I remember the first time I went to Buddha Bar in Paris years ago I was disappointed it was packed with tourists taking photos and buying souvenirs. I also vividly recall when it opened in Dubai and being relieved it was locals only. There wasn't a camera in sight, nobody bought souvenirs, and around midnight, dancing on the bar became the norm. These days it's somewhere in between.
The space, in my opinion, is the most dramatic of any of the Buddha Bars - as you'd expect from Dubai, a city that never does things by halves. There's the dim lighting, black wood and Oriental touches to set the mood at the entrance, leading you by private dining areas with low-seating secreted behind screens to the intimate bar-cum-occasional dance floor.
That gives way to a gigantic two-storey dining room (which continually wins 'best bar food' from Time Out and the like), dripping with red chandeliers, a massive gilded statue (not Buddha), and floor-to-ceiling windows framed by velvet drapes that look out onto Dubai Marina.
Upstairs is my favorite spot. A dramatic lounge with comfy low red and gold velvet sofa-seats and ottomans, low tables, and Oriental lamps. As with most bars and clubs in Dubai, there's table service so there's no need to go downstairs to order drinks. Cocktails are heady, exotic and interesting - I tend to order anything with spice and a whack of chili. And course there's the Buddha Bar's famous chill-out sounds that inspired a generation of DJ driven lounge bars.