FooDiva’s 30 favourite Dubai restaurants (2017)

Dubai restaurants - Best Dubai restaurants - #FoodivaLoves - FoodivaThe number one question I am always asked when I explain what I do, is simply – “what is your favourite restaurant?” It’s very hard to single out one sole restaurant in Dubai as I have favourites for different occasions, style of dining, and ultimately whether I want to drink booze or not.

So here is an update to the round-up published this time last year (mainly because many have closed down and a few more have opened) with my all-time favourite restaurants, cafés and eateries across Dubai. I am hoping this guide will go some way in helping you decide where to eat and perhaps become your new dining bucket list 🙂

Just a few pointers to help understand my thinking when compiling this shortlist:

  • I am not claiming to highlight Dubai’s best. It’s far too presumptuous of me to assume the role of a judge – this guide 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. For me it’s not just about the food. In many cases, it’s a 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, I decide to include some in my mystery consumer and corporate #DineAroundDubai experiences.
  • You will notice a heavy focus on certain districts, but please understand this ‘newer’ slice of Dubai has been my home for 17 plus years so when dining for pleasure, I don’t enjoy facing traffic to cross the creek.

So here are FooDiva’s 30 favourite restaurants, cafés and eateries in Dubai – categorised by licensed and unlicensed; subdivided into districts; and subsequently alphabetically. I’ve kept descriptions succinct, and where restaurants have been reviewed on FooDiva, links have been included. Otherwise the name clicks through to the establishment’s website. Enjoy reading and eating 🙂

LICENSED

JLT and Dubai Marina

  • Bistro des Arts – this 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.
  • JB’s Gastropubthis gastropub does exactly what it says on the tin, with a menu that differentiates from boring pub grub by serving quality, flavoursome dishes that are well presented in a relaxed, convivial setting.
  • Maine Oyster Bar & Grillthe obscure entrance is a welcome change from glitzy, revolving hotel doors (through Doubletree JBR’s car park), but what’s more inviting, is the lively and busy brasserie that makes up Maine. Oysters aside, the menu focuses heavily on seafood dishes – the roasted filled of halibut is a must-eat.
  • 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.
  • Mythos – a 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.
  • Palm Grill – it’s not often one finds, for want of a much-overused descriptor, a ‘hidden gem’ in a five-star hotel. Expect a rustic and low-key beachside location at the Ritz-Carlton JBR complete with sand in your toes. The a la carte menu is simple, focused fare, boasting primarily seafood with the odd meat dish thrown in.
  • Ruya – sadly Q’bara closed down, but the opening chef moved onto pastures new (Jean-Georges) and now Ruya. He has done for Turkish cuisine what he did to Middle Eastern cuisine – a modern, lighter twist on traditional dishes in a location (overlooking Dubai Marina) that oozes atmosphere and slick service.

Palm Jumeirah

  • Social by Heinz Beck – another ‘Social’ but this restaurant’s consultant chef is Heinz Beck, of three-Michelin star La Pergola in Rome. Located in the Waldorf Astoria on the Palm, it’s not as casual or as buzzy as Marina Social, but the food is highly creative yet full of flavour. Style and substance.
  • 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.

Downtown, Business Bay and Sheikh Zayed

  • La Serre – I was sceptical when La Serre first opened at Vida Downtown that it would deliver 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.
  • Play – Singaporean chef Reif ditched Zuma to co-launch, with the support of investors, his own concept atop the H Hotel’s second tower. Whilst fusion interpretations in Dubai are prolific and in most cases, poorly executed, his cuisine, that goes by the name of ‘Mediterrasian’, is a well considered blend of Asian (mostly Japanese) and Mediterranean flavours. Instead of a traditional chef’s table, he has created a private ‘apartment’ one floor above, The Experience by chef Reif Othman, where he personally cooks and serves up to 12 guests. 
  • Weslodge North American cuisine from an imported Canadian concept atop the JW Marriott Marquis’ second tower with Burj Khalifa views. Expect wholesome comfort dishes with sharp flavours.

DIFC

  • Bocaa home-grown Spanish meets Mediterranean concept with an Italian chef where 80% of all produce is locally sourced, year-round – the only licensed restaurant in Dubai to achieve this. The sustainable ethos is evident in the powerful flavours that marry tradition with a dash of creativity. You can even eat your meal in the working wine cellar.
  • Carnival by Tresindthe more affordable and ‘better’ sister, in my opinion, to Tresind in DIFC’s Burj Damam tower. The cuisine remains creative, whilst retaining familiar Indian flavours and dishes.
  • Mayta it may be hidden inside the Capital Club at DIFC, but it’s worth a visit for its exquisite Nikkei cuisine – a Peruvian-Japanese fusion style made famous by Nobu who worked extensively in Peru. The chef is Peruvian.
  • Totoraone of Dubai’s more affordable licensed Peruvian options (pisco sours guaranteed), also at DIFC. The service here is outstanding, all thanks to one particular Burmese waitress.

Wafi district

  • Tomo – Japanese food in Dubai does not get more authentic than this – so much so that even Nobu dines here. Stunning Burj Khalifa views from the tatami terrace atop Raffles hotel.
  • 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.

CAFES AND EATERIES

Dubai Marina and Internet City

  • Baker & Spice – go here for breakfast and order Dubai’s best shakshouka. In addition to the original slow-cooked tomato version, there’s a green marrow dish too – with ingredients mostly sourced locally. Locations also at Town Centre, Souk Al Manzil and Souk Al Bahar.
  • 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. Locations also at Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.
  • Rossovivo – without a doubt Dubai’s best and most authentic Neapolitan pizza at Internet City (and Business Bay). 

Barsha

  • Omnia Baharat – chef Silvena Rowe’s Turkish-inspired cafe in Mall of the Emirates using locally sourced produce where possible. Go here for breakfast and choose the eggs menemen.
  • Salmontini – smoked salmon aside that is cured in Dubai by the owners, a family-run business, go here for some of Dubai’s most fresh sushi and sashimi – overlooking the ski slopes in Mall of the Emirates.

Jumeirah

  • Kaftan – Dubai boasts many Turkish restaurants, but not many that manage to elevate Turkish cuisine to a finer, exquisite level in the relaxed setting of a converted Jumeirah villa.
  • Kif Kif – this tiny, quirky café on Jumeirah’s beach road serves superb urban Moroccan ‘street food’. Also at Dubai Marina.
  • Meat ‘N Fisha casual Mediterranean restaurant at Box Park with a mezze menu that blends Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese influences – under the helm of a Greek chef de cuisine, and an Italian sous chef.
  • 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.

Business Bay

  • La Taqueria – ask any Mexican in town where to find a taste of home in Dubai, and undoubtedly La Taqueria tops the list. Owned and operated by a Mexican family (both front-of-house and kitchen), their home-made tacos are a highlight. Generous portions at low prices.

Any of your own favourites to add to this list? Please feel free to chip in with your feedback either here or on social media with the hashtag #FooDivaLoves. 

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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13 Responses to “FooDiva’s 30 favourite Dubai restaurants (2017)”

  1. Dave Reeder December 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Great list and some of my favourites here too, though you’re missing my number one: Reflets. Would be interesting to see your list of sadly missed places that have closed over the last decade…

    • FooDiva December 14, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Reflets closed down last month Dave 🙁 I had included it in last year’s round-up. I am working on a golden oldies post of places that are still open!

      • Dave Reeder December 15, 2016 at 12:21 pm

        No more Reflets? What a shame! Maybe someone should tell Chef Gagnaire – it’s still on his Web site…

  2. Garry W December 15, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Thanks for a great round up – really informative – well done. The rabbit casserole at Bistro des Arts is so full of taste. I also enjoy the Brunch at The Rib Room and the variety of dishes at the very realistically priced Omnia Baharat.

    • FooDiva December 16, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks Garry. Hopefully I have tempted you to try a few more next year!

  3. Serene Touma December 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

    1. La Serre’s Boulangerie deserves a mention. The menu is perfectly unfussy (the penne arrabiata is dear to me) and the staff are lovely… I once spent 4 hours there on a laptop with only a coffee and water order and they never complained, or made me feel pressured to order more. Plus the pastries are amazing and that mille feuille is 100%

    2. Food-wise, Eataly deserves a mention. Unfortunately in Dubai Mall, making it seem like another cheesecake factory or PF Changs but the pizza here is arguably THE BEST in Dubai. I’ve tried Rosso Vivo but the margherita is simple and just PERFECT at Eataly. I crave it often… too often!

    3. Omnia in MOE is always completely deserted, I’m shocked it’s still open tbh. While I haven’t tried it, it doesn’t seem inviting…

    4. Play and Weslodge turn into full-fledged night-clubs are are SO smoky so neither appeal to me for dinner, tho I’ve been for drinks one time only at each. I have been seeing that Play risotto all over social media so I may have to go, but the smoke, darkness and loud obnoxious music really put me off.

    5. Not a single Bull & Roo outlet in sight I see 😉 and I agree…

    • FooDiva December 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Thanks for your detailed feedback Serene 🙂

      I haven’t visited La Serre Boulangerie this year hence I am not able to include – but from memory, you’re right, it’s an excellent casual option. Must remedy that for next year!

      Eataly made our cut for ‘where to eat pizza in the UAE’ http://www.foodiva.net/2016/11/where-to-eat-pizza-in-the-uae/

      Yes Omnia Baharat is often dead – mainly because I think the branding is not reflective of a modern casual Turkish concept – but it really is worth going. Food (especially for brekkie) and service is spot on. Cheap too!

      I hear you on Play (not experienced that with Weslodge), but go for an early dinner – try his take on ‘carbonara’ too 🙂

      I think the Bull & Roo concepts score highly on atmosphere, but in most cases, low on food quality and value for money. Service can be hit and miss.

  4. The Man in the White Hat December 15, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I’m delighted to see Boca is still going strong; I always felt it had potential if it could just draw the punters in. It was easily my favourite DIFC restaurant – not least because it’s one of the few in DIFC to offer real value for money, so actually works as a casual dining spot rather than somewhere that’s going to annihilate the expense account if you want a glass of wine with dinner. And yes, the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Rib Room is _very_ good, though I’m still not 100% convinced by the location out at the far reaches of the Palm.

    Very surprised to see that Q’bara has closed, though; I thought that was a restaurant in there for the long haul.

    • FooDiva December 16, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      It’s your review that made me want to try Boca Mr White Hat. The Rib Room seems to have a steady clientele, but yes the location is off putting for those not living on the Palm. I am still in mourning from Q’bara’s closure earlier this year – the location was a struggle. They were meant to re-open in DIFC, but I hear that’s no longer on the cards 🙁

  5. GeordieArmani December 17, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Great round up Foodiva, lovely to see Taqueria on this years list 🙂

    • FooDiva December 17, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      Thanks to your recommendation, I made a point to visit GA 🙂

  6. Matt January 3, 2017 at 1:13 am

    La luz
    Tresind
    R Trader (although I hear it’s closing)
    Weslodge
    Coya for brunch

    • FooDiva January 10, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      R Trader closed down a couple of months ago sadly Matt. Turning it into some kind of pub concept!

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