We can remember very clearly the opening of the London branch of Mahiki. The Polynesian themed nightspot made an instant impact of the UK club scene and became a popular haunt for both royalty and celebrities alike. With each passing day the Mayfair venue seemed to surge in popularity, as images filled the tabloids of our future Princes of Great Britain, stumbling out into the night after one too many rum based cocktails. We can recall attempting to visit the London Mahiki ourselves once, only to find it closed for a private function.
In fact we feel a strong magnetism towards anything Tiki themed. Having been married in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands back in 2009, team Out and About are always looking to try and recapture some of that island life and despite there being no sand between our toes, we found the aesthetics of Mahiki go some way to replicating that tropical paradise.
A key thing about Mahiki that many will find attractive is their open door policy and distinct lack of VIP rooms. The team at Mahiki has wisely chosen to go for a more inclusive environment and while a dress code is enforced (no sportswear, shorts or sandals for men) the vibe and concept are skewed more towards fun than pretension. We were slightly taken a back by the warm and friendly security staff (a rarity on the Dubai nightlife scene) though we could’ve done without the judgmental looks from the hostess.
Mahiki is much smaller than we envisioned, a dark rum-shack situated in the underbelly of the wave-shaped Jumeriah Beach Hotel. The beachside location is perfect for an establishment whose catchphrase is “welcome to paradise” but the lack of an outside terrace or beachfront views may be a missed opportunity. On reflection, it has probably been purposely designed this way to keep the drinking and nighttime antics of Dubai’s party crowd, out of sight and as far away from the hotel guests as possible.
Descending the narrow stairway into Mahiki, is likely to be problematic for those in heels or those who have indulged in one too many Tiki cocktails but the effort is well worth it. Bamboo cladding adorns the walls, monumental Moai statues stand proud in dark corners and light fittings are made from seashore debris. All in a bid to recreate the feeling of a casual beach bar. Arriving late on a Friday evening, Mahiki is already buzzing with the after-brunch crowd and an offer of unlimited beverages until midnight for a reasonable AED 199 is more than a little enticing.
The original Mahiki opened in 2005, with the Dubai outpost following six years later in 2011 but what both venues have in common, is their penchant for cocktails of the rum heavy variety. Twelve years ago, Mahiki took the mixology game to a whole other level via their unique island-inspired concoctions and innovative presentation. Take a glance at the beverage menu and you’ll find drinks served in skulls, mini barrels and exotic sea shells. As the cocktails get bigger and bolder, so does the presentation. The Krakatoa, a sharing cocktail of Mahiki grog, muddled berries and apple juice, is served as a ‘flaming cascade’ with cinnamon sparks, in a bid to recreate the largest volcano of modern times and to literally own Instagram. These signature sharing cocktails increase in size and price with the Rum Shack (a drink actually served from a replica rum shack) being a firm favourite, though it’s the Tiki Rose that takes excess to a whole new level. Good for eight patrons and served within a treasure chest, this AED 2750 masterpiece blends grog, brandy and peach liquor and is topped with Rose Laurent Perrier Champagne! Back at the other end of the spectrum, prices for cocktails begin at AED 85 which will get you a fantastic Mahiki, the bars signature cocktail of Sailor Jerry rum mixed with caramel, pear, strawberry and lemon. It’s not as sweet as you may expect and goes down a little too easily.
Regarding the food, we hadn’t expected much from a menu served in a nightclub but were pleased to find a selection that strayed away from the usual bar bites. The focus is more on Asian flavours and features sushi and edamame at extremely reasonably prices but quite how this links into the theme of the South Pacific Islands is beyond us. With so much fun (and booze) on offer, we didn’t give it much thought and continued tucking into our triple cooked chips with posh ketchup and Wagyu beef sliders with aged cheddar and truffle mayo.
The Mahiki team are the brands biggest asset and the levels of service are completely unprecedented for a nightclub environment. We barely had to lift a finger and the bottle service means all drinks are poured at the table by the friendly bar staff, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts combo with a lei (the ladies) and shirts and braces for the gents. Even the security team who have the difficult job of coaxing dancers off the table tops, are all beaming smiles and handshakes.
The crowd is a mixture of ages and though things do lean more towards those in their mid-twenties (#RichKidsOfInstagram) there was a lot of variety in the type of revellers who frequent Mahiki. Music is very good and guests can expect the majority of tracks to be from popular urban artists (Kanye West, Drake, The Weeknd) with a sprinkling of classic pop songs and our favourite UK Garage classics thrown in for good measure. Tracks are blended well and it’s more a case of song snippets than playing each track in it’s entirety.
Mahiki is less about showiness and more concerned with ensuring customers have an enjoyable night, though there was a succession of ‘bottle popping’ following the flash of strobe lights and a bucket of ice bathed in deep blue to indicate who is ordering the big money items and in a severe case of one-upmanship, everyone in the club is suddenly involved.
Mahiki proves for a fun and night out with friends and despite the open door policy it does get busy and once the club is full, no one else will be admitted. Mahiki is a unique entity and though parallels may be drawn to then similarly themed Trader Vics, Mahiki is aiming for a different demographic and is more of a late night spot than a causal lounge.
With excellent promotions such as the aforementioned Friday post-brunch party referred to as ‘Guilty Pleasures.’ A similar concept prevails again on Sunday with ‘Mahiki Madness’ and Tuesdays are ladies nights.
So next time you need an escape, say ‘Aloha’ to island life and sip on one of Mahiki’s signature cocktails. If it’s good enough for Rihanna when she’s in town, then it’s good enough for us!
We were invited to Mahiki. All views are our own and imagery is courtesy of Mahiki.