From local cafes selling delicious shwarmas – meat cooked on a spit, topped with tahini and salad and served with pitta bread – to elegant Michelin-star restaurants serving up gastronomic delights within luxury hotels, to street-side sheesha (hubbly bubbly) cafés and budget bites, Dubai truly has something for everyone.
Dubai’s traditional cuisine tends to be fairly simple but with local rustic influence such as harees, small pieces of meat and cracked wheat blended together like a stiff porridge; and machboos, a slow-cooked dish of rice, onions and meat seasoned with spices, salt and dried lemon. The Emirate is a melting pot of different cultures and draws on the cuisine of other Arabian countries, such as Morocco with its rich tagines, Lebanon with its delicate pastries and falafel from Syria.
Mezze (starters or hors d’oeuvres) served in UAE restaurants comprise some of the following – humus (chickpea dip), kibbe (meat patties made from minced lamb, bulghur wheat and onions), tabbuleh (salad of couscous or bulghur wheat with diced tomatoes, onions, mint and parsley), kussa mahshi (stuffed courgettes), warak enab (stuffed vine leaves), falafel (chick pea patties), fattoush (finely chopped tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad), mutabel (similar to humus but made with aubergine).
Desserts are usually very sweet, and are frequently pastries filled with honey and nuts (baklava) or Umm Ali is a bread pudding with raisins and nuts. Dates are also central to Dubai’s cuisine.
Dubai’s thriving culinary scene offers hundreds of restaurants many based in the emirate’s luxury hotels, and the majority of which are licensed to sell alcohol, unlike those located outside of hotels. However, these independent outlets should certainly not be dismissed, as many are culinary delights in their own right. Some of the world’s culinary stars have moved into the Dubai market including:
Jamie’s Italian, Festival Centre’s Canal Walk
The design is very typical Jamie’s Italian – contemporary mixed with rustic and all combined with a classic Jamie ‘twist’! www.jamieoliver.com/italian/dubai
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire – InterContinental Dubai Festival City
Three-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire made his mark on the global stage when his Parisian restaurant was named third best in the world by Restaurant magazine. To the delight of Dubai locals and visitors, he brings his inimitable style to Reflets by Pierre Gagnaire. The upscale menu boasts specialties the chef calls “multisensory hits,” created by blending unexpected tastes and textures for a truly adventurous dining experience.
Gary Rhodes – Mezzanine at Grosvenor House / Rhodes Twenty10 at Le Royal Meridien
Signature dishes from Michelin Star celebrity Chef Gary Rhodes are from traditional British cuisine with a French flair. The restaurant itself is a work of modern art, daring to be different. His second Dubai venue, Rhodes Twenty10 in Le Royal Meridien hotel, is a new generation of culinary grill with a twist, where the emphasis is on sharing, bringing family and friends together in sleek and contemporary surroundings.
www.grosvenorhouse-dubai.com / www.leroyalmeridien-dubai.com
Atlantis, The Palm, located on Palm Jumeirah, opened its doors in 2008 offering a range of exquisite dining options from Michelin starred chef’s restaurants to authentic Arabian cuisine. With 17 restaurants, bars and lounges, Atlantis is a culinary destination from family friendly to fine dining.
- Nobu Matsuhisa – Nobu Atlantis
The first Nobu restaurant in the Middle East is located at Atlantis Dubai, combining cutting-edge Japanese style with Arabian influences by world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
- Giorgio Locatelli – Ronda Locatelli
Celebrity chef Giorgio Locatelli presents sophisticated trattoria-style Italian cooking from brick-oven pizzas and antipasto to delicate pastas. The restaurant boasts circular, family-style dining tables with all food is prepared in four centrally located wood-fired ovens.
- Santi Santimaria – Ossiano
Ossiano is the acclaimed Spanish chef, Santi Santimaria’s, signature seafood restaurant. His cooking – often including dishes cooked in a traditional Catalan style – are simple yet sophisticated and dominated by his respect for the seasonality of food. This elegant restaurant features fine dining and contemporary Catalan-inspired cuisine, offering gourmet seafood and a enticing ambience in the underwater world of Atlantis The Palm.
- Michel Rostang – Rostang – The French Brasserie
Traditional French cuisine with a modern twist are brought to life under the watchful eye of double Michelin-starred restaurateur, Michel Rostang. This Parisian restaurant offers a patisserie and a large array of fresh seafood on display within the bistro. French traditional cuisine with a modern twist, with special features including a raw bar, which serves superb oysters, shellfish, crayfish and truffle sandwiches.
Dining at Dubai Marina
Marina living has become one of the most desirable and sought-after lifestyles in the world. And now, Dubai Marina provides visitors with the chance to sample life waterside amid Dubai’s world-class hospitality offering. At the heart of the development is The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence which features a range of restaurants and alfresco cafes, so visitors can sample both local and international cuisine. Restaurants along The Walk include seafood restaurant Blues, shisha and coffee specialist Chandelier, al fresco eatery La Movieda, the European cuisine of Inferno, the stylish Fashion Lounge and the eclectic Turkish restaurant Kosebasi.
Dubai boasts some of the world’s most sophisticated and refined fine dining experiences. It would simply be impossible to list all the fantastic restaurant offerings, but here are a few to give you a flavour of what’s on offer in the emirate’s burgeoning restaurant scene:
- Celebrities at One&Only Royal Mirage is a landmark restaurant, offering a modern interpretation of Western and Middle Eastern fusion cuisine, with outstanding views over the Arabian Gulf. www.oneandonlyresorts.com
- Vu’s at Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel is an award-winning favourite in the heart of the city. The restaurant serves the best in modern European cuisine in a stylish setting. Located on the 51st floor, Vu’s has stunning panoramic views of Dubai’s cityscape. www.jumeirahemiratestowers.com/dining/vus
- Armani/Ristorante is located in Armani Hotel, and the restaurant draws on the rich gastronomic traditions of Tuscany and other Italian regions to provide classic and authentic culinary delights.
- Almaz by Momo’s in Harvey Nichols at Mall of The Emirates has had fantastic reviews. Mourad Mazoouz brings a gourmet experience in a legendary North African-Maghrebian style of cuisine. www.malloftheemirates.com
Arabian and Persian cuisine
Dubai’s leading Arabian and Persian restaurants include:
- Bastakiyah Nights in Bur Dubai serves Middle Eastern cuisine and offers al fresco rooftop dining as well as private dining rooms for groups of different sizes.
- Shabestan at the Radisson Blu offers a wonderful introduction into Persian cooking and has stunning views of the Creek. www.radissonblu.com
- Shahrzad is located in the Hyatt Regency hotel and has a rich, traditional ambience. This Persian restaurant evokes enchantment and beauty. www.dubai.regency.hyatt.com
There is a range of Indian restaurants offering filling thalis (the Indian equivalent of tapas), curries, dhals and freshly baked breads, served alongside an array of hot pickles, chutneys and chilli dips. Restaurants include:
- Aangan at the Dhow Palace Hotel not only serves fantastic food but is good value for money as well. www.dhowpalacedubai.com
- Nina at the One&Only Royal Mirage offers contemporary Indian cuisine in elegant surroundings. www.royalmirage.oneandonlyresorts.com
- Bollywood star Asha Bhosle’s restaurant Asha’s is at Wafi City Mall with fabulous Indian food, funky décor and a winter terrace. www.waficity.com
- While Michelin star chef Vineet Bhatia is a consultant at Grosvenor House’s Indego restaurant. www.grosvenorhouse-dubai.com
Top seafood choices include The Aquarium at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club www.dubaigolf.com and Fish Market at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek which sports a suitably aquatic vista of the Creek. www.radissonblu.com
Dubai boasts an abundance of European restaurants. Italian is particularly prominent.
- Rivington Grill is located in the heart of Downtown Dubai in Souk Al Bahar. Rivington Grill offers the best in British cuisine. www.rivingtongrill.ae
- The Ivy opened in June 2011 and is situated in the heart of Dubai’s business district at The Boulevard of the luxurious and iconic Jumeirah Emirates Towers www.theivy.ae
- Andiamo at the Grand Hyatt Dubai is a popular and colourful open-kitchen restaurant. www.dubai.grand.hyatt.com
- Casa Mia at Le Meridien Dubai is one of the emirate’s most credible Italian dining experiences, well-known for its fresh ingredients and great service. www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien
There are some magnificent restaurants with Far Eastern influences which include:
- Hukama in The Address Downtown Dubai offers a refined Chinese dining experience. www.theaddress.com
- Peppercrab at the Grand Hyatt Dubai offers Singaporean cuisine and is one of the best places to eat seafood. The restaurant is opulent style is combined with friendly staff and outdoor seating. www.dubai.grand.hyatt.com
- Zheng He’s at Madinat Jumeirah is a contemporary Chinese restaurant with a beautiful interior featuring one of the most stunning views of Dubai. www.madinatjumeirah.com
- Creekside at the Sheraton Dubai offers Japanese cuisine. The restaurant has attracted a loyal following with its outdoor seating and good-value theme nights. www.sheratondubaicreek.com
- Shang Palace showcases Cantonese cuisine, provincial specialties and Chinese tea culture in an ambience of rich Chinese heritage.
Brunch can range from fun-filled family buffet brunches, complete with table entertainers, face painters and kids’ play areas, to leading gourmet restaurants.
- Andiamo! at Grand Hyatt www.dubai.grand.hyatt.com
- Beachcombers at Jumeirah Beach Hotel www.jumeirah.com/en/Hotels
- Focaccia at Hyatt Regency www.dubai.regency.hyatt.com
- Glasshouse at Hilton Dubai Creek www.hilton.co.uk
- Latitude at Jumeirah Beach Hotel www.jumeirah.com/en/Hotels
- Legends at Dubai Creek Golf Club www.dubaigolf.com
Taste of Dubai Festival
Taste of Dubai is now widely considered one of the must-attend events in the UAE and takes place in March every year. If you love food, then Taste of Dubai is the perfect occasion to sample signature dishes freshly prepared by world-famous chefs whilst exploring specialist culinary delights, sampling fine beverages and enjoying a fabulous programme of music and entertainment. www.tasteofdubaifestival.com
Pork and alcohol are not consumed by Muslims; however, many restaurants still use them in dishes prepared for visitors and will highlight them on the menu.
Finally, locals tend to dine late in the evening, after 9pm, so visitors should plan dinner from around this time to enjoy the atmosphere.