|Party capital of the Middle East
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 weve done it with the best of them.
Heck, I should know, Ive been doing it ever since I could remember! Whether youre looking for a dive or a full-on VIP experience, Bahrains got the real thing. Hook up with the right people and the right places and youre 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 Vics, a great bar, lounge and restaurant, and also has the olde worlde Plantation Terrace in its portfolio.
Traders 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, Traders is a mainstay on the circuit.
On the other side of town, less dressy but just as much fun is JJs 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, JJs is a phenomenon that starts at noon and doesnt stop until 2am with every live sport youd 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 Fiddlers Green at the Diplomat Radisson SAS, another Irish pub (dont all the best ones seem to be!) with a great feel when its full and a good location for those in Manama.
Move on to Warblers 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!
Wranglers at the Elite Hotel in Juffair is Warblers 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. Youll get great discounts on drinks, a solid menu and a good dose of hip-hop and RnB.
The least pretentious of the batch, overly lit and actually quite cosy is Maguires 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. Of course if you want a little more action and history, theres Sherlock Holmes, Bahrains longest running British pub and its offshoot, Watsons Room in the Gulf Hotel, a good place to kick off proceedings with a decent menu. Some like to linger but most come here early and move on to the restaurants in Adliya, a 10-15 minute walk away.
Back in Adliya, BJs nightclub at the Al Bustan Hotel is the leader of the pack and now in its 10th year in business. Its consistently been one of the most popular spots in town and always the busiest. If its quiet in BJs, its dead everywhere else. Originally an English pub meets discothèque meets live rock venue meets American pool hall, BJs 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 Bahrains top interior designers, BJs is an institution and one that we just cant get enough of. Still! Plus its the home of Halloween, NYE and the infamous Formula One, FTV - After Race Party, now in its third year.
On the more alternative side of things, a little past Bab Al Bahrain, on the second floor of the City Centre Hotel youll find a flurry of activity most notably at Likwid, Bahrains 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 worlds top underground House and Techno talent alongside super talented local jocks, plus their new Friday RnB slot.
This club boasts the best sound system in town and is the clubbers club, well worth the minimal door charge. Also on the second floor, youll find Asia, one of the hottest lounges where the islands beautiful people gather for drinks and bites before going out. Asia now also features a Lebanese one man show performer and gets packed by 11pm; a great place to start before moving on to Likwid.
On the live side of things, head to Club 1 at the Metropolitan Hotel just off Exhibition Avenue. Super-talented Kiwi vocalist Jo Lincoln is now managing the spot 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. Theres also Rock Bottom at the Ramee International Hotel in Juffair which has great bands.
On the slightly dingier side of things, but certainly no less credible is Rock n Z at the Al Bustan Hotel featuring, well, Rock n Z, headed by the phenomenal Lito on guitar and one of the tightest bands in town. If you close your eyes, youd swear guitar legends Joe Satriani or Steve Vai were in the room. Yes, hes that good!
Continuing with the dingy, theres Diggers 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. Dont forget Tabasco Charlies, not necessarily the spiciest of the lot but certainly good fun if youre up for trekking into the inner haunts of the Manama Suq for a bit of madness. I used my hand written fake ID to pub crawl all over the area once upon a time and always started at Hunters Lodge at the Adhari Hotel; from there youll find plenty of three-, two- and one-star hotels thatll literally blow your mind with all thats on offer.
If youre looking for more of an Arabian flavour, youve 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 Beirut rockin international pop hits are juxtaposed with seated dining (earlier on) and a Lebanese one man show who performs songs in five different languages. Here youll find subtle lighting and interior refinements, a world-class sound and light system and the world-famous Lebanese style of service. Smooth
Not too far from here, theres also Pulse at the Al Safir Hotel, Al Fanar at the Diplomat and the soon to be reopened in its new home, Pizza Pomodoro, all of which cater to a more Arabic clientele.
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 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.
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 whats going on.
Wherever you do end up going, have a great time and ENJOY!
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