From casual beachside cafés to fine dining favourites, we uncover the top tables in town
From gold-dusted desserts served in a swanky setting to food trucks worth queuing for, Dubai’s food scene gets even more delicious each year, with new venues opening at a rapid rate. From the five-star restaurants that are raising the bar to the beachside neighbourhoods that are shining a light on homegrown concepts and even the malls, which more than pull their weight in the dining stakes – the challenge is knowing where to start. For waterfront dining and a great view of Atlantis, The Palm, the Dhs800 million The Pointe on Palm Jumeirah – a brand new dining, retail and entertainment destination in one – is sure to impress with more than 70 restaurants, including a clutch that are exclusive to development. We rate Rue Royale, a French fine-dining restaurant by lauded chef Mathieu Viannay as well as the family-friendly Amira’s Deli, but there are plenty more to choose from besides. There’s a smattering of shops and attractions to explore while one of the world’s largest choreographed fountain shows will join the party here soon.
Another dedicated dining destination that pairs food and great views is Pier 7, which has seven floors (the hint is in the name) of restaurants to pick from, all overlooking the glamorous Dubai Marina.
If fine dining tickles your taste buds, we would encourage you to head to Gate Village at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) where, amid the high-end galleries and auction houses, are some of Dubai’s best restaurants. At Zuma, the ever-outstanding Japanese food is best ordered to share. As it is at the always buzzing La Petite Maison, which utilises produce from local UAE farms in a number of its fabulous creations, all of which are rooted in French-Mediterranean cooking.
Greek-Mediterranean restaurant GAIA has racked up the plaudits since it opened at the back end of last year, with the chef’s passion for flavour evident in every dish. How about crumbly feta cheese baked and draped in honey to start you off?
For something more casual, BOCA is a bar/restaurant concept that does Mediterranean dishes to share, preferably with a bottle drawn from its very well-stocked cellar.
“You don’t have to look far to find a venue by a top chef”
A meal with a touch of star quality is a sure thing, as you don’t have to look far to find a venue by a top chef. Join the cool set at Akira Back at W Dubai – The Palm, which is the first venue in the Middle East to showcase the pro-snowboarder-turned-culinary-master’s blend of modern Japanese and Korean influences. Arrive in good time for a drink at the floating bar and lap up the stellar views of Palm Jumeirah. At the very same hotel is Torno Subito, Massimo Bottura’s first venue outside of Italy. Here, his expertly crafted dishes will transport you to the Italian Riviera of the 1960s.
Also on the Palm, multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse has found a new home at Kempinski Emerald Palace Hotel for his miX Dubai by Alain Ducasse, which sees the culinary maestro show off his signature style of melding classical French with the contemporary, while adding a hint of local flavour. The draw card for serious foodies here, however, is the chef’s table, hidden away and accessed only by private elevator.
If you’re keen to experience Yannick Alléno’s Gallic flair, head to STAY by Yannick Alléno at One&Only The Palm, where opulence is the order of the day, both on the plate and in the restaurant design. On the opposite side of the island’s crescent, Heinz Beck’s mastery of modern gastronomy reigns supreme at Social by Heinz Beck at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah – we suggest you try the sublime salt-baked sea bass.
For dinner with a side of drama, Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai (its the second global outpost outside of Las Vegas) will transport you straight to the studio set, with signature dishes like lobster risotto and sticky toffee pudding, as featured on the hit show. Fans of the animated chef can also check out Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen at Atlantis, The Palm, which rates highly for British classics like Beef Wellington with truffle mash.
Over at City Walk, Michelin-starred British siblings, Chris and Jeff Galvin have given us not one but two venues: Galvin Dubai and Demoiselle by Galvin. The former brings the best of British-meets Mediterranean-Basin-flair to the table while the latter bistro has even spawned a stylish food truck offshoot, currently at Business Bay.
The Bay is also home to Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant Morimoto Dubai, which spans the 23rd and 24th floor of the stylish Renaissance Downtown Hotel. Whether you choose oh-toro (fatty tuna belly) sashimi or opt for the coveted ishi yaki A5-grade Japanese wagyu, it’s a culinary thrill from start to finish.
“For serious foodies, the draw card here is the chef’s table”
Local talent to check out includes Chef Izu Ani – the force behind some of Dubai’s best-loved restaurants, such as La Petite Maison, La Serre, and The Lighthouse, to name a few. His latest venture, Carine at Emirates Golf Club, specialises in French Mediterranean inspired dishes – think crispy calamari, creamy burrata, citrusy tuna carpaccio, fragrant harissa prawns and tarte flambée – without even a hint of pretention. Be sure to try the homemade plum and apple jam.
Homegrown chef superstars Nick Alvis and Scott Price also have a dedicated following. Their folly by Nick & Scott at Souk Madinat Jumeirah will wow you with its take on modern European cuisine complete with artistic plating. When the weather’s good, bag a seat on the terrace for a secret garden feel.
When it comes to premier settings, Dubai covers pretty much every angle, with a meal amid the dunes on the wish list for most. For an authentic desert dining experience, an atmospheric meal at Al Hadheerah at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is the stuff of holiday magic, with diners seated beneath the stars, enjoying traditional Middle Eastern dishes paired with live music and dance performances.
At Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai, Al Diwaan will seat you on the veranda for a gourmet feast with breathtaking views of the reserve where Arabian oryx and gazelle roam.
Another must-do for many is a meal at Atmosphere, the world’s tallest restaurant on the 122nd floor of Burj Khalifa. We say opt for the high tea experience in the lounge, which provides the perfect excuse to linger and enjoy the view.
For a front row seat to The Dubai Fountain, you’ll find many venues at The Dubai Mall and neighbouring Souk Al Bahar that deliver the goods. One of the latest on the scene is Zeta at Address Downtown, which blends Californian and Asian influences with a close-up view of all the action.
If you feel like pushing the boat out, the Queen Elizabeth 2 calls (it’s permanently moored at Port Rashid). Book a table at signature restaurant Queens Grill, where chef de cuisine, Rama Samy – a former member of the QE2’s culinary team when the vessel served the British royal family – has introduced a tasting menu that replicates the one from the year the QE2 first sailed in 1969. Its nine courses feature ingredients sourced almost entirely from the UK (think Dover sole and milk-fed lamb).
If you have tickets to Dubai Opera, make a night of it with a meal at The Loft at Dubai Opera, where you can dine on European cuisine while admiring the view of Burj Khalifa – it’s ideal for meeting a date pre-show.
Beachside dining also comes to the fore in Dubai and we implore you to make the most of the eateries dotted along its super stretch of coast. Shimmers at Jumeirah Mina A’ Salam is a firm favourite among those in the know, affording diners a stunning view of Burj Al Arab and a menu of Greek dishes based on the family favourites of chef Yiannis Katsikas.
Club Vista Mare, on Palm Jumeirah, occupies a prime swathe of beachfront with fabulous views of the city. It has a number of venues to pick from, including Peruvian restaurant Aji. Another go-to on the palm is Mediterranean restaurant The Beach House at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. Its piled high seafood platter is sure to sink any appetite.
“Shimmers is a firm favourite among those in the know”
With Indians and Pakistanis the two largest expatriate nationalities in the emirate, the city is flush with cheap and cheerful eateries serving home-style delicacies, from the institution that is Ravi Restaurant in Satwa, to Calicut Paragon in Karama for perhaps the best Keralan seafood specialities you’ve ever tasted. On the upper end of the culinary barometer, there’s more flavourful North Indian cuisine at Khyber at Dukes Dubai, which conjures up the majesty of the Mughal era with a glorious Dubai Marina panorama to boot.
Elsewhere, a special mention must go to the kitsch and totally Instagrammable Little Miss India at Fairmont The Palm. With a colourfully painted Indian truck flanking the entrance, eclectic décor and an open-kitchen with chefs preparing fragrant regional Indian dishes, it’s a feast for all the senses.
Alternatively, for delicious Thai food, Bamboo Kitchen at Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection, is a wonderful spot for a casual meal, while the award-winning Tong Thai at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai teams street food with authentic classics.
Steak and seafood are also easy to come by in the emirate and STK at Rixos Premium Dubai on The Walk at JBR offers signature cuts of prime beef with the added bonus of a resident DJ so you can dance away the calories. You’ll need to book well ahead to get a table at Nusr-Et Steakhouse Dubai at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, where the steaks are seriously impressive and the crowd comes to pay homage to Internet sensation #saltbae. Also unmissable is PRIME Steakhouse at The Meydan Hotel, where the theatrics of tableside flambé, delectable cuts of meat and the elegant setting will delight. Over at Al Seef, Doors Dubai brings the drama with its delicious Turkish grill meets steakhouse concept.
Ocean-fresh ingredients define the offering at the deceptively rustic Fish Beach Taverna at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, where the beachside setting and design evokes summer in Santorini. Just down the road at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, The MAINE Oyster Bar & Grill goes full on crustacean. And it’s another seafood bonanza at Bluewaters Island where Alici Dubai, the new restaurant by the group behind the award-winning Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, serves up caviar and Amalfi Coast vibes with unfettered water views. Away from the coast, denizens of Emirates Financial Towers clamour for a table at Crab Market, where acclaimed Russian chef Vladimir Mukhin imports Kamchatka crabs to create a truly international flavour.
The vast majority of eateries in Dubai are family-friendly, but if you have younger kids in tow, the following venues are especially well geared towards rambunctious little diners. You can slurp a monster milkshake at NYC import Black Tap (there are three in Dubai including one at Jumeirah Al Naseem), where indulgent drinks come with everything from cotton candy and popcorn to a whole slice of cake on top. Aprons & Hammers (at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina and La Mer) is a great way to introduce a younger audience to seafood with crab and shrimp served by the bucketful and diners equipped with crackers and hammers for some smashing fun. We also rate Pots, Pans & Boards at The Beach, where Michelin-starred Brit Tom Aikens has created a family-friendly concept based on sharing dishes.
Before we wrap it up, we ought to mention everyone’s favourite weekend meal: brunch. Dubai style, this equals an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink feast involving cuisines from every corner of the globe. There are many to choose from, but one of our faves is the Wanderlust Brunch at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which has more than 10 live cooking stations and a DJ spinning the tunes.
Main image: Amira’s Deli, The Pointe