A Dubai foodie bucket list

Bastakiya - traditional wind towers that top XVA gallery & guest house

Bastakiya - traditional wind towers that top XVA gallery & guest house

With the weather cooling down and visitor season in the offing, I have of late, been asked for recommendations on what to do in Dubai, so here’s FooDiva’s bucket list, albeit a food-related one, naturellement.

1. Experience local Emirati culture for a day. Kick start your day with a guided tour of Grand Jumeirah Mosque – then head to the old quarter of Bastakiya by the creek for a leisurely stroll around the wind towers and art galleries. You’ll even find a teeny guest house here, XVA, in case you’re looking for a bed for the night. Grab a hosted Emirati lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, and end your afternoon with an abra boat ride along the creek. A fascinating insight into local culture, and a great antidote to Dubai’s bling!

The Farm - Dubai2. The Farm is a heavenly eatery in the Al Barari ‘wilderness’ residential compound, off the Emirates Road. Surrounded by lush greenery, gardens and nurseries, it’s a hidden gem of an oasis serving simple dishes with quality ingredients over breakfast, lunch and dinner – choose from the i-pad menus. I have been known to liken it to paradise.


Burj Khalifa


3. Take in Dubai’s magical fountains whilst dining at Brit institution Rivington Grill at Souk Al Bahar. With a stunning backdrop of the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa (and the world’s largest shopping mall), the dancing music, Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro in particular, never ceases to amaze me and the visitors I religiously drag there.

4. Kick of your sandals and head to Bu’Qtair, a hidden shack overlooking Jumeirah beach that serves the most exquisite fresh fish cooked Keralan style. Pomfret, shari, prawns and more, all fished locally – plus fish curry and parathas. Cheap, cheerful and spotlessly clean. Clearly it’s now no longer a secret. Behind Chalet on Jumeirah Beach Road – it’s such a hideaway there’s no website or telephone. Bu'Qtair fish shack

5. Dubai’s best restaurant? It’s not just FooDiva who thinks so, but La Petite Maison in the DIFC financial district serving French-Nicoise cuisine was voted one of the World’s Best Restaurants earlier this year. Dishes are served from the open plan kitchen as and when they are ready, with the idea of sharing. Food, service, location, atmosphere are all top notch – worth every dirham. Get there early and potter round the many modern art galleries. La Petite Maison

6. Dune-bashing in the desert followed by sundowners and an Arabic barbeque – alongside a spot of belly dancing, henna painting and perhaps the odd camel ride. Plenty of tour companies to choose from – check Definitely Dubai.

7. Last but not least, Dubai is not all five-star glam dining, but bursting with authentic and ever so affordable ethnic eats hidden in the many corners of this town’s older districts. Soon-to-launch Frying Pan Food Adventures takes you on a three to four hour guided tour of the teeny eateries in Deira, Bur Dubai, Karama and Satwa – all under the helm of food blogger talent I Live in a Frying Pan.

Just a quickie before I sign off, if you’d like someone else to organise your social diary, then check out new lifestyle experience company, Lime & Tonic Dubai. And for plenty of non-foodie things to do in Dubai, wander along to fellow blogger Ishita’s post.

What other gems would you add to this wish list?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

P.S – an abridged version of this post was published in the summer issue of Dutch travel magazine, Columbus.

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31 Responses to “A Dubai foodie bucket list”

  1. IshitaUnblogged October 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Ohhh Thank you so much for the ping-back, FooDiva! 3 out if 7 in the list checked – not a good score at all for a self-confessed Dubai lover. Have to try for full score by the end of this year.

    So, FooDiva is making me re-think about The Farm. Probably have to visit it and then write a post on the 2 experiences. Want to hear all about Blogger Connect.

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 9:05 am

      A pleasure Ishita 🙂 I went again to the Farm last month – no issues with reserving and service was good. Food was reasonable but nothing wow. It’s the location that makes it so special I feel. As for Blogger Connect, Dianne’s workshop made it worthwhile – the rest a little disappointing. More in person! x

      • DNCW October 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm

        Thats on my to do list for november foodiva; pls note

        • FooDiva October 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm

          Thought as much!

  2. Geordie Armani October 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I tell everyone, if there is one thing you have to do before you leave Dubai it is a stay at Al Maha 🙂 magical things happen up there 🙂 x

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Indeed GA agreed 🙂 If I had expanded this list, I would have most definitely included Al Maha as well as Six Senses Zighy Bay.

  3. Minna Herranen October 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Thank You FooDiva, I kept my bucket list in my mind only, now that I have two great lists I don’t have to rely on my memory only. I have been in Dubai 8 years and fully agree with yours and Ishita’s lists. Many great places to see and food to taste here in Dubai. Can’t wait Frying Pan Food Adventures to start.
    Thank you, must share with friends.

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks Minna. I think we are very spoilt and lucky to be living here, with so many entertainment and dining options. I think I will grow this list as I come across other hip and happening gems.

  4. Katie Foster October 7, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Well,it is comforting to know I am doing good as I have thoroughly enjoyed 7 of your 10 suggestions.

    The Farm has been on my list way too long! Just do it!

    Very top of the list is the Frying Pan Food Adventures. Have loved her blog and just can’t wait until she starts the guided tours!

    I visited Bu’Qtair one afternoon last year with a girl friend with the intention of having lunch. When we opened the door we were greeting a group of men who were dining and who gave us the most unwelcoming glances. The poor owner was very agitated and just kept saying. “fish no good today – come back 6:30 for dinner.” We chuckled understanding that we had crossed a cultural line but unfortunately I never made it back . . it is number one on the list as soon as it cools off a bit more.

    Keep looking at Lime & Tonic but haven’t tried anything that “tickled my fancy” as yet.

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Wonderful feedback thanks Katie. Can just picture you walking into Bu’Qtair – I’ve only ever known it open for dinner though which explains your incident. Do go as early as possible 7ish as it does get really busy and you may have to queue for a bucket seat! Lime & Tonic has an evening at the Address’ Cigar Lounge on Wednesday – well worth it for the Burj Khalifa and fountain views alone. Another one for the bucket list!

  5. I Live in a Frying Pan October 7, 2012 at 11:07 am

    So excited to have made this list!! Thank you! Fingers crossed that food tours launch – we just tested out a North African food safari in Deira yesterday, and it went really well. Moroccan, Egyptian, Ethiopian (even though it’s technically East Africa), Tunisian…crazy fun and I get all tingly just thinking about doing this with residents and tourists full-time!

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Gutted to have missed last night Frying Pan – am a sucker for North African cuisine especially the briouats (mind the spelling!) and as you know kosheri. Inshallah I can make your next one. All the best sweetie, you’re onto a winner!

  6. dave reeder October 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    A bucket list? Ooh, what fun!! I concur with La Petite Maison but it’s worth mentioning that all the plaudits come from a time with the former Exec Chef. Let’s see what the new one achieves, perhaps? I’d certainly want to point any visitor to some of the regional Indian outlets in Karama, certainly Calicut Paragon for Keralan authenticity. Also maybe a trip out of Dubai – Sanobar in Sharjah (just by new aquarium) has offered fresh grilled seafood in a family atmosphere that I’ve enjoyed for over 15 years…

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks Dave – looks like I will have to compile a longer bucket list. I was at LPM recently and food is just as exquisite as was service and atmosphere. Just wish it was cheaper!

  7. Amy | Appetite for Discovery October 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    As someone who can vouch for the reliability of your recommendations after gratefully receiving a list of my own earlier this year all I can say is that I can’t wait to come back and try the rest of them. La Petite Maison and your ‘experience Emirati culture for a day’ itinerary have caught my eye in particular! Keep the recommendations coming!

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Agh bless you Amy thank you. It was your request back in May that first got me thinking about this post. Helps to have it all in one place – problemo with Dubai it’s growing so fast, the list will need constant updating.

  8. Foodie Bugi October 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Interesting read – this gives me an idea! Thank you FooDiva!

    • FooDiva October 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Glad to hear – a pleasure!

  9. Chef and Steward October 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

    A very useful compilation Samantha! Will point people here when we get inquiries.

    • FooDiva November 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Thank you. I think I will have to update it regularly!

  10. Champagne Jayne February 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Love the makeover and what a great reference article – now keen to try all these on my next visit – with your good self as my guide obviously!! Cheers Patsyx

    • FooDiva February 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      Makeover? Your bucket list and my updated one should include a champagne bar! Cheers Edina. x

  11. Food Sheikh August 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    You have done excellent blog regarding A Dubai foodie bucket list it is so informative.

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