FooDiva’s 35 favourite Dubai restaurants

FooDiva's favourite Dubai restaurantsI am asked to name my favourite restaurant in Dubai as often as I don my diva heels. And yes I do have one restaurant that tops my dining bucket list, but with so many excellent haunts here, it would be unfair to just single a sole one out. So here I am sharing my all-time favourite restaurants, cafés and eateries across Dubai in the hope that this round-up will go some way in helping you decide where to eat.

Now this shortlist is not claiming to highlight Dubai’s best restaurants of the La Petite Maison and Zuma variety (that get enough well-deserved praise). It would be far too presumptuous of me to assume the role of a judge – this list is simply my recommendations of favourite restaurant haunts. What does that mean? These are places I frequent when I am not reviewing newbies on the block, and covers licensed (with alcohol) and unlicensed venues. They are all consistently good in my opinion across all aspects of the dining experience – and that’s not just food. In many cases it’s that charming waiter, or a buzzing atmosphere, that have me returning for second helpings. Frequently it’s about places that manage to inject fun into dining, where I know I am gonna have a bloody good time. And because of all these reasons, some are included in my mystery consumer and corporate #DineAroundDubai experiences.

Admittedly, you will notice a heavy focus on certain districts, but please understand this ‘newer’ slice of Dubai has been my home for 16 plus years so when dining for pleasure, I refuse to face traffic and cross the creek. So voila, here’s FooDiva’s 35 favourite restaurants, cafés and eateries in Dubai – categorised by licensed and unlicensed; subdivided into districts; and subsequently alphabetically. I’ve kept descriptions succinct with one or two sentences only, and where restaurants have been reviewed on FooDiva, links have been included. Otherwise the name clicks through to the establishment’s website.

LICENSED

JLT and Dubai Marina

  • Bistro des Artsthis locally developed concept on Dubai Marina Mall’s promenade transports you back in time to a quintessential Parisian bistro offering a genuine taste of simple and authentic French cuisine.
  • Fümé – New York meets Dubai in this retro eatery and smokehouse in Pier 7. A no reservations policy ensures it’s constantly rammed like sardines.
  • Marina Social – chef-cum-restaurateur Jason Atherton’s first restaurant in Dubai (if you ignore his stint at Gordon Ramsay’s Verre over a decade ago) has stunning terrace views at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. A British-Mediterranean menu marries a traditional cooking style with playful presentation – desserts from the dedicated dessert bar and a candy trolley are highlights.
  • Mythosa slice of Santorini in Dubai behind the Armada Bluebay hotel in JLT impresses with its no-frills simplicity and charm across both food and decor.
  • Sicilia this Italian trattoria at Movenpick Ibn Battuta has a loyal Italian following – always a good sign. The food here spans dishes from all of Italy’s 20 regions not just Sicily.

Palm Jumeirah

  • Bushman’s – head here to taste the Australian bush in Dubai, kangaroo and emu included. You must end with the deconstructed pavlova made at the table. Live music makes for a vibrant atmosphere.
  • Social by Heinz Beckanother ‘Social’ but this restaurant’s consultant chef is Heinz Beck, of three-Michelin star La Pergola in Rome. It’s not as casual or as buzzy as Marina Social, but the food is highly creative yet full of flavour.
  • Sun& – ignore the annoying spelling and Sun& may just become your favourite new haunt too. With sunset views from Palm Jumeirah, this relaxed restaurant and lounge terrace entices for weekend breakfasts, sunset brunches and barbeques – in addition to an a la carte Mediterranean lunch and dinner menu.
  • The Rib Room – I am referring to the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray outpost whose menu focuses on British cuts of beef. What I love about this restaurant is the bar seating where you can eat, whilst chit chatting to the bartenders.

Jumeirah

  • Coya – it may be an imported Peruvian concept, but this restaurant at the Four Seasons oozes exquisite albeit pricy food, authoritative service and bundles of atmosphere in a vintage Latino venue.
  • D&A – an excellent gastro-pub in Jumeirah Beach Hotel with a deck overlooking the Burj Al Arab.

Downtown, Business Bay and Sheikh Zayed

  • La Serre – I was sceptical when La Serre first opened at Vida Downtown that it would be a cookie-cutter version of La Petite Maison, but despite the similar French-Mediterranean menu, the service, ambience and interior are on a par, if not better. And it’s home-grown.
  • Okku – the location in the H Hotel may not be the best, but Okku is my go-to restaurant for modern Japanese food in a vibrant setting.
  • Prime68 – steak cuts from around the world in the only restaurant with both Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab views from atop the JW Marriott Marquis.
  • Rivington Grill – bring visitors here for an excellent British meal overlooking Dubai’s magical dancing fountains. Rumours abound that it will close next year (as will the Ivy) which is a damn shame, so get there soonest.

Wafi district

  • Q’bara – if you have one night only in Dubai, then this restaurant is a must-try – and ultimately my favourite restaurant in this emirate. A majestic Arabesque restaurant in the Wafi district embraces Arabian culture with a creative spin on traditional Middle Eastern fare – reflected in the name with the phonetic spelling for ‘Arabic’ back-to-front.
  • Solo – an Italian restaurant loved by Italians…and me has a Sardinian chef patron who adds a creative flair to dishes inspired by different regions. The sea urchin spaghetti and the wood-fired pizzas are must-orders.
  • Tomo – authentic Japanese food by the godfather of Japanese chefs in Dubai, chef Takahashi, at Raffles – so much so that even Nobu dines here. Stunning Burj Khalifa views from the tatami terrace.
  • Wox – there aren’t many five-star hotels that can pull off an unassuming joint tucked in a corner serving delicious street food hawker-style, but Grand Hyatt does with Cambodian, Vietnamese, Singaporean and Chinese fare tossed in the wok right in front of you.

Bur Dubai

  • Elia – the location in the drab Majestic hotel in Bur Dubai is in stark contrast to the charming Greek restaurant hidden inside, where the food marries traditional with contemporary dishes.

Festival City

  • Reflets – Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s Dubai outpost at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City is a slick operation serving cutting-edge, haute cuisine.

CAFES AND EATERIES

JLT, Dubai Marina and Internet City

  • Baker & Spice – the formidable woman who brought shakshouka to Dubai making Baker & Spice at Dubai Marina one of my favourite breakfast hangouts. In addition to the original slow-cooked tomato version, there’s a green marrow dish too – with ingredients mostly sourced locally.
  • Eat Greek Kouzina – the beach strip at JBR is littered with mostly mediocre restaurants and cafes, but Eat Greek stands out for its excellent modern spin on Greek dishes in a refreshing setting.
  • Marta’s Workshop – a tiny weekday lunch-only restaurant in JLT run by lawyer-turned-chef Marta whose San Sebastian upbringing has influenced her Spanish cooking style.
  • Nais Italian Kitchen – owned and operated by Marianna, an Italian national from the northern Piedmont region of Italy, Nais in JLT named after her mother, serves a mix of traditional dishes, with more creative fare.
  • Rossovivo – without a doubt Dubai’s best and most authentic Neapolitan pizza at Internet City (and Business Bay).

Barsha

  • Almaz by Momo – a slice of Marrakech in, of all places, Harvey Nichols at Mall of the Emirates makes for a welcoming and serene respite from shopping.

Jumeirah

  • Bu’qtair – no longer a hidden gem but Dubai’s only seafood shack is still worth seeking out. Beat the queues by arriving at 6pm for a 6.30pm opening.
  • Bystro – the only café on this strip in Al Manara worth dining in for brekkie, lunch or dinner – the huevos rancheros in particular.
  • Kaftan – Dubai boasts many Turkish restaurants, but not many that manage to elevate Turkish cuisine to a finer, exquisite level in a converted Jumeirah villa.
  • Kif Kif – this tiny, quirky café on Jumeirah’s beach road serves superb urban Moroccan ‘fast food’.
  • Seaview – as the name suggests the setting is all about the quaint fishing harbour view in Umm Suqeim. Run by fishermen, the seafood is always freshly caught and served with an Indian-influenced cooking style.

Downtown and Wafi

  • Entrecote Café de Paris – the sublime secret steak sauce has me returning time and time again to this Dubai Mall eatery.
  • Khan Murjan – the Aladdin’s cave of Arabic restaurants is set in a bustling courtyard hidden in the depths of Wafi mall with a menu focused on Lebanese, Egyptian, Iranian and Moroccan cuisine.
  • Omnia by Silvena – chef Silvena Rowe’s flagship restaurant in Downtown Dubai houses a two-storey, glass-walled kitchen; calligraphiti adorns one wall; with a suspended diamond prism for the chef’s table. Her cuisine leans towards a modern Middle Eastern brasserie, with a nod to Emirati flavours, whilst many dishes feature locally sourced produce.

Do you agree or disagree? Please feel free to chip in with your feedback. Any of your own favourites to add to this list?

Taking into account new restaurant openings, my aim is to update this round-up once a year.

If you’re after a brilliant London guide, check out Marina O’Loughlin’s in The Guardian that partly inspired me to develop my own shortlist.

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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20 Responses to “FooDiva’s 35 favourite Dubai restaurants”

  1. Emma December 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    What about comptoir 102 for a good café? I go there every weekend for breakfast and still look forward to it. A little pricey but worth it!

    • FooDiva December 7, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Indeed Emma. I’ve only visited a couple of times including my review and I was impressed. Must try and head back soon (and avoid shopping!)

  2. GeordieArmani December 7, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Nice list Foodiva, one of my current haunts that I seem to find myself visiting every week is St Tropez and Mall of the Emirates.

    • FooDiva December 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks GA. The entrecote with frites is excellent…and it has vino!

  3. Garry December 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Great list – have book marked it so it is easy to find when I want to look for dining ideas. By the way what about Cut by Wolfgang Puck – the steak tartare and butter salad is delightful as are the steaks?
    Once again thanks for taking the.hassle out of choosing a suitable dining location.

    • FooDiva December 7, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks Garry. Cut is excellent but very expensive for a steakhouse. If they are still running it their business lunch is good value.

    • The Man in the White Hat December 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Cut is good; but having reviewed both Cut and the Palm’s Rib Room for Foodiva, I think she made the right choice here by picking the Rib Room over Cut. They’re both expensive nights out featuring very good food, and they both have excellent service, but the Rib Room has a slightly more enjoyable relaxed ‘club’ atmosphere compared to Cut’s more corporate international polished steel atmosphere. I’d happily take friends and family to the Rib Room; I’d be more inclined to use Cut for business expense account clients.

      • FooDiva December 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm

        Well explained Mr White Hat 😉

  4. Vacuum Cleaner December 7, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Ouch! So La Petite Maison and Zuma are exceptional, but the rest (of the “fine dining” pack) are just very good??? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth but that’s how it came across to me (sorry)!

    I’ve been to Coya several times since it opened and disagree that it is expensive. I order some 9 dishes every time I go there and my bill never crosses the AED 550 mark. I would be hard pressed to achieve this anywhere else in town. In fact, Coya could very well be one of the best value for money fine dining (I use this term a little loosely here as above) restaurants in Dubai, assuming of course that you skip anything that has ‘Wagyu’ in the title.. And it may well be the only Peruvian restaurant in Dubai that I have come across to date (which isn’t saying much) that serves a ceviche that near enough blew me off my socks!

    In any case, thanks for the list and best wishes for the new year 🙂 !

    • FooDiva December 9, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Not all Mr Vacuum Cleaner. I am not sure what gave you that impression but I rate all 35 restaurants very highly if not higher than Zuma and LPM – see my descriptor of La Serre. At Coya the main course portions are a pretty similar size to starters so you’re better off ordering a selection of starters (cheaper) and steering away from the mains – and that way yes it would work out about AED500. But if your nine dishes include a couple of main courses your bill will be nearing AED1000! We base our value for money rating on a starter, main and dessert price per head. Agree on their ceviche. Have you tried Garden at the Marquis? A happy, bubbly new year to you too 🙂 All the best. Hoover.

      • Penitent Vacuum Cleaner December 11, 2015 at 9:30 am

        Hoover, eh? In hindsight, you’re right – you rate Qbara, La Serre, and Reflets quite highly and so perhaps I should read your articles more carefully (rather than skim them 😉 ) before I jump to any conclusions in the future. Other reviewers have been somewhat critical of Coya’s prices and the inconsistency in the prices of the mains is so high that 2 different guests can expect big differences in their bills – I suppose that was my personal experience based on several visits (I never ordered the Wagyu 😉 ). As for Garden, their ceviche was nothing like Coya’s, and my steak was rubbery, but the tres leches cake was super-moist and very satisfying. I think I made the mistake of going there some 2 weeks after it opened rather than giving it time to settle. I still have the new one in Business Bay (can’t remember the name) and Inka at The Sofitel to try. I’ll probably never make it to The Act given the din. It’s just a hunch but I doubt any will come close to Coya, which may very well be a bit of an anomaly within the Peruvian dining sphere.

  5. Sally - My Custard Pie December 13, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Such a great round up – and with guests coming over Christmas I will be returning to this a lot. Can’t agree about D&A – the quality of the ingredients is really poor imo. An up and coming place for me is Feast at the Sheraton Grand. Chef Raymond Wong is inventive without losing the point of things. Their buffet offering is around individual mini kitchens (there is no main kitchen) rather than cooking stations. It appears modern but rustic at the same time. I also had the best edible cocktails ever 🙂 Sorry to hear the news about Rivington – a big hole to fill if that goes.

    • FooDiva December 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Sally. Shame about D&A. I adore their fish and chips, bangers & mash and shepherds pie. I’ve only ever tried Feast for Noreen’s dinner so can’t really comment – the buffet stations did look enticing though. As for Rivi very sad indeed – why do the best ones have to go? 🙁

      • GeordieArmani December 14, 2015 at 10:53 am

        I agree with MCP about Reform, I have been back a few times and it doesn’t hit the mark. Barrel 12 and The Croft for me for best British cuisine, won’t miss Rivington.

        • FooDiva December 20, 2015 at 10:31 am

          I’ve not tried Barrel 12 and I’ve only visited The Croft for a small media tasting. Would be keen to return if I can find the time!

  6. Ed | Dubai Travel Blog March 16, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing your food experience, that’s a lot of restaurants you’ve been to. I’m sure there will be a lot more to come!

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