony Blair's Christmas party, the politician splashing out £10,000 (Dh60,000) to entertain employees.
However, with its no-cameras policy, the club has retained a somewhat mysterious aura. This is what has made it so desirable. Queues for the club, at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, wind around the car park and even on Tuesdays, ladies' night, the place is filled to the rafters, while the popularity of many others has waned, and new nightclubs even struggle to break into the crowded midweek market.
While to some it is a far more pricey version of Trader Vic's, a Polynesian-themed restaurant and club, there is something different and quirky about the place.
The clientele is not quite the same as some of the other high-end clubs in town, such as Cavalli at the Fairmont or Crystal at Raffles. It is the ability to turn up to a club that charges high prices, yet still be wearing your jeans. For men, especially for those with an aversion to the obligatory dress codes the city demands, this is an absolute bonus. Its eclectic playlist is a big plus, thrashing out anything from Nirvana to Katy Perry. There are few clubs that could so seamlessly blend such a random array of tunes.
Star quality? Not so much. Something different, for sure.
London to Dubai
Cirque du Soir: The London version is a favourite of Usher, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio. Its opening in November last year saw stilt walkers, contortionists, drummers, burlesque dancers, sword swallowers and fire eaters and, since then, the circus acts have continued to feature. Celebrity guests in Cirque de Soir at the Dubai Fairmont have included the Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan and the Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe. The club is open from 10pm to 3am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Mo*vida Dubai: Mo*vida London has been the scene of many a raucous event, with celebrities literally falling out of the place. Dubai’s version prides itself on being European, with the resident DJ John C spinning the decks in the CIP room all the way from St Tropez. Located in the Radisson Royal hotel, it’s become the place to see and be seen.
Embassy: London’s Embassy Club – a favourite of royals – opened on the top three floors of the Grosvenor House hotel Tower Two in November, offering a restaurant, a nightclub and a VIP club. Stars flown in for the event included the former X Factor singer Katie Waissel, the England cricketer Kevin Pietersen and his wife, the former UK popstar Jessica, the UK soap actress Gemma Mema, the Dutch singer Eva Simons and The Only Way Is Essex stars Jessica Wright and Sam Faiers.* Hala Khalaf