x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Our guide to board gaming cafes in Dubai

Some of Dubai's cafes are adding more than coffee and snacks to the menu. Game nights, it seems, are becoming increasingly popular at outlets across the city.

Suma Kurubilla and Douglas Pereira play a game of Scrabble at Tea Junction, a cafe in Oud Metha. Lee Hoagland / The National
Suma Kurubilla and Douglas Pereira play a game of Scrabble at Tea Junction, a cafe in Oud Metha. Lee Hoagland / The National
The rolling of dice for that perfect six, hands rhythmically tapping a game clock at every word-score, the ruffling of fake money presented for bail and the jubilant thump at checkmate. The familiar sights and sounds of game night have been replaced by the guns-blazing, warrior-screaming rumpus triggered by a joystick-spinning generation. These cafes around town have stocked up the cupboard with board games for some PSP detox.
Tea Junction
The menu at this nifty kettle-shaped cafe smack at a junction in Oud Metha is obvious. What isn't is the array of board games that induce a tangible challenge and liven up this eatery and shisha hangout in the evenings. Make your way up to the second floor to slouch on beanbags and watch the ongoing football or cricket series with a tea-flavoured tobacco stuffed in your shisha. Or order a "cutting chai" reminiscent of the sweet, milky, brewed tea concoction from the streets of Mumbai and take your place for carom, a popular game in Asia where you strike discs into the four corner pockets of a board. On the ground, where the vintage furniture juxtaposes with a chic cafe vibe, wordsmiths test their wits and speed on Scrabble boards nestled in corners. A current addition to the mix is Jenga, a 52-wooden-block tower that players spend hours balancing. The cafe also boasts one of the largest selection of omelettes as an all-day breakfast option.
. Open from 8am to 1am daily
Indulgence Cafe
The cafe, sandwiched among knick-knack stores in the French cluster of International City, is advertised as the meeting point for the young, funky and average Bohemian dreamer. The potpourri of paintings, donated by local artists, abstract pieces such as a bright fuchsia-coloured Buddha on the counter and the owner's mother's vibrant drawings on the exposed AC ducts provide the much-needed pop to its dingy warehouse interior.
The gems, however, lie in an isolated cupboard, ready to be unboxed for an interactive session. Request a game of Ludo, Monopoly, Taboo or Pictionary as a side order for a dash of strategic diversion and a sprinkle of humorous dramatics. Given its proximity to Academic City, the cafe that opened in 2010 is a popular stopover for students to have quick bites. Quiz the staff about the name of their most sought-after shisha flavour, tun tun paan, and spin the "Wheel of I" for a chance to receive a discount on the bill, before heading out.
. Open from 12pm to 3am Saturday to Thursday and 1pm to 3am on Fridays
Bert's Cafe
This contemporary cafe in the Greens Village is a haven for board-game geeks. Chessboard table tops extend an open invitation to kick-start an intellectual war, while the assortment of donated books and games such as the world's largest crossword puzzle and Trivial Pursuit, conveniently located next to brawny leather couches, beg to be played. The well-lit ambience, a mix of sunlight and the glow from low-hanging circular lamps makes for a warm and breezy setting for a leisurely brunch. On the menu, among others, are a California omelette with bacon and cheese and the grilled Atlantic salmon.
. Open from 7am to 11.30pm daily
The Living Room Cafe
At first glance, this cafe can be mistaken for a regular cluttered retail store opposite the food court at Festival Centre, fulfilling a commitment to the electronic company that helps sustain the space. But the concept, where your living room is recreated to extend an "unwind with friends at home" gaming experience, seems to have grown on addicted video gamers. On most days, the latest editions of the video games Fifa 13 and Call of Duty fly off the racks. Teenagers can book one of the 20 living rooms to battle it out on consoles attached to large flat screens for an adrenalin-pumping and pulse-racing day in. Those seeking some non-virtual activity can make their way to the billiards table or seat themselves for Uno, the American number card game, to blend into the chaos. Fizzy drinks, chocolates and crisps line up the non-alcoholic bar. The cafe does not serve meals, but orders for takeaway can be placed with the staff.
. Open from 10am to 12am on weekdays and 10am to 2am at weekends
 
aahmed@thenational.ae
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