Central Station Review

centralstationtimeoutPhoto courtesy of TimeOut Beirut

I met Jad Ballout last year in a Diageo event to select the best bartender in Beirut (he eventually went on to claim that title). I was very pleased to see him standing behind the bar at Central Station after Selim had insisted I need to try one of their cocktails after a long day at work. I had been meaning to visit Central Station before my trip, but never had the chance to, but I’m definitely glad I finally did.

My close friends will know I am not much of an alcohol drinker, and when I am, it’s taste and mixture I look for, not just potency. That’s why you probably won’t see me guzzling down a hastily prepared ungodly mixture in a plastic cup at an event, but delightfully sipping on a well-prepared cocktail that was made to do more than get me wasted.

Central Station is just that, it’s a place where it’s all about the cocktail. Special copper measuring cups, high-tech gizmos to “carbonate” grapes, fresh produce to top off your drink are the stuff you’ll find laying on the bother as the bartenders carefully mix two parts of this and that ingredient, with a premium alcohol base. It looks more like a posh lab than a bar, and a careful craft instead of haphazard, hasty theatrical pouring. And I like that, a lot.

I had a “In The Clouds Part II”, which is a special creation of Jad’s that includes an elixir he prepares with a “janerek” base (I have no idea what janerek means in English, but it’s that small, green fruit you see during spring time that has that earthy, sweet and sour feel that we all love to binge on this time of year). Needless to say, it was sublime, especially with the salt on the glass’ rim to add even more contrast to the flavors. It was like the very essence of the fruit was poured in with the right amount of alcohol, minus the pesky seeds and the need to chew. Of course, two janereks were served on the side as well, so don’t fret if you crave the original fruit too.

Another delight was the pom-pom cocktail, which is a pomegranate-based cocktail with some lime, basil and vodka, topped off with an actual leaf and a spoonful of pomegranate. Sublime.

But, Central Station isn’t your average Mar Mikhael hole-in-the-wall. It’s design, complete with the cast-iron train wheels above the long bar, and an exterior that reminds us of the day we had trains in Beirut (not that we’re old enough to remember, but still) is posh. Its electronic music is laid-back and chill, so don’t expect to be dancing, but more like unwinding after work or pre-drinking before the more intense party. The crowd is a bit on the older side and sophisticated in a non-hipstery way. The staff is very friendly, but good luck finding a spot if you haven’t booked or come early.

Their happy hour is from 6PM till 8PM, excluding the premium cocktails, and cocktails regular price ranges from 16,000-18,000LBP to 26,000LBP for the special elixirs.

All in all, I loved the place and I’d definitely recommend you try it out if you still haven’t. It’s a nice break in the norm of Mar Mikhael’s usually more nondescript places that lack a defined theme and feel, but definitely not a replacement for them. They’re preparing a new section as well, behind the bar nestled in an old revamped stone building that should be open in time for summer.

Cheers!

Hamra is Dying. Uberhaus Closing on Friday Confirms It.

62061_543992152366665_117685330_nI’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’ve been seeing the decline of the Hamra region of the past few months. The reasons are many, and they are mostly not within our control.

Security

The complete lack of security and recurring bombings and clashes have made people avoid Hamra, which is minutes and meters away from recurring acts of violence and terror. The zero faith in our security forces to actually do something about making us a bit safer and considering our lives their priority, has made us think not once, but twice and thrice about going out when we don’t absolutely need to.

Drug Busts

The relentless and brutal crackdown by the ISF and judicial police on youngsters that look a bit weird has landed many of them in jail over something as banal as 0.2 grams of marijuana. The camouflaged checkpoints designed to entrap people without any reasonable suspicion, has made people less eager to endanger their safety, rights and reputation by the security apparatus that survives over feeding off of people’s bribes and fear. The very public and televised arrest and humiliation of some pub goers and pub employees based on nothing but hearsay, has also been a strong deterrent.

Empty Venues

Every single venue in Hamra is struggling or barely surviving. Drops in prices have attracted very little footfalls, even on weekends. Mostly young men going out to get wasted replaced the more comprehensive, sophisticated and hip crowds that used to take over Hamra’s dozens of pubs and venues after classes at AUB and LAU. As you know, if you go to a venue once and twice and find it near-empty and with a peculiar crowd, you probably won’t go there anymore.

The Rise of Mar Mikhail and Uruguay Street

Just like Gemmayzeh killed Monot, and Hamra killed Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhail has helped kill Hamra. People choose to go to Mar Mikhail far more than Hamra these days, with most of the pubs packed, or at least the sidewalks in front of them. The cheaper, more theme-based and scenester pubs have loyal clientele that rarely miss a happy hour there.

Of course, those with bigger bank accounts and a smarter wardrobe, prefer to go to the more up-scale Uruguay instead of the more hipster-oriented, hole in the walls that Mar Mikhail is beloved for. This undoubtedly helped kill off Hamra’s golden days as well.

Bye Bye Uberhaus

Uberhaus is my home. My family. I love every single one of them, and we’ve had absolutely amazing memories down there and at The Garten in the summer. I write this post with extreme bitterness at the fact Uberhaus had to move out of Hamra. This is most definitely the end of a fantastic era, perhaps my absolute favorite. The security and economic situation has caught up with the political one, and the days we thought would never come, are finally here. I would ask you to not lose hope, but I’ll tell you feel free to do so after Friday, when we say goodbye to the Uberhaus we love and adore.

RSVP here, invite everyone, and I’d better see all your gorgeous faces there on Friday.

White Dubai Opening This Thursday! + A Sneak Peek at Construction Phase

image001This Thursday, the iconic White Beirut is setting up a permanent location Dubai after its White Room series in the summer. I know a lot of you guys and gals who read this blog live in Dubai, and I stop by every few months, so this is awesome news for me personally, cause I never know where to go party and have good fun in the wealthy emirate. So now, with the familiar name and concept which we love in Beirut, it won’t be so hard to choose.

On Thursday December 19, White Dubai will officially open and it’s going to be the first ever rooftop nightclub in Dubai. The view is quite breathtaking, and it’s just a 5-minute drive from the Burj Al Arab area, in the Meydan Racecourse’s Grandtand rooftop area.

1003915_363684570435281_1141258246_nSo, the ultra-galm and glitz we’re used to in Beirut’s White, will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the much wealthier Dubai peeps. The real question though, is will it be as fun as Beirut’s? Let us know Dubai peeps, and have a blast! (It opens every Thursday and Friday if you can’t make it to the opening btw)

Distrikt Review

Electronic music is as diverse as the frequencies the human ear can detect, and that’s quite a lot. In Lebanon, our nightlife is something to be proud of, and that’s one of the few things everyone can agree about. The venues and management might not always be ideal, but the clubber spirit in every single Lebanese person which manifests itself in everything from psychedelic forest raves, to one-man-shows in Arabic, is damn epic.

The traditional heavyweights cater for a lighter taste in music, with chart-toppers and crowd-pleasers usually on the menu. The rising electronic music audio culture though, is taking over fast, and people’s tastes in music have evolved and their ears are more discerning to what’s good and worth it, and what’s shit and half-assed.

This has allowed niche movements to form and flourish. Even though House, Tech-House and Techno dominate this new culture of clubbing that strays away from the glitz and glam and focuses on the substance and genuineness of the whole affair, drum and bass, dubstep, breakcore, experimental, psychedelic, psychill, dub and many, many more electronic subgenres have also claimed their spot among Lebanon’s immensely diverse nocturnal ecosystem,

Of course, events are usually on an annual or seasonal basis, and the venue always shifted. That’s until Distrikt opened, with Anthony Haddad fresh off the plane from Scandanavia, Distrikt was exactly what the Lebanese scene needed. It’s an out-of-the-way, industrial venue far from residential buildings and yet close enough to Beirut.

It plays host to events all the time, and the venue located in a factory’s upper level consists of custom-made, ever-changing elements that give it the grungy feel with a trippy twist. Half a car, vandalized mannequins, suspended doors, car wheels, cable rolls and psychedelic art illuminated with black lights set the perfect mood for an out-of-the-way party.

There are windows on both sides that show you the surrounding mountains, and the DJ booth has two hexagonal grids and a large screen where visuals are projected. The bar is on the side with a small chill area next to it to rest your tired feet from stomping.

All in all, Distrikt is going to be massive this winter. With the number of good winter venues dwindling, a place to host Lebanon’s fledgling underground music movements that have already overtaken the commercial, mainstream ones. This one looks great, feels authentic and is easily alterable to fit the type of event being hosted. Whether it’s trippy psy art for the faster BPMs, or dark, intense decorations for the slower ones, the parties there always last well into the morning hours.

Keep up to date with their Facebook page here, since schedules are announced there and it’s almost never the same thing twice in a row.

10 Photos and Videos from Kaotik System Final Chapter

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Review soon =D

Last Minute Halloween Party Plans

Thursday Oct 31

This is the legit Halloween night, and there are several things going on in and around Beirut. Here are a handful which you should find interesting and fun.

DECADEATH: CARNEVIL AT THE HAUNTED TOWN

This annual MixFM event at St Georges is arguably the most sought-after costume party in town. Everyone who’s anyone will be there, rocking awesome (both slutty and gory) costumes. This also means that tables will run out fast (if they haven’t already). But walk-ins for $35 with 1 drink, and $40 for 2 drinks should do the trick if your costume doesn’t really allow you to properly sit down on a table =P The music will be Rodge with his crowd-pleasing mashups from the 80s till today, with a mix of House, Pop, Hip Hop and classics making sure everyone gets their 15 minutes of “THAT’S MAAAAA SOOONGGGG” dance frenzy. Click the image below to check their FB event page.

Carnevil

COME AS YOU AREN’T at Sepia

What’s celebrating with zombie flesh, slutty outfits and cliche series characters if it’s not for a good cause? If you’re into a more intimate party held by the Rotaract people in Baabda, then Sepia’s where you want to be tomorrow night. Tickets are for $35 open regular bar, and $40 at the door. Proceeds will go to help the children’s NGO UPEL. Click the image below to go to their FB event page.

Sepia

ENTER THE NUTHOUSE at Yukunkun

See how trippy and creepy that is? Well, Nuthouse Mule is gonna be playing live a Yukunkun, followed up by our good friends at the Beirut Jam Session on the decks. Entrance is for $10 with no drinks in the underground venue right off Gemmayzeh Street. If you’re a fan of exceptional music, check this event out. It’s more than just costumes, they actually took the time to get some awesome talent to perform in a relevant setting! Click the photo for the FB event page.

Nuthouse

I See Dead Startups at AltCity

If you’re an entrepreneur or work with startups and the surrounding ecosystem, you might want to be at this party. It’s happening in AltCity in Hamra, and tickets are for 25,000LBP (15,000LBP if you’re an AltCity member and group discounts available). If you wanna party and network at the same time, maybe meet some likeminded individuals while they’re dressed up in silly outfits, this might be your night.

1385273_668353139865518_2112514712_nMonkey Business at Radio Beirut

If you want the hassle free party with free entrance, you might wanna hit Mar Mikhael and Radio Beirut in specific. With DJs Saadein and Karam on the decks and Zad on the drums, should be a good laidback type of party. Plus, you’ll get to walk through Mar Mikael with whatever you’re wearing.

Friday Nov 1

If you didn’t have enough on Thursday, the party continues into Friday!

The Big Bad Wolf by 6th Sense

These guys take it seriously when it comes to costumes. If you aren’t in one, you’re not getting in. Also, they got together a team of 11 Lebanese fashion designers to choose the best ones. The DJ lineup is awesome too, and includes friends like CAB and Gunther and Stam. Tickets or for $22 on presella.com and $30 at the door

Wolf

PARA BANDITOS Halloween Party

The location is still secret, but it’s on a skyscraper’s rooftop. If you’re into the friends and friends-of-friends kinda party with a homsy feel instead of the big-party-full-of-strangers type of deal, you might wanna consider this party. It’s at $60 open premium bar and the talents include Chile’s Pier Bucci with a handful of awesome local talents. So, get your Santa Muerte groove on and paint your face in the awesome Mexican death mask designs and stay tuned for the announcement of the party’s location on Friday!

Para

PC’s Famour But Dead

PC parties are back, and if you’re not dressed as a famous dead dude or dudette, you’re not welcome. They got Sleepy Executive form the UK and Morrio from Berlin for the night, and entrance is the usual PC party rate at 50,000LBP for open bar. If you miss PC parties as much as I do, you wanna be there.

Dead

Visual Ecstasy at ORA

If music ain’t enough and you need to see some art being produced right in front of your eyes, you might wanna be at Ora on Friday. Entrance is 20,000LBP with 1 drink and Chad the Mad will be wreaking havoc live on a large canvas.

Ora

Saturday Nov 2

And there’s even some on Saturday =D

C U NXT SAT’s Halloween on the Terrace

And last, but definitely not least, C U NXT SAT are having their own Halloween party on Sat, of course. It’s going down in Ora in Dbayeh. The Basement and C U NXT SAT Halloween parties have always been some of my favorite, and the guys do go all out. So, if you want the usual C U NXT SAT vibe plus the Halloween sexiness, Saturday you can. Entrance is between 20,000 LBP and 35,000 LBP depending on how early or late you show up.

CU

DAYTIME FRI-SUN

KAOTIK SYSTEM RAVE

Kaotik

During the day from Fri till Sun, Imma be in Baissour for the EPIC Kaotik System Final Chapter party. Imma go up every morning, and head down to civilization at night for all the other parties I mentioned above. So, I’d better see you all in the daytime up there in the forests and watefalls!

 

Bedivere Review

1385308_529979897076486_1656063004_nI had never noticed how bad my phone addiction was before I went to the States. In Beirut, it’s ok to check your phone while on the table or having a conversation with someone, at least it’s not that big a deal. In DC and New York, I got quite a few comments about my excessive phone checking and that’s when I started to tone it down a bit when in public.

No Phones = 10% Discount

It seems that a new place in Beirut wants to discourage our unhealthy tethering to our smartphones, and that’s Bedivere, a delightful, Medieval-themed pub and restaurant in Hamra.

This venue got notorious worldwide for their unique policy, where turning in your phone to the waiter or at the bar will get you a 10% discount on your bill. Yes, they’re actually giving you a discount for just giving up your phone for an hour or two and enjoy the company of everyone there.

I’ll admit, for me, that’s something hard, and I have yet to successfully try handing in my own phone, but I must admit, the atmosphere last night was different, friendlier, realer. The bar was packed and there were a few other tables as well, which was amazing for a Wednesday night.

Music and Atmosphere

Hanna Barakat was performing live on her acoustic guitar, and even though not everyone knew each other in the venue, the back-and-forth between strangers such as jokes about movie theme songs and harmless jabs at people who kept their phones, was really nice. It was a breath of fresh air in a Lebanon where most people try to give the impression they’re too good to fraternize with you or look as though they were upset to be out and about.

I’m not sure about the music on other nights, but I’m guessing it’s a soft blend of music that’s not too loud to allow for the human-to-human interaction the place is so big about.

The decorations are very knight-in-a-castle style, complete with a suit of armor mounted on the wall and a few horse carriage wheels on the ceiling. If you’re into the Game of Thrones craze, you’ll feel right at home carrying a metal goblet and shouting “Winter is Coming!” in a fake British accent.

Food & Drinks

1150945_517155435025599_416766735_nUnlike other places, Bedivere opens at noon, so it’d be an awesome place to have lunch if you work or study in the Hamra region. They have a plat du jour every day which ranges from supreme chicken, to traditional Lebanese kibbeh. They also have some pretty good ribs, a rarity in Beirut! I definitely recommend the ribs.

The drinks are as sophisticated as the people who go there, but a humble beer would do. I’d go for one of the freshly squeezed cocktails (I like chick drinks, sue me) and for all you happy hour enthusiasts, it runs every day from 5:00PM till 8:00PM.

All in All

I think Bedivere is pretty cool. Their policy is unique, but they don’t punish phone users like me, in fact, I got a free shot because I checked in on Foursquare and got their special! They also have a tweet fall on their screens, so you know who’s checking in and mentioning Bedivere (oh, and free WiFi, which is sorta sending me mixed messages =P).

C U NXT SAT Vibes

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I grew up in The Basement, raised by the musical genius of Jade, Hady, Fady Ferraye and the legions of acts that visited from abroad like Desyn Masiello and the dozens of other amazing talents that graced this gorgeous subterranean venue.

If you weren’t a Basement junkie like me, here’s a very short and epic video that describes the movement with the insane logo perfectly.

What was The Basement morphed into C U NXT SAT, a happier, more colorful and upbeat movement that was more inclusive and fit in better with Beirut’s clubbers. Of course, like any hardcore fan, I admit, I wasn’t too happy and I made my displeasure public sometimes, which I regret now. The few nights I did go, and felt crushed at seeing this new movement (electronic music is something very serious for me, like your religions) I gave up, and barely ever went again if not never.

wpid-20131020_015717.jpgWhat I didn’t realize though, was like every addiction, you need to start off softly before you can trip properly, and that can describe what C U NXT SAT has undergone over the past couple of years. What crushed me many months ago, restored my faith last Saturday, when in an unlikely turn of events and after a very unpleasant day, Hady (Vanclod Jandam) and Jade invited me over. The early days I went to had formed C U NXT SAT into a Basement Vol 3, and it was awesome, even for whiny old me.

That Saturday night was perfect. The lineup included Evil K, Vanclod Jandam, Jade and Ziad Ghosn. With Ziad on the lineup, my favorite “decknician” from my b018 days, I was super excited to see what this ungodly mixture of talent would produce, and it was damn sexy.

I arrived just in time to catch maDJam and enjoy the second half of Vanclod Jandam’s set, which was deep, dark and intense with the subtleties that tickle your electronic music fancy just the right way and lift-me-ups that cheat you into even more massive drops. It was beautiful.

Then, Jade, fresh off the airplane, came and unleashed a massive set of tracks we all know which he had tweaked to electronic music standards that the gorgeous crowd could sing along to, while dancing and waving their hands in their air. My highlight was The Beat, a classic from my clubbing formation years. Right after The Beat, my favorite song as a 7-year-old with his Warda cassette tape, Bitwnnis Beek, remixed by Jade, got us all to the climax. But, just then, a new rework of Nadine Labaki’s “Hashishit Albi” was dropped, and here’s where the happy emotions merged with the deep vibes and made something so beautiful, I had to write on my “embiggen app” “You Are All Beautiful” and hold it above Jade’s head, and thank you for everyone who did the heart signs with their hands… It was quite the moment, and an unexpectedly beautiful interaction with everyone present. Gorgeous crowd that needed no Instagram filters.

Then, Ziad took over, and it wrapped up the night picture-perfectly. All in all, that feeling you get from a movement that’s more than just a club night, was restored last Saturday, and I had a blast. So, thank you guys. It was awesome seeing Jade, Hady, Wassim, Ahmad, Nour, Elsa, Joelle, Poly, Carl, Elsa, Tanya, Samer, Samy, Michel and everyone else <3

I hope the weather is good enough next Saturday to get one last Sporting C U NXT SAT!

Cargo Review

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Cargo opened up a few months ago, and for some reason, I never got around to going there until recently. But, since then, I’ve went back 3 or 4 times at least. I don’t usually enjoy pubs because of the way they try too hard to look like they don’t care and that their music is hipster-approved (most of them, not all!)

Music

I enjoyed Cargo though because first and foremost, the music has been amazing each time. It’s a good blend of House and Tech-House and loungier versions of the two which are just loud enough to move your thigh to as you have a pleasant conversation at the bar. Like last night, I went there for a drink with my sister, and was very pleasantly surprised to see Hady and Yves from the C U NXT SAT crew spinning some good good.

Venue

wpid-20131020_233054.jpgThe venue is perfect if you’re the kind that likes an out-of-the-way place that’s close enough to the traditional hotspots, but not close enough for the annoying drunk barhoppers that swoop in for a few shots and annoy everyone and leave. It’s in a residential building’s ground floor, and has a small area where you can sit and smoke outside (quietly) and another outdoor mini-terrace at the other end, complete with an olive tree and a cool curved, tube-like wooden structure. The half-pipe wooden feel to the place extends inside too, and gives the place a simple, yet elegant look and feel, with an unpolished wood finishing and red brick parts giving it a nice contrast. There’s also an old TV that shows you static only… Trippy.

Drinks

I’m not a fan of alcohol unless it’s in a yummy cocktail (chick-drinks style, yes, laugh). We had the banana mint daiquiri last night, and I loved it. The banana and crushed ice give it a milk-shake like feel and the mint was just right to make it a great cocktail for 13,500 LBP. The waiters are extremely friendly and helpful, but the trick is getting their attention, which can be tough sometimes. But otherwise, service is awesome.

Overall

I love the place. It’s good music, out-of-the-way, nice venue and they enforce a strict no indoor smoking policy, but provide ample space outdoors (covered) for smokers. The cocktails are good and fair priced and they have a varied selection of bar food. If you’re looking for a place to have a nice conversation with some good electronic music in the background and a cool crowd any day of the week, you might wanna try out Cargo if you still haven’t.

Wheelchair accessible: No

Checkpoint Charlie: East-West Berlin Concept Pub is Now Open in Beirut

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So, the guys from the awesome February 30 pub in Hamra have set up shop on Uruguay Street in Downtown Beirut with an awesome concept that brings back to life the East-West rift of Berlin in the Cold War days.

When you walk in, you see en exact replica of the Berlin Wall projecting down from the ceiling, with a map of all the roads of Berlin snaking through both sides of the pub. One one side, a shantier-graffiti-riddled segment complete with an old-school water heater, depicting the more frugal communist part of Berlin: the East. As for the West, glitzy mosaic, modern light pieces and shiny installations depict the wealthier, freer, capitalist part of the city.

And of course, in the middle lies Checkpoint Charlie, the border crossing between the two parts of Berlin where so many East Berliners were killed trying to cross into the West. Luckily though, hope still emanates from this replica checkpoint, minus the killing by a communist regime =P and that’s because the the DJ booth is there, where my good friend Ghassan Mabsoot was spinning sick stuff last night.

I loved the concept, and all the finishing details and furniture keep true to the February 30 spirit, recycled, well-thought-out uses for mediocre objects like a car’s shock absorber for a table’s base, and boat rotors. So, go, have a drink, have grab a bite to eat, and learn some history all while having fun ^^