I usually have the luxury of time when visiting Dubai, with at least a week to work my way through the smorgasbord of all that this thriving city has to offer, from weekend brunch extravaganzas, to skydiving, indoor skiing and exploring underwater wildlife… from within one of the world’s largest shopping malls!
So I couldn’t help but initially feel a tad shortchanged on my most recent sojourn which lasted just about 36 hours, as I was stopping over en-route Bahrain for my cousin’s wedding (Oh, #WhatAnAyDiya).
All these years as an Economist though, and I’ve finally mastered the fine art of efficiency. So here’s how I managed to make the most of a short trip….
New favourites: Il Borro at Al Naseem hotel
Topping my wish list of places to visit, was Jumeirah Al Naseem – the latest and final addition to Madinat Jumeirah – a luxury resort so expansive, that it has it’s own souk (market-place)!
Inspired by Bedouin traditions, the gleaming new beachside hotel (meaning sea breeze in Arabic) is where you’ll find Dubai’s trendiest and most noteworthy new openings, respectively. By the former, I’m referring to Black Tap, the cult burger joint from NYC (in)famous for its gravity-defying freak-shakes. As for the latter…
Not just another fine-dining name, Il Borro speaks of a Tuscan establishment steeped in centuries of heritage.
Founded over a thousand years ago, the settlement was historically located on the ancient Roman road Cassia. Over time, the castle and estate passed through several owners (including at one point, the formidable Medici family of Florence and more recently the Savoy dynasty). Having fallen in love with the medieval village whilst on a hunting trip there, Il Borro was finally bought in 1993 by Ferrucio Ferragamo, the founder of the timeless luxury brand. It took about twelve years to restore and transform the estate into the leading Relais and Châteaux that it represents today!
The new Dubai-based offshoot champions fresh organic produce from the estate (vegetables, cheeses and meat) with a wine menu showcasing the best of il Borro’s vineyards too.
And the restaurant is just as elegant as you’d expect of the Ferragamo family, with supple leather, marble-topped counters,and subtle gold highlights adding a rich level of detail to the cream, beige and white hues which set a softly enchanting tone.
If only we’d been able to stay on for a full supper. As time would have it, we only managed a quick – and rather lush – bellini (featuring Il Borro’s sparkling wine of course) over a few bar bites, whilst chatting to the restaurant’s amicable host, Piero…
… It was about enough to have us hankering for another visit soon!
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, 906 Jumeria Rd – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Revisiting an old classic: Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar
It was then on to Siddharta Lounge at the Grosvenor House, where we drank in the stunning 360 degree views of the Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah and the Arabian Gulf.
A long-established stalwart of Dubai’s buzzing nightlife, the restaurant, bar and lounge by Buddha Bar, recently underwent a glamorous makeover adding an elevated deck and a dedicated shisha area to its outdoors space. We loved the redesigned menu too, with Mediterannean-inspired additions making for the perfect poolside dinner, alongside light Japanese classics. Think cool and creamy burrata, beautifully-textured Greek salads, sashimi and crab rolls, and more… Heaven on a sticky summer’s evening!
Siddharta Lounge, Grosvenor House Dubai Road – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Discovering a hidden gem: Bistro Des Arts
I should have mentioned that we were staying at the iconic Address on the Dubai Marina. The hotel’s hospitality was superlative, with a rather sumptuous breakfast spread to wake up to each morning, not to mention #ThatViewThough…
The hotel is also home to Bistro Des Arts, a charmingly rustic and relaxed Parisian café channeling a bit of Montmartre on the Marina.
The gentle ambience and friendly service made for the perfect start to the day over a strong cuppa coffee and crepe generously smothered in a homemade strawberry jam. Admittedly it wasn’t the best crepe I’ve had (lacking a moreish lightness), but the cosy bistro had a certain “je ne sais quois” about it which instantly won us over! They say that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words…
Bistro Des Arts, the Address Hotel, Marina Promenade, Next to Marina Mall، Dubai Marina – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Beach, please: The Walk At JBR
Having visited the über-trendy Box Park on my last visit, this time I was keen to visit the Walk at JBR – a brightly-lit boulevard by the beach encompassing restaurants, boutiques, home and handicraft stores, an outdoors market inspired by London’s Convent Garden, and even an open-air cinema!
It was definitely as fun as it all sounds, with a thrilling touch of theatrical entertainment thrown in for good measure…
Not that this traditional Turkish ice cream was your average seaside softie, with the key ingredient – mastic gum – lending a distinctly chewy and elastic texture which deftly added to the bantering vendor’s neat sleight of hand!
While there’s plenty to whet your appetite on The Walk, this quirky street-side kiosk is an unmissable stop if you ever find yourself moseying along here.
The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Eat till you drop at the Dubai Mall
As ever, it was the promise of a fabulous foodie bonanza which was proved the chief draw at the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest shopping destinations which is also famous for its ice rink, underwater aquarium and shark tank (to name just a few of its many other attractions!).
The choice of cafes and restaurants here is legion, representing a global melting pot of instantly recognisable international names, from the Cheesecake Factory to Hummingbird Bakery and the Italian food-hall, Eataly where you’ll find burrata freshly made in-store, not to mention a dedicated Nutella counter…
This caffeine-junkie also discovered a new haunt in Walter’s Coffee Roastery, a coffee shop inspired by the cult T.V. show, Breaking Bad.
The main highlight however, was lunch at Parker’s – a laid-back restaurant that stood out for its homegrown concept.
Finding our way here was no easy task, as we had to first hunt down the hidden key to enter (following clues on their Snapchat handle no less!)… But we were well rewarded for our efforts with unapologetically indulgent American-inspired bites, ranging from devilishly deep-fried Mac n Cheese fritters to potato chips dusted with zaatar!
Dessert was an intensely memorable affair too, involving a dewy Biscoff pudding, vanilla ice cream and “lotus fudge” made by melting the iconic speculoos biscuits from Belgium… It was a bit of a struggle getting into my lehenga right afterwards at the wedding, but given half a chance, I would have had it all over again!
It was SO worth our while traipsing around #DubaiMall to track down the hidden key to @ByParkers, as *this* was simply sublime… A crumbly & crunchy biscuity Biscoff pudding, braced with oodles of vanilla ice cream and a "lotus fudge" made from Belgium's famous speculoos biscuits! Never a dull moment in Dubai is there?! #EatWellTravelOften (#WillTravelForFood) #MyDubai #TheFoodieDiariesDubai
Not too shabby a way to spend a day and a half, eh? Until next time, Dubai!
For mores recommendations, do have a flick back to the previous chapters of my Dubai Diaries.