What's On Dubai Awards 2023: Here are the winners
Drum roll please…
Is it just us? Or is Dubai’s dining and entertainment scene getting more impressive each year? We pay close attention to the progress, as each March we host our annual What’s On Awards Dubai, and this year was no different. On March 16, in a glittering awards ceremony, we crowned your favourite dining. leisure and lifestyle outlets across the city, across a huge 44 categories. Over a rigorous three-month period, you voted in the thousands for your favourite restaurants, hotels, bars, salons, gyms, apps, and events.
We couldn’t let you have all the fun though, as there are five awards chosen exclusively by What’s On – these are Restaurant of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Homegrown Restaurant of the Year, Sustainable Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year. We won’t keep you in suspense a moment longer, here are your winners for 2023…
Restaurant of the Year: Sushisamba Dubai
Last year’s Newcomer of the Year recipient, Sushisamba remains the restaurant on everyone’s lips. Whether it’s the three-seating business lunch you need to book weeks in advance, the monthly carnival-themed brunch with its jaw-dropping entertainment, or an evening dining a la carte at one of Dubai’s highest restaurants, Sushisamba consistently impresses. A firm-favourite of celebrities and even royals (Sheikh Hamdan is regularly spotted here) the restaurant pairs slick service with an extensive menu of Peruvian, Japanese and Brazilian flavours that keeps diners coming back for more.
Newcomer of the Year: Chic Nonna
Several years in the making, this elegant Italian restaurant was worth the wait. Away from Gate Village’s throng of ever-impressive Italian restaurants, Chic Nonna stands out from the DIFC crowd on location alone. But there’s so much more to the wow-factor of this restaurant: the open kitchen, the dazzling wine cellar, the upstairs lounge that serves as one of the best after-hours spots in DIFC for those in the know. And that’s before we’ve even spoken about the food. While acclaimed chef Vito Mollica is behind the menu, the daily running is down to chef Ilaria Zamperlin, who directs her brigade like it’s a fine art. The result is a menu of Italian classics that have been elevated for the surroundings with outstanding finesse.
Chef of the Year: Solemann Haddad, Moonrise
Dubai restaurants talk a lot about culinary journeys, but that’s exactly what you get at Moonrise. The unlicensed restaurant on the rooftop of Eden House, a modest residential building near Satwa, is a true culinary showcase of chef Solemann Haddad’s life through food. The multi-course menu, which changes dish-by-dish every three months, is presented to just a dozen guests at a time, exactly how the chef wants it. In this, he ensures that each guest gets to enjoy the stories of each course, down to the most intricate ingredients. The man behind the menu is really what makes this restaurant special, and his ability to innovate is matched only by his ability to remain humble, despite the array of accolades he continues to amass at just 27 years old.
Homegrown Restaurant of the Year: Fusion Ceviche
The chef behind this restaurant, Penelope Diaz, is a self-taught Peruvian chef who’s journey as a Dubai restauranteur began from humble beginnings hosting supper clubs in her apartment. A small catering business followed, before she opened what she describes as her ‘dream come true’ restaurant in JLT. This small, unassuming JLT restaurant is a true reflection of her passion to share her heritage with the world, from the decor to the incredible ceviche’s she makes for guests of the 20 seater restaurant. What makes this restaurant such a true delight is seeing Chef Diaz at the helm, greeting visitors, running the kitchen, and ensuring every single guest gets personalized service.
Sustainable Restaurant of the Year: Dibba Bay
Dibba Bay’s journey began with an oyster farm in Fujairah, and their mission to supply Dubai’s restaurant scene with locally farmed oysters deserves its own recognition. But founder Ramie Murray hasn’t stopped there. Alongside the farm, where some 300,000 oysters are now produced each month, the brand has branched out into a duo of restaurants. Many will know the beloved beach shack at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour. But they’re now drawing more people to the shores of the Sheraton JBR, where you’ll find their first licensed restaurant. Here, alongside oysters, their local-first approach translates into locally produced cheeses, veggies from UAE farms, and salmon smoked locally by Salmontini.
Restaurants Above Dhs400
Favourite Asian Restaurant: Hakkasan, Atlantis, The Palm
Since reopening with a fresh new look in 2021, Hakkasan has set a bar for the standard to which all other Asian restaurants must work hard to match. At the end of the day though, it’s the ones that set the pace that truly stand the test of time at Hakkasan has continued to prove that through faultless authentic food and top notch service.
Highly Commended: Asia Asia
Highly Commended: Maiden Shanghai, FIVE Palm Jumeirah
Favourite Brasserie: The Maine Land Brasserie
Perfecting the art of blending glamour and contemporary design, The Maine Land Brasserie has floor to ceiling windows, bold frames and unique detailing. A long marbled bar reaches the length of the 100-capacity restaurant, while the open kitchen wafts a continuous delicious aroma. The menu features all of your favourite comfort food, elevated with the best ingredients to deliver a memorable meal every time.
Highly Commended: The Bay, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
Highly Commended: Couqley French Brasserie
Favourite Brunch: London Social Brunch, The Ritz Carlton, Dubai
The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai’s London Social Brunch is every foodie’s paradise, with 12 live cooking stations taking you on a culinary journey through Borough Market, China Town and Soho. Classic British cocktails will be at your disposal from the bar or the beverage trolley, while oysters are served directly to your table as you soak up the sun.
Highly Commended: CÉ LA VI Dubai
Highly Commended: Crescendo, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
Favourite Mediterranean Restaurant: Tasca By José Avillez, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
This beautiful restaurant has earned itself a legion of fans for its Portuguese dishes and stunning rooftop setting. The restaurant itself overlooks a beautiful infinity pool and out across the sea and iconic Dubai skyline. A meal here will have you feeling like you’re dining at a chic beach club in the Mediterranean somewhere.
Highly Commended: Nammos Dubai
Highly Commended: Opa Dubai
Favourite French Restaurant: Bagatelle Dubai
Back in October, Bagatelle reopened with a fresh new look and a few additional dishes on the already-popular menu. The modernised space ensure it kept its ‘joie de vivre’ atmosphere, with a reimagined design and elevated cuisine. Clearly the spot managed to make its mark on the French food-lovers of the city, as it’s taking home the award for Favourite French restaurant this year.
Highly Commended: French Riviera, Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Highly Commended: La Cantine Du Faubourg
Favourite Indian Restaurant: Kinara By Vikas Khanna Restaurant, JA Lake View Hotel
Kinara by Vikas Khanna is a unique space that takes you on a journey of the senses. Elegant spice displays adorn the entrance, contributing enticing aromas, as you move through the space. Within the main restaurant area, a spice market display provides you with the opportunity to learn about the different functions and benefits of each ingredient used in the cuisine. Views into the kitchen further entice your senses, creating a visual connection between the menu and its preparation.
Highly Commended: The Crossing
Highly Commended: Rang Mahal, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
Favourite Italian Restaurant: Il Borro Tuscan Bistro Dubai
A multi-What’s On Award winner – and for good reason – this wonderful Italian restaurant can do no wrong in our eyes, and yours too it seems. Whether its the serene location at Jumeirah Al Naseem’s turtle lagoon, the expansive menu of authentic Italian dishes, or the world class service, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro is consistently exceptional.
Highly Commended: Chic Nonna
Highly Commended: Ristorante Loren
Favourite Japanese Restaurant: Mimi Kakushi
When it comes to new restaurants in Dubai, there’s often a lot of initial fanfare, but the true mark of a success is when people keep coming back. One such restaurant is Mimi Kakushi, the suave Japanese venue that can be found nestled at the Four Seasons Jumeirah Restaurant Village. Brought to you by the people behind French restaurant La Cantine du Faubourg, casual Portuguese spot Lana Lusa, Middle Eastern restaurant Ninive, and Twiggy – Mimi Kakushi more than lived up to expectations. The restaurant seamlessly fuses Japanese street life, night life and the 1920’s Osaka era. You’ll see nods to that era all around the restaurant, from the decor to the soft background music of trumpeter Fumio Nanri’s, known as the Satchmo of Japan, creating a jazz vibe.
Highly Commended: Amelia Dubai
Highly Commended: Clap Dubai
Favourite Latin American Restaurant: Canary Club
Canary Club burst onto the scene as the hottest ticket in town back in April 2022. The brainchild of Joey Ghazal (of Maine fame), Canary Club is more cool and casual than its upmarket and contemporary sister. The menu is designed as an ode to a Californian diner, and on it there’s influences from Japan, Mexico and across Latin America. Ceviches, sushi, salads and bowls sit alongside a robata grill section, plus a collection of pizzas finished with divisive toppings like chicken and pineapple; short rib and burrata; and oyster mushroom.
Highly Commended: Fusion Ceviche
Highly Commended: La Niña
Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant: Huqqa
A previous Highly Commended Middle Eastern restaurant, Huqqa has gone from strength to strength when it comes to delivering quality Middle Eastern cuisine. Consistently innovating, its menu is a lesson in modern Middle Eastern fare with flair, and while the flavours are important, mention must be given to the theatrics of each prettily plated dish. Couple that with dreamy views of The Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa from this elegant eatery’s stunning Fashion Avenue terrace, and you’ve got yourself an award-winning restaurant.
Highly Commended: Asil
Highly Commended: Samakje
Favourite Seafood Restaurant: The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill
A fail safe spot for lunch or dinner every single day of the week, The Maine is a sensational seafood spot and recurring What’s On Award winner. This cool brasserie was an immediate hit when it burst onto the city’s dining scene thanks to the cool décor, great service, and frankly mind-blowing lobster rolls. Despite now being seven years old, it’s still at the top of its game.
Highly Commended: 101 Dining Lounge and Marina, One&Only The Palm
Highly Commended: Alici
Favourite Steakhouse: Porterhouse Steaks & Grills, Sofitel Dubai The Palm
A multi-award winner, and for good reason, with fantastic steaks in a glamourous setting, Porterhouse is consistently recognised as one of the top restaurants for carnivores in the city. A warm atmosphere, slick service and quality cuts, it’s got a winning combination that’s rare to find.
Highly Commended: Bull & Bear, Waldorf Astoria DIFC
Highly Commended: CMP Bar & Grill
Favourite Afternoon Tea: Sky High Tea, Observatory Bar & Grill, Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites
It’s no secret that the people of Dubai love a view – we just can’t get enough of them. So when it comes to choosing your favourite afternoon tea, you didn’t hesitate to take the views into consideration. Therefore your winner for Favourite Afternoon Tea is none other than the Sky High Tea, Observatory Bar & Grill, Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites, found 52 floors high, overlooking the Arabian Gulf.
Highly Commended: Armani/Lounge, Armani Hotel Dubai
Highly Commended: Lobby Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai
Favourite Alfresco Restaurant: Shimmers, Jumeirah Mina A’ Salam
Shimmers is popular for good reason. With a neutral colour scheme and simple, yet luxurious setting, this place lets the view of the Burj Al Arab, and beyond, do the talking. Tuck into traditional Greek cuisine from the sun-dappled restaurant, set out under a white-washed canopy, or sit yourself on a bean bag on the beach.
Highly Commended: Koko Bay
Highly Commended: Surf Club
Favourite Burger: Slaw
Going from strength to strength is last year’s Highly Commended Favourite Burger winner, Slaw – now taking the shiny top spot for 2023. A brilliant brand with even better menu, Slaw is constantly innovating to treat its legion of fans to something special (like last year’s What’s On birthday burger!). Congrats, Slaw!
Highly Commended: Jailbird
Highly Commended: Mr. Brisket
Favourite Business Lunch: La Cantine du Faubourg
Whether you’re a high rolling deal-maker, or a frugal deal-seeker, everyone loves a business lunch. In a hotly-contested category such as this, the stakes are high and you voted in the masses to make sure your favourite business lunch got the recognition it deserves. This year, that honour falls on La Cantine du Faubourg, an iconic restaurant with class and flair that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Highly Commended: Amazónico Dubai
Highly Commended: Hutong
Favourite Café: Café Beirut
Café Beirut deals in authentic Lebanese cuisine, modern interpretations refined classic dishes that are themselves built on centuries old recipes. Grand monochrome mosaic flooring that mirrors the cool black and white 1950s era Beirut photo murals; the glass-domed roof allows a cascade of natural light to flood the neatly appointed interior, further accenting the brickwork open kitchens, stylish booths and lantern chandeliers. It’s easy to see this popular spot’s undeniable appeal.
Highly Commended: Apricot Café
Highly Commended: Jones The Grocer, Emirates Golf Club
Favourite Dessert: Here-O Donuts
When the doughnut cravings hit, Here-O is there for you. Here-O Donuts have built quite the loyal following over the years, attracting fans through their wide range of flavours, catering to a number of dietary requirements without taking away the best parts of self-indulgent moments. Hear hear, Here-O!
Highly Commended: Cold Stone Creamy, Dubai Hills Mall
Highly Commended: Hampstead Bakery and Café
Favourite Lifestyle App: Privilee
Taking home the crown for the third(!) year in a row, is brilliant lifestyle app, Privilee. From unlimited access to five-star beaches, private pools, gyms and thousands of fitness classes, being a part of the Privilee community is almost a rite of passage for residents, especially for those with families.
Highly Commended: AskWho
Highly Commended: The Entertainer
Favourite Healthy Restaurant: Comptoir 102
Comptoir 102 is the much-loved concept store and cafe hidden in Jumeirah 1. Not only is it home to some of Dubai’s most covetable homewares, jewellery items, and clothes, it also boasts a hip cafe dishing out virtuous salads, plant-based desserts, and the cult-status vegan cheese platter.
Highly Commended: Planet Terra
Highly Commended: Sven’s Baker’s Kitchen
Favourite Pizza: Via Toledo, Address Beach Resort
Via Toledo burst onto the scene claiming to offer the best pizza in the city, and it didn’t take long for What’s On, and all of you to catch on. Francesco Calo first established Via Toledo in the cosmopolitan city of Vienna six years ago, where he perfected his unique take on classic Neapolitan pizzas. Now, his pillow soft dough and extravagant toppings are a must-try for all pizza lovers. If you don’t know, now you know.
Highly Commended: Motorino, JA Ocean View Hotel
Highly Commended: The Nice Guy
Favourite Pub Grub: Goose Island Tap House, FIVE Jumeirah Village
Taking home the award for Favourite Pub Grub for the second year in a row, is Goose Island Tap House. Dubai revellers can’t get enough of Goose Island’s hearty – and tasty – pub grub. With its huge indoor tavern, sports screenings and live music, not to mention the largest craft beer selection in town, this JVC local draws in the crowds from far and wide.
Highly Commended: Biggles, Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai
Highly Commended: Buffalo Wings & Rings
Favourite Attraction: Aura Skypool
When it comes to jaw-dropping experiences, it doesn’t get much more impressive than Aura Skypool. The record-breaking attraction features a 360-degree pool, offering views of the entire city from above. It comes as no shock then, that you voted Aura as your favourite attraction.
Highly Commended: TEPfactor
Highly Commended: Topgolf Dubai
Favourite Bar: Caña by Tamoka
When it comes to sunset views, lively vibes, and toes-in-the-sand relaxation, Caña by Tamoka has it all. This gorgeous beach shack may be small but has its own DJ booth, team of expert mixologists and cool Bali-esque seating area that makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to Indonesia.
Highly Commended: Lock, Stock & Barrel, JBR
Highly Commended: McGettigan’s JLT
Favourite Concert, Show or Festival: Global Village’s Festive Season
Time and time again, our winter season is made better by the opening of Global Village. But this year was extra-special, as the team went all out to celebrate the festive period like never before. From a huge 21-metre-high tree, decked out with glistening lights to appearances from Santa and his entire gang, magical memories were made by all that visited Global Village in December.
Highly Commended: 50 Cent Live in Concert – Green Light Gang World Tour, Coca-Cola Arena
Highly Commended: Jason Derulo, Coca-Cola Arena
Favourite Daycation: Five Palm Jumeirah
We see you, Dubai. We understand your love for a day in the sun listening to upbeat anthems, sipping perfectly chilled beverages and dining your way through an international menu. And who could blame you? Whether you’re showing visitors a good time, celebrating a special day, or just looking to blow off steam, we can’t think of anywhere better than Five Palm Jumeirah to do just that and more. See you on the sand…
Highly Commended: JA The Resort
Highly Commended: Nikki Beach Dubai
Favourite Sporting Event: Fanzone by McGettigan’s
If you were anywhere other than Fanzone by McGettigan’s to cheer on your home team at the FIFA World Cup, then trust us – you missed out. This huge event took over the Media City Amphitheatre for a whole month, showing every match on the huge screen, complete with food vendors, drinks stations, and even a winter market. It really was the sporting event of the year.
Highly Commended: Emirates Dubai 7s
Highly Commended: Hero Dubai Desert Classic
Favourite Staycation: Caesars Palace Dubai
Combining the best bits of Dubai and Las Vegas, Caesars Palace Dubai is a palatial getaway on Bluewaters Island. Remote enough to feel like you’re away from the city, but close enough that you can walk to JBR, this huge property has everything you need for a break that’s as hedonistic or relaxing as you please. With a whopping 12 restaurants and bars, some of which are helmed by celebrity chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Alvin Leung, the mega resort has the ideal mix of fine dining, casual and upbeat venues to spend your days in, that you’ll really find no need to leave during your stay. It’s no surprise that you voted in huge numbers to make it your Favourite Staycation.
Highly Commended: Atlantis, The Palm
Highly Commended: Longbeach Campground
Restaurants Below Dhs400
Favourite All-Day Dining Restaurant: Jones The Grocer, Mall of the Emirates
This Aussie-born eatery is the perfect place for a pit-stop mid retail therapy. All of your favourite Jones The Grocer dishes frequent the menu, from traditional breakkies to action-packed sandwiches and wood fired pizzas.
Favourite Asian Restaurant: Asia Tang
Contemporary neighbourhood restaurant Asia Tang can be found in The Springs Souk. The casual eatery brings you traditional Asian cuisine without the fuss and frills. But that doesn’t mean compromising. From its steamed dim sum to tasty noodle dishes, you’ll want everything on the menu.
Favourite British Restaurant: Dhow & Anchor, Jumeirah Beach Hotel
A breezy seaside gastropub with a crowd of regulars that extends far beyond hotel guests, gourmet gastropub classics fill a menu of nostalgic British hits at this Jumeirah Beach Hotel eatery. Whether you come for their Sunday roast, dedicated pork dishes or a hearty homemade pie, the menu is sure to delight.
Favourite Brunch: The Beach Bar at Bla Bla
Be transported to Bali without leaving Dubai at the rustic-luxe The Beach Bar at Bla Bla. Enjoy a night by the ocean as you warm up for the weekend on Friday night, dancing the night away to Afrobeats and Latin tunes. There’s a tasty selection of dishes and free-flowing drinks that keep the party vibe alive from 8pm to 11pm.
Favourite Indian Restaurant: The Cinnamon Club, Park Hyatt Dubai
This colourful modern Indian restaurant at Park Hyatt Dubai is the brainchild of acclaimed chef Vivek Singh. The menu perfectly matches the vibrant setting, and showcases dishes with cross-culture flair and is sure to appeal to your taste buds.
Favourite Italian Restaurant: Da Vinci’s, Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai
Da Vinci’s has been winning What’s On Awards since 2002, but it’s been welcoming guests to enjoy an authentic trattoria-style experience for even longer. One of Dubai’s longer standing restaurants, this no-frills Italian restaurant in Garhoud is a charming Tardis to yesteryear, with wooden beams, checked tablecloths and exposed brickwork.
Favourite Japanese Restaurant: Izakaya, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
The aesthetics of Japanese restaurant Izakaya are seriously cool, with a darkly lit space offset by neon yellow and blue lights. It’s got that Downtown Dubai dining vibe written all over it. From a live teppanyaki experience to robata, tempura and more, get ready for your fix of authentic Japanese cuisine.
Favourite Latin American Restaurant: Maiz Tacos
There’s a lot to love about Maiz Tacos, and it starts with husband and wife owners Luma and Haider Al Assam. From humble beginnings as a food truck, Maiz Tacos has grown into a multi-outlet brand, with a duo of restaurants in JLT and Dubai Hills now serving up their beloved fuss-free and affordable dishes. From the freshly pressed tortillas to the homemade salsas and carefully sourced ingredients, this taco joint is one of Dubai’s finest.
Favourite Mediterranean Restaurant: Myrra Restaurant
More than cuisine, Myrra takes its Mediterranean influences to the next level, through stunning decor, toes-in-the-sand tables and warm hospitality. Whether it’s for a long, lazy lunch, or a romantic beach dinner, this colourful spot is always a sure-fire bet.
Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant: Zouzou
Serving a fusion of Turkish and Lebanese cuisines, this casual Middle Eastern eatery draws visitors time and again for its friendly service, tasty mezze and generous mixed grills. The extensive Middle Eastern menu draws inspiration from around the region, and is now served up at locations around the city from The Beach, JBR, to Jumeirah.
Favourite Modern American Restaurant: Jun’s
Chef Kelvin Cheung’s debut Dubai restaurant is a masterclass in Modern American cuisine. The licensed eatery on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard masterfully fuses all of the best bits from chef Kelvin’s third culture upbringing, that have seen him live and work around the globe. The result is a menu packed with dishes you wish you’d tried sooner.
Favourite Pet-Friendly Restaurant: February 30 Dubai
February 30 stands out from the crowd of beach bars that populate the Palm West Beach shores for its candy cane style decor, vibrant cherry umbrellas, and a circular central bar that draws a crowd as much for beach days with drinks in hand as evening DJ sets on weekends. But the real reason this is a standout spot is for its welcoming policy that extends to your four-legged friends.
Favourite Seafood Restaurant: Aprons and Hammers
Prepare to get messy as you dive into legendary buckets of seafood such as blue crab, shrimp and rock lobster, as well as some seriously tasty burgers at this casual seafood joint. But fret not, as that’s what the apron and hammer is for.
Favourite Beauty Salon: We Nails Beauty & Spa
We Nails has been around for quite some time, and has a legion of firm fans of its nail and hair services. Plush leather chairs in bright shades surround a brightly lit wheel of nail polishes, and there’s every colour imaginable available. Whether it’s classic French or intricate nail art, the friendly team take their time with your nail makeover, and are always keen to go the extra mile so you leave the salon feeling fabulous.
Favourite Fitness/Wellness Club: Boxica
Community gym Boxica has more than 10 trainers to put you through your paces, offering classes including boxing and body, ride, boxing, strength (resistance training), sweat (boot camp) and 12-round championship classes. Their focus lies in variety rather than linear training, to keep things interesting and put your body through its paces.
Favourite Spa: Sofitel Spa with L’Occitane, Sofitel Dubai The Palm
This spa really does have everything you need under one roof, a ‘super-spa’, if you will. A huge range of treatments are expertly paired with products from the Provence, in collaboration with L’Occitane. The huge space has its own hammam area, and spa guests have access to a whopping six indoor and outdoor swimming pools.