If I’m being honest, I think was a little in love with Qbara from the moment I stepped into this stunning restaurant. It was like being transported into a modern day telling of an Arabian Nights story, complete with floating carpets and a bewitching play on lights and shadows that left us mesmerised…
Spread over 13,000 square feet, the cavernous restaurant in Wafi Mall is centred on a circular dining area (with a mix of traditional and Moroccan style seating options), with the adjacent bar forming a theatrical backdrop to the beguiling visual effects, a show in itself.
Upstairs is more intimate with three exclusive Majlis panelled with Afghan carpets (redolent of flying carpets) and handcrafted details that alluringly grace each nook and cranny. There’s also a cellar showcasing wines from the Levant region and multi-level balconies looking down on to the main dining area.
In case you’re wondering (I know I was), Qbara is essentially the word Arabic, back to front. A fitting name for a restaurant rooted in traditional Middle Eastern fare and culture, albeit with a unique contemporary twist.
It’s a philosophy that reflects in the restaurant’s potent cocktail menu too, with an in-house mixology lab concocting spirits infused with all manners of Arabic herbs and spices, from sumac to za’atar.
I’ve always been partial to a French martini and so eagerly sprung for a “Persian summer” rendition – a luscious combination of vodka, raspberry and passion fruit, topped with a floating ‘island’ of saffron fairy floss.
A preserved lemon margarita was also well received on the table, its rim lined with dried lemon powder, sugar and za’atar – the contrasting textures were startling yet pleasing on the tongue. While “Ahlan” offered an Arabic twist on a classic Cosmo, featuring Qbara’s homemade citrus vodka, hibiscus-infused cointreau and pomegranate liqueur, shaken with cranberry.
Appetites whet, we readied ourselves for the full (vegetarian) tasting menu – a melting pot of cultures, that manifested in a feast spanning 12 dishes (not including dessert).
To begin, crispy raw vegetables served on the rocks with truffle-scented labneh, closely followed by root vegetable and chickpea hummus sweetened with honey and a deconstructed falafel salad.
More greens, grains and veggies followed in a cacophony of vibrant Arabic and Levantine flavours married with international influences.
Grilled eggplant arrived festooned with medjoul dates and crumbled feta. A simple lemon and garlic dressing went a long way in providing flavour to a quinoa salad with a smattering of pomegranates for a lovely crunch; while the addition of avocado lent a new dimension to classic fattoush.
And let me say that cabbage has never tasted as good as it did at Qbara,
drizzled drenched in a rich truffle butter sauce, with a good peppering of za’atar. The jumbo asparagus stems deserve special mention too, their plump juiciness complemented by the creamy yet tangy yogurt-based labneh dressing.
Italian favourites also joined in on the party. Burrata was paired up beautifully with fava beans, minted peas and kalmata olives. While the combination of freekah (the Levantine supergrain), tangy labneh and za’atar provided an exotic twist to a wild mushroom risotto.
A baklawa smash was a thrilling conclusion to our sumptuous evening – traditional Lebanese sweets crumbled with walnuts and dark chocolate, surrounded by a swirling necklace of honey and a smooth dollop of camel milk ice cream on top. We also plumped for the pistachio & cherry oud – chocolate mousse delicately layered with cherry spiced compote and an intensely flavoursome cherry almond ice cream.
It was an exquisite evening from the word go, an ethereal affair that tantalised all our senses. I have no doubt that this is a restaurant I’ll repeat with each visit to Dubai… That’s saying a lot in a city which is constantly evolving with new restaurants and experiences.
Qbara, Ground Level, Pyramids At Wafi, Umm Hurair 2, Umm Hurair, Dubai
I was hosted by Qbara. As always though, I hog full credit for my opinions.