The biggest Dubai restaurant openings and closings of 2017
Out with the old, in with the new. We welcome the new players to Dubai’s dining scene, while saluting the fallen restaurants.
Virgilio Martinez helms the most impressive new Peruvian venue this year. Martinez runs the fourth best restaurant in the world, according to San Pell’s top 50 list (Central in Lima, Peru). His Dubai restaurant, Lima, is nestled along the fairy light-strewn fine-dining courtyard at City Walk, where you can enjoy a pisco sour without feeling hidden away in a hotel.
Closed: Totora Cebicheria Peruana, 2016-2017
Although Peruvian cuisine seemed to be having its moment in the spotlight, the moment didn’t last long for Totora Cebicheria Peruana, which closed its doors shy of a year after opening. Don’t worry, we’re not short of eateries from The Americas in this city.
Opened: Toro & Ko
There was a lot of buzz around Toro & Ko when it opened in City Walk this autumn. Thankfully, the Spanish restaurant is the real deal. Try their paella: any aficionado of the Spanish rice dish will know that the almost-burnt, caramelised rice called ‘soccarat’ is the key to a good paella – and their version doesn’t disappoint. The flavours are punchy, the vibe is good and the cocktails are interesting.
Closed: La Luz, 2016-2017
Fine-dining Spanish restaurant La Luz served up some of the best Spanish food we’d eaten in Dubai all year. Sadly, the restaurant is no longer, and word on the street is that a brand new concept by famed South African restauranteur Natasha Sideris is to replace it in 2018.
Opened: Demoiselle by Galvin
If you’re British, you’ll likely know of the Galvin brothers – they have a critically-acclaimed restaurant in London’s Harrods department store. Earlier this year, Chris and Jeff Galvin opened Demoiselle by Galvin in City Walk – a casual cafe with arguably the best French toast in the city. It was followed by their Modern European spot, Galvin.
Closed: Fortnum & Mason, 2014-2017
It’s not been a good couple of years for quintessential British cuisine. First Rivvy then The Ivy, and this year Dubai lost Fortnum & Mason. The part-shop part-cafe served up a range of oh-so-English treats, including a traditional afternoon tea that was universally popular with UK expats.
Opened: Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera
Dubai Opera concert-goers were finally able to enjoy dinner and a show when celebrity chef Sean Connolly opened a restaurant there in September. The steak and seafood restaurant, which takes pride of place at the top of the Dubai Opera building, was so impressive that it was named Favourite Newcomer at the What’s On Awards.
Closed: Crab Tavern, 2015-2017
The furniture at Crab Tavern was lovely. Sadly, that’s the only positive thing we could say about this rustic American seaside shack in Media City. In its last few months, it wasn’t a hit with the locals in Media City. Thankfully, its successor, Mr Miyagi’s, is proving to be the talk of the town.
Opened: Bleu Blanc by David Myers
Celebrated chef David Myers is opening two restaurants in the new Renaissance Hotel. The first, Bleu Blanc, is all about refined southern French farmhouse food. A wood-fired grill takes centre stage, roasting fine meats, fresh seafood and vegetables.
Closed: Le Classique, 1988-2017
It was open for almost three decades, but Le Classique in Emirates Golf Club sadly shut its doors at the end of July. The old-school institution was known for its secluded outdoor terrace, and was serving up snails and roux well before celeb chefs took over the city. It’s been replaced by a Jones the Grocer.
A unique, sophisticated Mediterranean restaurant, Babiole is one of three new openings at Level 44, The Westin Al Habtoor City. Described as a modern bistro, we’re expecting a contemporary menu of high-end Mediterranean eats – and we’re really excited for them. It’s just opened its doors, so stay tuned for our verdict.
Closed: Morah, Jan-Nov 2017
Morah was one of the closures this year we really weren’t expecting. The Middle Eastern-meets-Mediterranean cuisine was consistently good, the fit-out was contemporary and its 70th floor views were arguably some of the city’s finest.
Opened: Din Tai Fung (Al Ghurair Centre)
Taiwan’s most popular food chain opened a second location in Dubai at Al Ghurair Centre in March. Din Tai Fung is famous for introducing the world to xiao long bao (delicately steamed soup dumplings), and already has a hugely popular venue in Mall of the Emirates.
Closed: Ping Pong, 2009-2017
Ping Pong was one of only a few restaurants that offered great value dim sum. Sadly, its website announced that its “partnership with Dubai had come to an end”. We’ll always be grateful for the shrimp har gao, Ping Pong. After almost a decade, we won’t forget you.
Opened: Mr Miyagi’s
It’s been a whirlwind year for the team behind Mr Miyagi’s, the cheeky new pan-Asian restaurant in Media One. Just last month, they left with two What’s On Awards under their belt – Favourite Pan-Asian and Favourite Business Lunch. Not bad for a restaurant that only opened in July.
Closed: Dragonfly by Tim Raue, 2016-2017
The first international venture from acclaimed German chef Tim Raue, Dragonfly billed itself as a casual dining concept, but its eight-course tasting menu and high-end dishes seemed to confuse guests. Still, it was hard to knock the food. Their signature Canton-style langoustine was incredible, and we’re pleased to hear it will be re-opening in 2018 in a new, licensed location which is still under wraps.
Opened: Dome Lounge & Club
This new club opened at the end of November with an all-star house line-up featuring Michka and Dario Dea. It’s the second nightclub in Al Habtoor City, joining BOA, which occupies the 32nd floor of the W Hotel. Described as a lounge and club, we have high hopes that Dome becomes the new clubbing staple.
Closed: VIP Room, 2013-2017
After four years dominating the clubbing scene in Dubai, VIP Room closed its doors last month with a final farewell. It will be fondly remembered for bringing big name artists and celebrity acts to Dubai such as Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes and Flo Rida. It’s expected to be replaced by Las Vegas superbrand 10AK next year.
Opened: Axe House
Replacing Cocktail Kitchen is a brand new bar and restaurant from the people behind What’s On Award winners Lucky Voice. What’s on the menu? Simple, wholesome dishes and experimental cocktails.
Closed: Cocktail Kitchen, 2016-2017
Cool decor, fantastic staff, clever cocktails and a brilliant location in JLT. On the surface, Cocktail Kitchen looked like it had it all. However, all is not lost. Whispers on the grapevine suggest that the craft cocktail concept is expected to re-open at an unconfirmed Downtown location next year.