Dubai Insider: Restaurants

From fine dining venues to home-grown heroes full of local flavour, we spotlight the best tables in town

Even the most seasoned foodie will find a dining experience to suit in the region’s most multicultural city. Dubai’s restaurant scene runs the gamut of culinary themes from must-try Arabic fare to a veritable atlas of flavours spanning virtually every continent and cuisine. It’s also reassuring to know that holiday funds can be budgeted – or blown – thanks to an impressively diverse collection of venues to choose from.

The list of legendary chefs putting down culinary roots in Dubai has blossomed in recent years and the city is a leading international outpost of choice for high profile culinarians. Michelin-starred British siblings, Chris and Jeff Galvin, have followed the likes of Gary Rhodes and Jamie Oliver with the opening of Galvin Dubai in the popular City Walk district, bringing best of British meets Mediterranean Basin flair to the table. Yannick Alléno’s Gallic flair is showcased at 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 seabass.

Heading east and it’s another Michelin-star-bearing chef, Atul Kochhar, in the limelight with Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar. The benchmark for high-end Indian cuisine in the emirate, the restaurant commands great views from its location within the world’s tallest hotel, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

The list of legendary chefs putting down culinary roots in Dubai has blossomed in recent years and the city is a leading international outpost of choice for high profile culinarians.

Of course, dining in the emirate is as much about the location as the cuisine, and restaurants that deliver the perfect pairing of food and great views are onto a winner. The growing contingent of Palm Jumeirah hotspots includes Great British Restaurant, known as GBR, at Dukes Dubai. Headed up by the UK’s Martin Cahill, who lists The Savoy and Dorchester in London among his career highlights, this is the place to come for beautifully presented, high-quality British classics, including the best roast dinner in the city.

Back on the mainland, 52 storeys high, is Observatory Bar & Grill at Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites, which offers great views of Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai Marina. Diners can choose their favourite dishes from the wood-smoked grill menu – you can’t go wrong with the US rib-eye steak and truffle fries.

Savvy gourmands at the Business Bay end of town know to bag the right table at Taj Dubai’s colourful Bombay Brasserie, in order to dine in style with views of The Dubai Fountain. Günaydin, located at the heart of Souk Al Bahar, almost tops that with a prime position directly facing both the fountain and Burj Khalifa from ground level. Make your selection from the menu of outstanding Anatolian plates and settle in for a memorable evening.

Steak and seafood are 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 off the calories later.

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 to die for and the crowd comes to pay homage to Internet sensation #saltbae. The list goes on, but we’d be remiss not to mention the delectable (and sky skimming) Prime68 at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which prides itself on quality fare served in an elegant, yet modern setting.

Prime68
Prime68

Ocean-fresh ingredients define the offering at the deceptively rustic Fish Beach Taverna at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, where the water’s edge location evokes fond memories of Mediterranean summers, while, just down the road at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, The MAINE Oyster Bar & Grill goes full on crustacean.

Away from the coast, inland venues are no less popular, with Catch, a buzzing import from New York, top of our list for fish tacos. The denizens of Emirates Financial Towers are clamouring for a table at Crab Market, where acclaimed Russian chef Vladimir Mukhin imports the likes of Kamchatka crabs to create a truly international flavour.

Family dining is very much front and centre in the city. Wide-eyed munchkins (and parents reliving their childhood) flock to NYC import Black Tap (at Jumeirah Al Naseem and Rixos Premium Dubai), which is famous for its monster milkshakes topped with everything from cotton candy and popcorn to chocolate brownies and extensive craft burger menu. 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 hinged crackers and hammers for some smashing fun. We also rate Pots, Pans & Boards, located along the buzzing strip called The Beach, where Michelin-starred Brit Tom Aikens has created a family-friendly concept based on sharing dishes. For an ice cream fix, Amorino Gelato Café at the city’s newest beach destination, La Mer, is guaranteed to keep little ones smiling with a menu of organic and all-natural-ingredient flavours. And while al fresco dining is the way to go in the cooler months, both The Beach and La Mer boast a collection of outdoor and indoor restaurants and cafés.

Family dining is very much front and centre in the city.

Another top dining destination with an equally stunning location is Club Vista Mare on Palm Jumeirah, which occupies a prime swathe of beachfront with fabulous views of the city. Terrace dining is available at each of its seven venues, including Breeze Beach Grill and Aji, which offers a unique menu of Japanese-Peruvian dishes. For a flavour of Africa, Gursha brings spicy Ethiopian cuisine to the masses.

Downtown Dubai is another top ranked district for outside dining with its wide tree-lined boulevards and street-facing parade of restaurants including Ting Irie for Jamaican cuisine and French enclave La Serre (at the pricier end of the spectrum) in Vida Downtown.

Le Cirque
Le Cirque

If money isn’t an issue you’re still spoilt for choice. Le Cirque, of Manhattan fame, at The Ritz-Carlton DIFC blends upmarket Italian inspiration with signature flair in an achingly elegant setting. The high rollers of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) are a regular fixture at Zuma, where the outstanding Japanese food is best ordered to share and the signature black cod is a must-try. Nearby, La Petite Maison is justifiably proud of its menu featuring produce sourced from local farms and chi-chi plating techniques. An expanding clique of top-flight restaurants is also popping up in Business Bay where Latin American-Japanese fusion from chef Roberto Segura is the talk of the town at Waka in The Oberoi, Dubai. Try the wakamole – a smoky avocado twist on the classic recipe.

Going local doesn’t necessarily mean Arabic flavours, or big bucks, but a visit to Dubai isn’t complete without a Lebanese spread at iconic restaurant, Al Nafoorah at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. No mystery awaits at Enigma restaurant at Palazzo Versace Dubai – just outstanding Persian dishes served with a modern twist.

For an authentic desert dining experience under the stars, journey to Al Hadheerah main image) at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa and enjoy the drama of the live cooking stations offering traditional Middle Eastern dishes, with live entertainment to boot.

With Indians and Pakistanis the two largest expatriate nationalities in the emirate, the city is awash with cheap and cheerful eateries serving home-cooked delicacies, from the institution that is Ravi Restaurant in Satwa, to Calicut Paragon in Karama for the best Keralan seafood specialities you’ve ever tasted.

Food and entertainment go hand in hand in this 24/7 city so for an entirely different dining experience it’s time to take to the water aboard Bateaux Dubai, which trawls Dubai Creek on a nightly basis.

Last, but by no means least, is the all-time Dubai gourmand must-do: Friday brunch. Competition is fierce among restaurants, with the promise of gastronomic adventures of every kind. Lima Dubai at City Walk perpetuates the Andean foodie trend with its Peruvian Expedition sharing concept, while Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s The Avenue of Indulgence Super Brunch needs no explanation. Families will adore the Meydan Family Brunch at Farriers Restaurant, The Meydan Hotel, which teams a delicious array of food with top entertainment.