Bollywood in Dubai: music and food vie for equal attention at Dialogue

Headed up by the co-founders of Aks Nights, the venue is at once a restaurant, lounge and nightclub

At the risk of putting my job in peril, I often played hooky (please note the past tense, boss!) on a Sunday for one simple reason: Club Boudoir used to host the best Bollywood nights on Saturdays. And one always knew it was going to be a fabulous – and prolonged – evening of music and dancing because Aks Nights were hosting.

The oldest desi “club night” brand in the UAE, Aks boasts some of the best Bollywood DJs in the business – the ones who know when to play Munni Badnaam Hui and Sheila Ki Jawani and when to put on some Jaanu Meri Jaan. Despite the concentration of Hindi and Punjabi music fans in Dubai, when Aks launched in 2010, not one premium club in the city held desi nights on a weekend, so the team took up a lounge (remember Da Gama at Century Village, anyone?) and turned it into a club.

The crowds showed up in throngs and just over a year later, Aks approached Armani/Prive, Base, Crystal, Mahiki and White, and started a monthly Bollywood music night on their A-list premises. And the crowds kept coming.

For all of that, though, fans of the genre have always felt that it’s been under-represented and, equally, that there just aren’t that many dedicated locations to head to. Well, do a little jig, because the co-founders of Aks Nights threw open the doors to their very own venue this month: Dialogue Dubai at the Majestic City Retreat Hotel in Bur Dubai.

In keeping with our times, Dialogue is a restaurant, lounge and entertainment venue all at once. You may not be able to jump on to the dance floor just yet, because of Covid-19 restrictions, but the sprawling space has a stage up front that will host Indian and Pakistani singers and live bands interspersed with Aks DJs. Couches and coffee tables make up the lounge section, while a raised platform is filled with dining tables.

It all feels very plush, which is down to the suave interior design, most notably the lighting. The 10-metre bar is backlit and features an illuminated honeycomb pattern, while an accent pillar right in the centre is cleverly set up to put on a light-beam show to the beats of the music.

And thus the stage is set. The Friday night I visit is my first time at a Bollywood club in a long time. There are no singers on that evening, but the DJ is masterful. He blends the best of new and old Bollywood songs with remixes, mash-ups and teasers so tempting that it’s all I can do to stay put. Have you ever seen someone cut a rug while seated?

And yet as I look around me, I’m surprised to see most patrons are intently focused on their plates, ordering dish after dish from the partially open kitchen. Hey, I want to tell them, you know there’s a 24/7 kulcha joint just around the corner, right?

But the curious foodie in me wins out, and I request the prompt server to get me a menu.

Pindi chole hummus, it reads. And Guacamole papdi chaat; dal on toast; chicken desi goreng. The rest of my party is equally agog at the quirky flavour combinations that, I’m happy to report, will in fact tantalise your taste buds or – in the case of the mascarpone makhani risotto and tandoori prawn rechado (approved by chef Gautama’s grandmother, no less) – send them into a tizzy. The team are also planning to launch weekend brunches from next month.

As I leave Dialogue in the wee hours of the morning, glad that I don’t have to go hunting for food as per usual, I think how it’s too bad dancing isn’t on the cards at the moment. But at least now I have a place where I can enjoy butter chicken samosas against the backdrop of the best in Bollywood music. And, luckily, I don’t work most Saturdays.

Updated: July 28th 2021, 10:38 AM
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