Oh Dubai. There are are few cities as cosmopolitan on the culinary front.
The high-octane mix of drinking and dining destinations is reason alone to hop on to a flight to this epicurean hub, with celebrity chefs and local outposts of iconic international restaurants holding as much draw as home-grown cafés on the tip of the latest trends here!
While there are far too many must-visits to compile into one singular bucket list, I recently canvassed the latest and the greatest to curate my favourites across the board – from the buzz-worthy new openings to old classics and hidden gems.
New & Noteworthy
With Greek-chic restaurants leading the wave of haute new restaurants, Gaia is easily one of the most glamorous spots to eat at right now. Helmed by the ex chef of La Serre, there’s that certain “see-and-be-seen” spirit to its stylish setting, with understatedly-elegant interiors offset by the raw beauty of a fresh fish market. With taverna-style seafood a strong draw, vegetarian options are rather limited, although in our case – made up for by gratuitous dessert consumption after. The Fillo Mille Feuille, particularly stands out with its impeccably light layers of fresh cream bountifully swathed between crisp sheets of filo pastry! Gate villlage 4 – Dubai.
Avli by Tasha’s
A few doors away in DIFC, South African restaurateur Natasha Sideris has opened Avli by Tasha’s. Grecian touches run the gamut from olive trees inside to the chef’s signature “Souvla for Sharing” menu, alongside traditional mezze and slow-cooked meats. Do be sure to sink a cocktail (or a few) at the adjoining Galaxy Bar after; the debonair drinking den is fast becoming a well-trodden nightspot for those in the know! Unit C-01, Ground Floor, Gate Village Building 9 – Dubai.
Inspired by the beachy-blues and pristine-whites of the Amalfi Coast, the new sister restaurant of Il Borro Tuscan Bistro (more on which below!) sits prettily on the waterfront of the Bluewaters island development. It’s endearingly-cosy with outdoor terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows affording a picture-perfect view of the Dubai Marina skyline. As for the menu, expect the freshest of fish served up the Mediterranean way, alongside southern Italian favourites – from Neapolitan style pizzas to terrifically-truffled tagliatelle! Bluewaters Island – Dubai
Of course, no visit to Dubai is complete without a revisit to Zuma, Rainer Becker’s inimitable take on a Japanese izakaya. The timelessly-trendy haunt is never not buzzing and one can always rely on a relaxed yet animated evening here, ballasted by Zuma’s signature cocktails and umami-rich dishes, executed with creative flair. Gate Village 06, Podium Level – Happiness St – Dubai.
Il Borro Tuscan Bistro
Not just another fine-dining name, Il Borro speaks of a Tuscan establishment steeped in centuries of heritage, having once passed through the hands of the Medici family and the Savoy Dynasty. Managed in present day as a leading Relais and Chateaux, the famed Florentine estate has spun off a glamorous offshoot in Dubai’s Al Naseem hotel.
The restaurant is just as elegant as you’d expect of its current custodians (the Ferragamo family) – bedecked with supple leather, marble-topped counters and subtle gold highlights which add a rich level of detail to the cream, beige and white hues. As for the menu, Il Borro champions fresh organic produce from the Tuscan estate (vegetables, cheeses and meat) with a wine menu showcasing the best of il Borro’s vineyards too! 906 Jumeria Rd – Jumeirah Al Naseem -Dubai.
La Serre Bistro
Sheathed in signature whites, La Serre sets the bar for an elevated experience from the moment you walk in to this immaculate French restaurant, set strikingly within a glass cube-esque structure attached to Vida Hotel (downtown). The menu majors in all manners of craveable dishes – from beautifully-textured salads and the freshest burrata you’ll ever have the pleasure of encountering, to your favourite French classics, including an intensely-memorable gratin Dauphinoise that’s every bit as rich as you could hope for! Vida Hotel – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd – Dubai.
The Dubai outpost of the iconic restaurant from London, is an exuberant haunt housed within the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. As with the original, the menu here constellates on Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) cuisine, rendering a colourful cacophony of ceviche, tiraditos and more signature specialties! Restaurant Village Four Seasons Resort Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 2 – Dubai.
Where To Eat in Dubai Mall
Of course, chances are that a good part of your days in Dubai might be spent meandering through its magnificent malls. Ranking as one of the world’s largest shopping destinations, The Dubai Mall 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 and fior di latte freshly made in-store. If we had to choose, here are our top picks:
Jones The Grocer
Helmed by the cult Australian brand, this inviting café has an outdoor terrace ideal for the cooler months and rather conveniently, a children’s play area. Brunch is quite a vivacious event here, with Jones The Grocer also championing an Antipodean-style coffee caravan and a dedicated cheese room brimming with over 80 different kinds of cheese supplied directly by artisanal farmers and cheesemakers!
Finding your way to Parker’s will be no easy task, as you’ll have to first hunt down the hidden key to enter (following clues on social media no less!). But, be rest assured that you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts with unapologetically-indulgent American-inspired bites, not to mention devilishly-dramatic desserts including *that* biscoff pudding!
Secret Garden by L’ETO
If you’re looking to up your Insta-game, then be sure to visit The Secret Garden by L’ETO, where #APinkAesthetic will have you firmly #UnderTheFloralSpell of the café’s enchanting setting. The pastries and cakes are just as exquisite in presentation too!
Dubai Mall, Financial Center Rd – Dubai
Of Boulevards & Beaches
Stepping out of the air-conditioned malls, spend your evenings ambling across Dubai’s beautiful and brightly-lit, beach-side boulevards.
Running the long length of the sea in the Jumeirah 1 district, La Mer is a picturesque promenade dotted with palm trees, graffiti art murals, laid back bars, restaurants and ice cream parlours to cool your heels at. The host of attractions here extend to a beachfront waterpark with water-rides that are wildly-adventurous for adults and their younger ones alike!
The Walk at JBR
Spanning restaurants, boutiques, home and handicraft stores, an outdoors market inspired by London’s Convent Garden, and even an open-air cinema – The Walk at JBR is a definitely as fun as it all sounds, with a touch of theatrical entertainment thrown in for good measure at a street-side kiosk peddling Turkish ice cream. Not that this is your average seaside softie of course, with the key ingredient – mastic gum – lending a distinctly chewy and elastic texture to deftly add to the bantering vendor’s neat sleight of hand! Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
While much of this Guide recommends local outposts of leading international establishments, it’s worth making a dedicated visit to Dubai’s home-grown eateries, led by the creative thinking of local Emiratis.
What started as a humble home-baking project by a young Hind Al Mulla, has organically exploded into the city’s most sought-after bakery. From the iconoclast ‘Chewy Melt’ cookies to colossal chocolate cakes studded with dozens of Ferrero Rocher, this café dishes up desserts you won’t stop dreaming about. Breakfast is just as inviting a proposition here, with coffee always in strong supply as well! Galleria Mall – Al Wasl Rd – Dubai.
Tom & Serg
“Forget Jerry, Tom should stick to chasing Serg”, were the exact words of a wise friend who first recommended this hidden gem to me. Housed in a split-level open-plan warehouse in Al Quoz, this Melbourne-inspired café exudes a nonchalant air of industrial cool. Service is a tad laid back, but it suits the vibe; while the fuss-free, flavour-packed dishes (often celebrating the timeless occasion of brunch) always hit the spot too! Near ACE Hardware and Burjeel Hospital، Al Joud Centre – 15A Street – Sheikh Zayed Rd – Dubai.