Senegal loves football. Whether watching, playing or talking about it, Senegal’s football obsession has only grown in the build-up to the World Cup with the national team making its second ever appearance at the finals. As bars and hotels across Dakar are dusting off their projectors, here’s a selection of the best places to watch the games.
Xorbi may not have a beach or a rooftop, but it more than makes up for it with its sprawling enclosed courtyard filled with palm trees and fairy lights. In the heart of Fann Hock, Xorbi can easily be missed from its indiscernible exterior, but the inside is anything but. A rowdy bar jam-packed with a clientele from across the African continent, Xorbi is one of the best value places to drink and eat in large quantities. Dibi (Senegalese BBQ) can be ordered by the kilo and beers are served in hefty 660ml bottles. Xorbi is also a hub for football and plays every big game on its two large projector screens. The Champions League final at Xorbi was a carnage of loyalties, with Real Madrid one of the most popular teams in Senegal, but Liverpool the team of ‘Sadio, Sadio, Sadio’. You can expect a similar mish-mash of support during the big World Cup games.
Bazoff clearly couldn’t decide whether to be a restaurant-bar or a bar-restaurant, so plumped for both. One room features a long, darkly-lit bar with stools and stacked bottles; think the 3am New York bar scene in a b-list film. The other is a large, light dining area with wooden tables and chairs. The one thing that unites them: the big screens. This bar and restaurant off Avenue Bourguiba marries its wide selection of drinks with a menu that fits all wallets and palates (including vegetarian options). As such, it is a melting pot for students, professionals, expats and locals to come and get their sport fix on the six large screens, while they often host live music on weekend evenings. Bazoff also has a trump card: air-con. June/July in Senegal starts to get very sticky, so if you’re planning on settling in for a day of matches, Bazoff is a great place to do it.
Or substitute the air-con for a swimming pool. A surf-shop-come-hostel might not scream ‘football hotspot’, but Quiksilver Boardriders is an ideal spot for one of the lunchtime kick-offs. A stone’s throw from the Ngor Roundabout, walk through the surf shop and you’ll find a surfboard-lined bar with a large screen and sofa set-up, while outside the hostel boasts a large patio, villa-sized swimming pool – free for guests, CFA5,000 (around US$9) otherwise – and a decently-priced lunchtime menu. During the World Cup, there will be a special tapas-style snack menu, including cones of french fries, burgers and a ‘Soup Bar’. Or you can spend half-time playing table tennis or table football in the sun.
Seoul 2 may have nothing to do with Korea, but don’t let its confusing name put you off. Tucked away in the backstreets of Sicap Karak, this compact and convivial bar is a real delight, welcoming a friendly local crowd into an airy enclosed patio. Inconspicuous from the outside, visitors will need to look out for a green Beaufort beer sign, which is often helpfully hidden by leaves. However, if football is on, the search is much easier. Inside, expect to share big tables and get caught up in compulsive whooping and hooping at any decision the referee makes. Due to its relatively small size, it’s worth getting down there early if watching a popular game, while ordering some of its delicious African fare – think dibi (grilled meats), alloko (fried plantain) and attieké (manioc cous-cous) – can also take a long time to arrive.
In downtown Plateau, next to the famous Marché Kermel, this bar-restaurant claims to be the oldest bistro in Dakar. It fittingly offers unassuming, uncomplicated, but very good French cuisine with the lunchtime three-course menu a particular steal at just CFA7500 (around US$13.50). If coming in the evening, you can expect live music, karaoke nights and a changing happy hour, all in the comfort of an air-conditioned salon. But, it’s the football we’re after and Le Kermel is the place to go for HD. Its large screen may not be the size of some of the projectors across town, but if you like telling which player is which while sipping on a draught beer (quite rare in Dakar), Le Kermel is right up your alley.
Confusingly situated close to the Phare (‘Lighthouse’) in Mamelles, Hotel du Phare was not content with just one rooftop that they added another above. This twice-roofed top has become an expat stalwart on a Thursday night, with DJs playing funky house tunes as the clientele groove with a Ti-punch in their hand, while on Tuesday evenings the lower rooftop rolls out a projector and comfy seating for a movie night (all films either in English or with English subtitles). During the World Cup, the rooftop bar will be operating in ‘movie night mode’ every day, with the projector out for every single game – even those starting at 10am. Meanwhile, with its own Gino and Gino pizzeria in the corner, you don’t even need to leave your seat to order in for half-time.
From the outset, J’Go has all the hallmarks of the stereotypical Dakar lounge-restaurant: extensive and expensive menu; white table cloths mirrored with black upholstery; clientele in collared shirts. But, J’Go is Dakar’s own Jekyll and Hyde. During football matches, J’Go transforms. With two wide projector screens at either end of the restaurant – one in a corner laid out with sofas, the other staring down the monochromatic dining area – J’Go welcomes the masses and provides a rowdy atmosphere that is unrecognisable from its swanky day job.
Dakar is full of beautiful places to watch the sun melt into the Atlantic, but the bar at Hotel Sokhamon may just clinch it. Enviously placed on the outskirts of Plateau, this Art Deco hotel boasts an infinity pool and pastel-coloured bar that stares out into the great abyss; the bird sanctuary of Iles des Madeleines lying peacefully in the distance. The perfect spot for a sunset cocktail. Sokhamon also knows how to show a game or two, with a large flat-screen standing pride of place among the colourful walls and African décor of the bar. If you want to watch the World Cup in style (especially if the game finishes around 7.30pm), then the Sokhamon is the place to do it.
As the name suggests, you cannot get much closer to eating in the sea than actually eating in the sea. La Mer à Table is a large, spacious restaurant on Almadies’ Petite Corniche, with an interior that resembles a marquee at a wedding: long, well-stocked bar, wide-open dance floor, rectangular tables and wind-proof transparent sides. The reason for the latter is abundantly clear, as the restaurant not only sits above the surfing hot spot of Secret Spot, but is also the proud owner of a sandy exterior terrace – an ideal spot to while away a sunny Dakar day. During the World Cup, the Portuguese owner unveils a large projector inside showing all the games, with the furniture moved to match. A great place to watch the game, enjoy a good meal and still have a day on the beach.