5 diversely different dining spots in Dubai

Tom & SergFooDiva should be regaling you with waistline-friendly dining options given new year resolutions and all, but as an occasional believer in portion-control, gene management and exercise – all in moderation of course (my two mantras are Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat and Dr D’Adamo’s Genotype diet) – am not gonna bother. Gosh that’s a long sentence. Anyhow, instead I’ve been busy playing catch up on some new restaurant and café openings, so here’s a damn good, diverse bunch of dining spots in Dubai. Happy eating :) .

  1. StoryStory - for a low-key soirée, head to Story, the rooftop lounge atop the Holiday Inn Express at Knowledge Village, replacing the spot previously known as Vista. Don’t let the location put you off, this joint is co-owned by one of the partners in El Sur. Lucky me, it’s within footsteps of my home. One of the two terraces has direct sunset views across the coast to the Palm and Burj Al Arab, plus the food is slightly Peruvian-influenced. From what I eat, top marks for the red snapper ceviche, scallop skewers, beef tenderloin spring rolls and sweet potato fries. The beef in the aji Amarillo and saffron risotto is overcooked. Portions are designed for sharing between two if not more, and at AED40 to 75 per dish, very well priced. Two dishes per person is more than sufficient and that’s coming from the diva with a huge appetite (when not in portion-control mode). Sadly though Peru’s national drink (or arguably Chile’s) Pisco Sour, is not on the cocktail list and our waiter has zero inkling of what I am babbling on about. Holiday Inn Express, Knowledge Village, Dubai. T; +971 04 3659911, E; yourstory@storydubai.com Open daily 5pm onwards and for brunch on Friday. Licensed.
  2. Sublime smoked salmon scotch egg at Reform on hollandaise sauce with asparagusReform Social & Grillbest described as a posh British pub, this London Marylebone import, replaces the clubhouse at the Lakes compound. Going by its Facebook page comments, Reform got off to a helluva rocky opening a few months ago. That’s one reason I will only review restaurants at least a month into settling in. But with a new manager in place, who you may recognise from his Wheeler’s and Ivy days, our pre-Christmas lunch impresses. The smoked salmon scotch egg with hollandaise sauce which sits on the à la carte menu is a must-order. Reform’s not cheap though and given the super casual environment, the pricing should be reviewed. Not to be compared to Brit institution, Rivington Grill which is one notch up for sure. Oh and there’s a cute gelato parlour. The Lakes, Dubai. T; +971 4 4542638, E; reservations@reformsocialgrill.ae Open daily 8am until late. Licensed.
  3. Branzino at Eataly DubaiEatalyanother global import but this time gourmet Italian food emporium Eataly at Dubai Mall goes head-to-head concept-wise with neighbour Lafayette Gourmet. A gourmet grocer stocking Italian-only products sourced by the premium purveyors to the trade Fresh Express, this food hall also houses plenty of tables for eating in. The highlight is cheese made on the premises in an open-plan dairy, mozzarella and scamorza included – here’s a peek which garnered much discussion on Facebook and Instagram. Unlike Lafayette, you can’t walk around and choose what you fancy as I find out when I set my heart on the freshly made ricotta and pumpkin ravioli – the marketing brochure says otherwise though. Having said that, the menu is huge. Dishes worth ordering – polpette aka beef meatballs with a tomato dip, salmon tartar and sea bass carpaccio, burrata with cherry tomatoes and rokka, spaghetti pomodoro, lasagna layered with pesto, green beans and boiled potatoes and the branzino (baked sea bass) for its delightfully pretty presentation. Avoid the rather dry seafood paccheri pasta with only the odd teeny mussel, shrimp, squid and clam. The Napoli pizzas and piadinas look worthy of a return visit. Sadly service leaves a lot to be desired though, with practically zero menu knowledge and dishes arriving at differing times. Well priced with generous portions averaging around AED50. A weekend lunch spot oozing hustle and bustle. Dubai Mall, lower ground floor next to Marina Furniture. T; +971 4 3308899. Open daily 11am – 10.30pm and until 11.30pm on weekends. 
  4. Tom & SergTom & Serga new urban and buzzing café set over two storeys in Al Quoz with a small menu where the odd dish changes daily. Reminds me so much of the first More café in Garhoud all those years ago – another home-grown concept. In case you’re wondering Tom hails from Melbourne and Serg from Madrid. The waitress who serves us is a chatty-as-always Australian so let’s hope the staff stay on after their year’s contract. All three dishes we order impress – a roasted free-range chicken with satay sauce and bamboo shoots, a cottage pie and sweet potato salad. At AED37 to 52 per dish, tis rather cheap for Dubai café fare. Al-Joud Centre, Sheikh Zayed road, round the corner from Ace Hardware, Dubai. T; +971 50 3675332, E; hello@tomandserg.com Open daily 8am – 4pm. 
  5. SpontiphoriaSpontiphoriathe creation of Sidiqa, an Emirati and fellow food blogger-cum-baker, Spontiphoria is a bakery, café and boutique, all-in-one. Pretty in girlie pink and cream, I fall for the Great Gatsby-esque dresses, whilst sipping white peony tea and nibbling on lemon drizzle cake. If I had a boudoir, that’s what it would look like. She even has pink pashminas dangling from the chairs for those sitting al fresco. Cakes are served in small finger-food portions and cookie squares are bite-size – from AED9. Sweets aside, an eggy brekkie is also on the menu. Shop 31, Block 8, Wasl Square, Jumeirah, Dubai (behind Pantry Café), T; +971 4 3388827, E; info@spontiphoria.com Open daily 8am – midnight with weekends from 10am. 

Let me know if you’ve tried and tasted these, and how they’ve fared. Any other quirky concepts worth checking out? Or are you in diet-mode? ;) .

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

P.S – this time next week I shall be on an Etihad flight to New York and a couple of days later onwards to the Cayman Islands for the annual Cayman Cookout – courtesy Ritz-Carlton. Anthony Bourdain, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert here I come. Super excited and can’t wait to share what I learn! I have one restaurant booking confirmed for New York, but desperately hoping for a cancellation at Momofuku Ko. Any foodie recommendations welcome :)

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    Bar, Bar and pub grub, British, Cafes, Cakes, Dubai, Hotels, International, Italian, Licensed, Peruvian, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Tea, Tea salon

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9 Responses to “5 diversely different dining spots in Dubai”

  1. Sally - My Custard Pie January 7, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Have been to Tom and Serg a lot and like it. The last time however I had a waitress who was …shall we say…more the norm of Dubai …and the food was cold. A temporary blip I hope. Spontiphoria is divine. Good luck to these two independents.
    Spill the Bean in sunset mall is also worth visiting.

    Wow that’s a trip and a half coming up.

    • FooDiva January 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      Oh dear cold food is never acceptable Sally (unless it’s a salad!) and that would discourage me from returning. Better be a blip otherwise they won’t survive. Is Spill the Bean worth visiting for the food too as coffee alone won’t get me there?!

  2. Tara Rogers January 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

    As always, right on the button Sam! Love your reviews, and look forward to trying the couple of options reviewed that I haven’t yet visited. So agree with you on Eataly – was excited with the concept and some of the food, but service has become increasingly poor four, and possibly last, visits on… what a shame.
    Thanks for inspiring with your balanced, interesting reviews and look forward to hearing about NY and Cayman Cookout! Have you been to Prune in NY – great brunch, fresh food, small and cool?

  3. FooDiva January 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks so much Tara and happy new year! Why is it that it’s usually service that is this town’s biggest disappointment? I wish places like Eataly would invest as much in the service staff as they do in the kitchen…not just the right people but in training too. I could see so many senior management standing around…but doing nothing just talking amongst themselves! Ooh Prune is on my list so I will try to get to it now that you’ve seconded it – but I only have time for two dinners and two lunches plus I so want to sample the food truck scene as well. I’ll keep you posted :)

  4. IshitaUnblogged January 8, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Spontiphoria is definitely on my list – I have been planning to go there, but it’s never worked out. I’ve visited Spill the Beans quite a few times now – and I agree with Sally – it’s definitely worth visiting. The couple who runs it are very conscious of what’s going into the food – ticks on all the right boxes. What about Maison Mathis? I also visited another place – twice now – St Tropez. It’s licensed – the salads and starters have the *Fraiche* kind of feel. However, both times it was almost empty, hence you might not like the ambiance. I tasted my first frog – very tasty but I don’t think I can venture too much into the jungle!

    • FooDiva January 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Will add Spill the Bean to my review list. Yes Maison Mathis is on my list – have you been? Also not tried St Tropez MOE – same company as the longstanding Century Village restaurant? So glad they’re doing frog – about time we ruffle palates here!

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