FooDiva’s 30 favourite Dubai restaurants (2017)
The 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 🙂
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 Gastropub – this 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 & Grill – the 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.
- 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.
- Boca – a 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 Tresind – the 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.
- Totora – one 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 Fish – a 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.
- 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.
— FooDiva (@FooDivaWorld) December 14, 2016