The most essential food experiences in Dubai
Whether it’s for friends and family in town, or just for you to tick off your Dubai foodie bucket list…
For some people, food is simply a form of refuelling (we’ll never understand those people) but for others it’s a lifestyle, a hobby, even an obsession (we do understand those people).
Proper foodies seek out memorable meals that they can’t wait to tell their friends about. Here are the food experiences in Dubai that any food fan should have ticked off their list…
Slurp oysters at Dibba Bay Shack
A table by the seaside while enjoying some oysters is a pretty unbeatable pairing and, luckily for you, Dibba Bay’s oyster shack – located in Dubai Fishing Harbour 2 – and its line-up of fresh oysters make it a reality. These locally farmed bivalves from the
UAE’s eastern coast are shucked to order and served in the traditional way with a selection of condiments, including mignonette, and cocktail sauce. We suggest ordering a dozen, alongside a plate of organic smoked salmon, local soft cheeses and bruschetta.
Dubai Fishing Harbour 2. @dibbabay
Dine under the stars in the desert at Sonara
You can keep your sunset at the beach, thanks very much. For us, the true magic of watching the sun go down is only to be found in the desert where the colours and tranquility get turned up to 11 as the evening chill causes you to wrap that blanket around your shoulders a little tighter. Book a spot at Sonara Desert Camp and descend a huge wooden staircase into a crater under a canopy of a thousand fairy lights for a memorable BBQ dinner. This stunning campsite could rely on its location and toss out average food to guests, but the level of cuisine is genuinely excellent. A fire show, falconry display and belly dancer add some laughs to this unforgettable sunset dining experience.
Sonara Desert Camp, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. nara.ae
Delight in Indian cuisine at Tresind Studio
With a cult following in the UAE, Trèsind Studio is celebrated for its modern Indian gastronomy and detailed table-side explanations. The dining room has an elegant simplicity, allowing the 2022 What’s On Award-winning restaurant’s executive chef Himanshu Saini’s ambitious – and exotically decorated plates – to shine. Expect the unexpected, from a fruit-scented urn to the likes of a wild mushroom chai composed of dehydrated mushroom and truffle milk powder, served in a teacup.
The Rooftop East, Nakheel Mall, tresindstudio.com
Hobnob with the fashion crowd at Twiggy
Has there been another Dubai restaurant in the last 10 years that has garnered as much word-of-mouth buzz as Twiggy? We think not. After opening at the Park Hyatt lagoon in January, you couldn’t (a) get a table for love nor money, (b) go a day without being asked if you had been to Twiggy, or (c) overhear gossip that your ex-flatmate’s brother’s boss had been to Twiggy for lunch and said it was the best day of her life. A breezy terrace with a killer skyline view, sensational food and a well-dressed crowd with cool jobs in fashion all add up to the number one Dubai hotspot of 2021.
Park Hyatt Dubai. twiggy.ae
Grab a bite at Time Out Market
Situated in the once quiet Souk Al Bahar, Time Out Market has become the warm, delicious centre of Dubai’s food scene. You’ll be enticed by dim sum excellence in the form of Long Teng’s har gao, melt-in-your-mouth brisket from The Mattar Farm, and over 15 other homegrown eateries. If your sweet tooth is humming, The Lighthouse’s impressive array of bakery goodies should sate you. And if you never want to leave this wonderful land of long wooden tables and high, gleaming white ceilings, you can just rent a luxury apartment above the food hall and plant your roots for good. You might gain 200 pounds, but hey, at least you’ll be happy.
Time Out Market, Souk Al Bahar. timeoutmarket.com
Brunch at Saffron 2.0
Oh, you want a party brunch? For years, Saffron was the go-to, a Dubai brunching institution if ever there was one. It was huge, rowdy, and jolly good fun. Of course, over the decade, other brunches have come (and gone), but now Saffron’s stepped up, introducing Saffron 2.0 in an attempt to take the crown once again. Judging by the fact we still can’t seem to get another reservation in the next four weeks – it’s returned bigger and brighter than ever.
Saffron, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai. Fri 1pm to 4pm, house package Dhs455, sparkling Dhs495. atlantis.com
Eat a Salt slider on the beach
There are only a few foods that are suitable to be eaten while wearing soggy swimwear. Pizza, tacos – go ahead. Afternoon tea? Not so much. Burgers, however, are the ideal fodder after a splash in the sea, and their diminutive cousins, sliders, even more so. Salt Burger on Kite Beach has the perfect blend of food, packaging, location and seating. Stroll off the beach, knock the sand off your flip flops, and join the queue for the most moreish, tasty, juicy sliders in Dubai (the fries are awesome, too). And when the sun starts to dip… wow, the scene is idyllic.
Salt, Kite Beach. findsalt.com
Combat a hangover at The Irish Village
You wake up and suddenly the Dubai sun seems a little brighter than normal, your mouth has the texture of a sock and your head feels like there’s a toddler playing on a pogo stick inside it. Ah yes, it’s the morning after – hello, old friend. Pull on your comfiest gym clothing, grab your darkest sunglasses and head to The Irish Village where the staff will speak softly and bring you a plate the size of a dartboard, filled with tantalising breakfast treats that always hit the right levels of saltiness, flavour and satisfyingly naughty grease. Now you’re ready to attack the morning… or the afternoon, depending on how late you got home last night.
The Irish Village, Al Garhoud. theirishvillage.com
Eat a royal favourite pizza at The Bay
So, here’s how the story goes. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler Of Dubai, loved the pizza at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Tokyo so much he suggested to the hotel chain that they install the same pizza oven in the Dubai outpost on Jumeirah Beach. Thank goodness the folks at MO listened because the pizza here, overseen by a chef from Naples, the home of pizza, is out of this world. Perch on a bar stool in front of the oven and see the chefs at work for some Italian theatre.
The Bay, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira. mandarinoriental.com
Friday night buzz at LPM
Those polished stone pathways of DIFC that are dotted with cool restaurants and art galleries make it one of the swankiest neighbourhoods in Dubai. But on a Friday night around 6pm, when everyone has put their computer to sleep for the weekend, there’s a special buzz that seems to emanate from one place in particular: LPM. Put one foot inside the door of this elegant French restaurant and the week’s work worries melt away. Keep it classic and order the buttery steak and chunky chips and soak up those here-comes-the-weekend Friday night feelings.
LPM, Gate Village No. 8. lpmrestaurants.com
Art and snacks at Alserkal
Nourish your body and mind with a trip to Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s premier art destination. Grab a mellow coffee from hipster roastery Nightjar and a healthy vegan blueberry scone from Wild & the Moon and skip around a few of the contemporary galleries that showcase some of the region’s most dynamic artists.
Go local at a legendary neighbourhood fish hangout
There was a time at Bu Qtair when you had to park on a dusty side street, place your order in a wobbly caravan, find a plastic stool, and then eat your dinner off polystyrene plates. It was fun and cute. Thanks to its runaway success, what was once a charming fish shack in a Jumeirah car park has evolved and now operates out of Dubai Fishing Harbour. Freshly-caught fish is seasoned well and cooked simply – it’s as straightforward as that but, boy, does it deliver on taste
Bu Qtair, Old 32B Street, Fishing Harbour 2.
Images: Supplied, Instagram, What’s On