By Karim Miknas » Bahrain has always been a leader when it comes to nightlife in the region. What makes our little island so special is that we LOVE to party and we’ve done it with the best of them.
Heck, I should know, I’ve been doing it ever since I could remember! Whether you’re looking for a dive or a full-on VIP experience, Bahrain’s got the real thing. Hook up with the right people and the right places and you’re in for a treat.
Most nightspots are in or attached to hotels (by law), which does nothing to stop the fun, but does make it easier to locate them. The Ritz Carlton, for example, is home to Trader Vic’s, a great bar, lounge and restaurant, and also has the ‘olde worlde’ Plantation Terrace in its portfolio as well as the ultra-chic Mai Tai Lounge which is lovely when the weather’s right.
Trader’s is a fantastic spot with stylish Polynesian themed décor, a smart casual dress code and a choice between tid-bits or fine dining. The cocktail list is always the main attraction and the concoctions are potent and go down a breeze. The hardest part is deciding whether to order bites before, during or after drinks, to just have dinner, or the usual, “another round?” Whatever you decide, Trader’s is a mainstay on the circuit.
On the other side of town, less dressy but just as much fun is JJ’s Irish Pub at the Al Bustan Hotel in Adliya, more fun in fact than back in the old country, where it was originally built, taken apart, shipped over and rebuilt to spec right here in Bahrain!
One of the most popular hangouts on the island, JJ’s is a phenomenon that starts at noon and doesn’t stop until 2am with every live sport you’d want to watch on the screens, great DJs, lovely staff and one of the best pub menus I have ever seen. Plenty of theme nights means the entertainment never gets stale and for a mere BD2 cover charge, ladies drink for free six nights a week. Certainly this is a must.
Up for continuing the pub crawl? Hit Fiddler’s Green at the Diplomat Radisson SAS, another Irish pub (don’t all the best ones seem to be!) with a great feel when it’s full and a good location for those in Manama.
Move on to Warbler’s at the Baisan International Hotel, the original British-styled pub and sports bar run by the gracious Amithab, the true father of the Warbler and his incredibly dedicated team. The burgers here are so huge it takes three of us to finish one, every time!
Wrangler’s at the Elite Hotel in Juffair is Warbler’s cross-Atlantic cousin and attracts lots of Americans, not only because of its Wild West décor, but also probably due to its location close to “the base”. You’ll get great discounts on drinks, a solid menu and a good dose of Hip-Hop, Dirty South and R’n’B.
The least pretentious of the batch, overly lit and actually quite cosy is Maguire’s in an annex of the Mansouri Mansions Hotel in Adliya, a little secret spot (not so secret now I suppose). This is the ultimate watering hole when you want a quiet one away from the crowds.
An old one that just got a new lease of life is Sherlock Holmes, one of Bahrain’s oldest watering holes now completely moved downstairs into a slick, modern facility. They still serve up great brews and the bands are second to none.
At the time I wrote this the Gulf Hotel’s newest spot Typhoon is literally still not even open, so if you’re looking for something new definitely check it out! Some like to linger on at the Gulf Hotel’s many restaurants, but most come here early and move on to the many eateries in Adliya, a 10-15 minute walk away.
Back in Adliya, BJ’s nightclub at the Al Bustan Hotel is the leader of the pack and now in its 11th year in business. It’s consistently been one of the most popular spots in town and always the busiest. If it’s quiet in BJ’s, it’s dead everywhere else. Originally an English pub meets discothèque meets live rock venue meets American pool hall, BJ’s has been transformed over the last four years into the enduring icon of clubbing it is today. With the best bar in town, mind blowing sound and lights, and décor courtesy of Bahrain’s top interior designers, BJ’s is an institution and one that we just can’t get enough of. Still! Plus it’s the home of Halloween, NYE and the infamous Formula One, FTV - After Race Party, now in its 4th year.
Pop over the highway to Juffair and you’re spoiled for choice down there too. Though not all the spots are Western type venues, if you’re up for exploring you never know what you’ll find. There’s Z-Club at the Pars International Hotel led by the very able Fernando and his team of Latinistas, Pulse, a wildly decorated Arabic nightspot and Rock Bottom, home to Bahrain’s top imported Rock cover bands and some of them are exceptional.
On the more alternative side of things, a little past Bab Al Bahrain, on the second floor of the City Centre Hotel you’ll find a flurry of activity most notably at Likwid, Bahrain’s only dedicated underground music venue and one of its best kept secrets. This cosy 150 capacity spot dares to stand out from its peers by shunning the typical top 40 hits the rest of the bunch live by and opts instead for acoustic guitar jam sessions on Sundays, full-on Latin music with an eight-piece band, dance instructor and DJ on Mondays and its infamous Thursday nights featuring the world’s top underground House and Techno talent alongside super talented local jocks, plus their new Friday Rock slot. This club boasts the best sound system in town and is the clubber’s club, well worth the minimal door charge.
On the live side of things, head to Club 1 at the Metropolitan Hotel just off Exhibition Avenue with the best guest bands in Bahrain. Club 1 is a big hit with musos and Americans, and offers dining in a separate, glassed-off area as well as two bars to speed things up.
On the slightly rougher side of things, but certainly no less credible is Rock ’n’ Z at the Al Bustan Hotel featuring top Filipino Rock talent. If you close your eyes, you’d swear guitar legends Joe Satriani or Steve Vai were in the room. Yes, they’re usually that good!
Continuing with the rough, there’s Digger’s in the Delmon International Hotel where you can hide from the world while enjoying good, loud rock music and plenty a bevy at usually very low prices. Don’t forget Tabasco Charlie’s, not necessarily the spiciest of the lot but certainly good fun if you’re up for trekking into the inner haunts of the Manama Suq for a bit of madness. Up for a pub crawl? Started at Hunter’s Lodge in the Adhari Hotel; from there you’ll find plenty of three, two and one-star hotels that’ll literally blow your mind with all that’s on offer.
If you’re looking for more of an up market, International flavour, you’ve got to check out the newest kid on the block, Club Seven at the Mishal Hotel near the UN House. Minimal contemporary décor and DJs from around the world mix contemporary Arbic music with international pop.. Here you’ll find subtle lighting and interior refinements, a world-class sound and light system and the world-famous Lebanese style of service. Plus their Fridays are literally world-famous with DJ residencies from Ministry of Sound to album launch parties and super-star vocalists making regular appearances. Smooth…
Not too far from here, there’s also Al Fanar at the Diplomat with it’s huge cabaret show, Pizza Pomodoro at the Golden Tulip with a super Lebanese one-man show plus delicious pizzas. Other great spots for the Arabian flavour are Tarbouche Restaurant at the City Centre Hotel, Berdaouni in the Regency Intercontinental, Al Sawani near the museum, Rayés at the Coral Beach Club and Zahle at the Gulf Hotel, all of which have full-on entertainment programmes featuring professional bands and belly dancers even though they are technically restaurants.
Still got some steam left in you? Check out the Coral Beach Club for some of the hottest local and international DJ action from 12 noon and through sunset. In season, you’ll find nothing but beautiful people, listening to delicious deep music while soaking up the sun and sea, and what an incredible view of Manama Harbour! Breathtaking.
All this should certainly keep the party animal in you happy. What's more, there are other changes on the horizon. There are many new and exciting places opening, while many current ones change their programmes regularly and host international groups, so be sure to contact them or check out local listings to see what’s going on.
Wherever you do end up going, have a great time and ENJOY!