Who won what at the awards this year?
The 40th birthday of What’s On was marked by one of our biggest ever awards ceremonies at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre last night, with some of the fiercest competition we’ve ever seen. It all added up to quite a party…
The majority of the awards are voted for by you, the general public, with just our four ‘Grand Prix’ (including the coveted Restaurant Of The Year award) trophies being chosen by the team at What’s On. So, here are the city’s best spas, restaurants, bars, concerts and more, as chosen by you, our army of readers.
THE GRAND PRIX WINNERS
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR – GAIA
Given that it has become such a stalwart of Dubai’s dining scene, it’s hard to believe our Restaurant Of The Year opened its doors just over a year ago. Credited with putting Greek cuisine on Dubai’s foodie map, this gorgeous restaurant is helmed by the incredible Chef Izu Ani, who, it seems, can do no wrong. While plenty of restaurants have signature dishes that keep diners coming back for more, at this DIFC hotspot, everything on the menu stands out.
CHEF OF THE YEAR – Fulvio Opalio, of Il Borro Tuscan Bistro
Courteous, friendly, humble – it would be easy for the many accolades bestowed upon his multi-award-winning restaurant to go to his head. But our Chef of the Year is as modest as they come. He works hard to create dishes that are popular in the market rather than forcing dishes onto his diners. And he perfects them, and perfects them. And perfects them some more. And that’s why people keep coming back time again to Il Borro.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR – Alici
It’s hard not to be bowled over by our Newcomer of the Year. The attention to detail is outstanding. From the tiles and the flowers lining the terrace to the music and the perfectly ironed tablecloths, nothing is left to chance. Thankfully, the seafood – inspired by the Amalfi Coast – is as sensational as the surroundings. But should we really be that surprised? After all, the brains behind this homegrown restaurant is the very same team that brought us the beloved Il Borro. Our Newcomer of the Year is Alici.
INDIE RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR – 21 Grams
Now, there’s a common misconception that the cuisine from our Indie Restaurant of the Year is all meat and potatoes. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s home to fresh vegetables, homemade relishes and light salads. Yes, you’ll find all kinds of quality dishes at this beautiful spot run by the equally beautiful Stasha Tonchev. But if you ask our editor, there’s one dish on the menu that stands out above the rest, the brilliant Komplet Eggs. If you haven’t tried it yet, well, make sure it’s on your to-do list for this weekend. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Ahmed Baker
When the first issue of What’s On was hot off the press in 1979, Ahmed Baker had begun construction of his very first hotel. It opened two years later in April 1981, and demonstrated bold, pioneering confidence in what was then such a young nation. That hotel was Jebel Ali Hotel, the first hotel constructed by the DUTCO group under the chairmanship of Ahmed Baker. The group is now known as JA Hotels & resorts and includes a portfolio of 8 hotels, including the recent opened JA Lake View Hotel. It’s a homegrown success story that spans an incredible 40 years.
RESTAURANTS ABOVE DHS400
FAVOURITE BRUNCH – Wanderlust at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Whether you’re fresh off the plane or a Dubai brunch veteran, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai Wanderlust brunch is always wow-worthy. Forget moderation and prepare for a party.
FAVOURITE ASIAN RESTAURANT – Maiden Shanghai at FIVE Palm Jumeirah Dubai
The combination of cool décor, prime views of the Dubai skyline, and a menu of Pan-Asian favourites with a sprinkling of nightclub vibes makes Maiden Shanghai a great choice for a night out.
FAVOURITE BRITISH – Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai
A relative newcomer to the city, Gordon Ramsay’s newest restaurant has quickly become a go-to for the expat in search for a slap-up Sunday roast (served on a Saturday, of course) or a comforting Beef Wellington. The TV show is brought to life inside the art deco restaurant where pitchforks hang from the ceiling and blue and red lights divide the kitchen.
FAVOURITE GREEK RESTAURANT – GAIA
Exquisite Greek food with a contemporary twist, we’re not one bit surprised that Gaia’s wins this award. Since opening at the tail end of last year this stylish restaurant has wowed with every bite. That seabream carpaccio, in particular, is the stuff of dreams.
FAVOURITE MODERN AMERICAN – Chicago Meatpackers
The dog owners of Dubai rejoiced when Chicago Meatpackers opened. They could finally enjoy succulent steaks with their four-legged friends in tow. A beautiful location with a stunning view out towards Atlantis The Palm, it’s found at new dining destination The Pointe.
FAVOURITE INDIAN RESTAURANT – Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Prepare for an Indian culinary adventure at Masala Library, the hit new restaurant at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai that combines cultural heritage from centuries before with modern-day cooking techniques. Be bold and try the 12-course tasting menu, which serves creative dishes from different provinces of the country. You’ll be surprised – and delighted – by how unique every dish tastes.
FAVOURITE ITALIAN RESTAURANT – Il Borro Tuscan Bistro
Inventive, consistent, luxurious – Il Borro restaurant has won a What’s On Award every year since it opened.. and it deserves all its accolades. The service is excellent, and the food remarkable. Long may it reign.
FAVOURITE JAPANESE RESTAURANT – Akira Back at W Dubai – The Palm
Another new venue this year, at Akira Back you’ll certainly eat well for your money. Offering innovative twists on Japanese favourites in a mega-glam environment – don’t leave without trying the signature tuna pizza.
FAVOURITE MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT – Al Nafoorah At Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Delicious Lebanese food, with a focus on traditional, Al Nafoorah is once again back on top as the city’s finest Middle Eastern restaurant.
FAVOURITE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT – The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill
It’s a hat trick for The Maine, as the sensational seafood spot wins for the third year in a row. This cool brasserie was an immediate hit with team What’s On thanks to the cool décor, great service, and frankly mind-blowing lobster rolls.
FAVOURITE STEAKHOUSE – Porterhouse Steaks & Grills At Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa
For fantastic steaks in a glamourous setting, Porterhouse knocks spots off the rest. The restaurant imports prime cuts of meat from celebrated producers around the world, and that’s what really makes it special.
FAVOURITE ALL DAY DINING – Jones The Grocer at The Dubai Mall
There’s a lot to love about the new Jones The Grocer at The Dubai Mall. It has a fantastic wraparound terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountain; it offers free meals for children; and the Artisan cheese and cured meats platters are delicious.
FAVOURITE EUROPEAN RESTAURANT – The Beach House at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
A multi-award winner at the What’s On Awards, a visit to The Beach House feels like a true escape from the city. Choose a table on the terrace, soak up the sunshine and tuck into pizza, seafood or that glorious martini glass overflowing with calamari while you pretend you’re in the Mediterranean.
FAVOURITE LATIN AMERICAN RESTAURANT – Lima Dubai
Dubai diners can’t get enough Lima’s perfect Peruvian dishes prepared with authentic Latin America flair by friendly chefs.
FAVOURITE AFTERNOON TEA – Quintessential Afternoon Tea, The Lobby Lounge At The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai JBR
This is arguably the UAE’s most iconic Afternoon Tea spots. The service is friendly, the finger sandwiches dainty and delicious, and the people-watching is first class.
FAVOURITE BUSINESS LUNCH – Brothaus Bakery-Bistro At Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay
A special and a drink for Dhs60 sounds like a pretty decent deal to us, and judging by the number of votes this cosmopolitan German bakery received, it’s a winner in your eyes, too.
FAVOURITE CAFE – Nightjar Coffee Roasters
If there’s one man who know his coffee it’s Leon Surynt. Keen to satisfy the growing demand for artisanal craft coffee, he opened Nightjar in Alserkal. The cool café roasts and brews its coffee onsite. It’s packed most weekends and for good reason. The food is just as good as the brews.
FAVOURITE HEALTHY EATING RESTAURANT – Comptoir 102
A regular recipient of this particular What’s On Award, Comptoir 102 was arguably the pioneer of the city’s now thriving health food scene, and continues to be a firm favourite, serving up food that is sustainable, nutritious, and unfailingly delicious.
FAVOURITE PUB GRUB – The Irish Village, Garhoud
For over 20 years, The Irish Village has offered the fail-safe combo of live music, good quality pub grub and great craic. No matter what day of the week you pay a visit to this spot, you’ll find it filled with people and laughter.
BEST ENTERTAINMENT & EVENTS
FAVOURITE BAR – Nola Eatery & Social House
Who would have thought that Cluster P in JLT would become such a little nightlife spot? And that’s thanks in part to this hugely popular little New Orleans-inspired bar. With great drinks deals, a popular ladies’ night, and excellent Deep South-style cuisine (beignets, anyone?), it’s no wonder Nola is your favourite bar in Dubai.
FAVOURITE ATTRACTION – TEPfactor Dubai
Think of the 1990s TV show The Crystal Maze and you’ll have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into at TEPfactor Dubai. Teams dramatically dash around 21 different challenges, testing their patience, skill, fitness and logic. It’s the ultimate adventure experience and your top attraction in the city.
FAVOURITE BEACH DAY – Nikki Beach Dubai
Unsurprisingly, one of the world’s best beach club brands is also your favourite in Dubai. Nikki Beach Dubai is perched on the edge of Pearl Jumeira, and is designed to wow. There are fantastic events weekly from classic ladies’ day Tuesdays and Rose Saturday brunch, but whatever day you choose to visit, know that you’re headed for a brilliant party.
FAVOURITE FESTIVAL – RedFestDXB at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre
It’s not easy to get a festival right. There are many factors that go can wrong. Bad line-up. Queuing chaos. Scratchy sound systems. Not enough food and drink. Thankfully, RedFestDXB smashed it out of the park in 2019, and their artists including Camila Cabello, DJ Snake and Macklemore, put on a show to remember.
FAVOURITE CONCERT OR SHOW – Maroon 5 Live In Dubai at Coca-Cola Arena
Performing their first UAE gig in over eight years, Maroon 5 brought their ‘Red Pill Blues Tour’ to Dubai this June for a region-exclusive performance inside the brand-new, Coca-Cola Arena. Tickets sold out swiftly, and the show was sensational.
FAVOURITE LADIES’ NIGHT – Atelier M at Pier 7 Dubai Marina
Located at the top of Pier 7, Atelier M’s excellent ladies’ night deal includes two drinks and a set menu for Dhs190, followed by four free drinks at the lounge, followed by another four free drinks on the rooftop. With that little lot you’re bound to have a fantastic night, but a pretty sore head in the morning.
FAVOURITE NIGHTCLUB – White Dubai
White Dubai at Meydan has welcomed stars including Backstreet Boys, Justin Beiber and Tinie Tempah, firmly establishing itself as the city’s finest open-air super club.
FAVOURITE SPORTING EVENT – Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens
The Sevens is one of the biggest weekends on Dubai’s jam-packed winter calendar, drawing a huge, fancy dress-clad crowd to the Sevens Stadium year after year. The combination of the entertainment on the pitch and the unfailingly brilliant atmosphere makes sports fans of us all.
FAVOURITE DUBAI APP – Moonshine
This homegrown UAE-based app helps its members locate and receive free or discounted drinks, plus a range of other sweet offers around town. You can also find out what events are happening around town to help you navigate Dubai’s daytime and nightlife scene.
The Stella Artois Perfect Serve: Kickers Sports Bar
Once again Stella Artois has partnered with What’s On to deliver the Perfect Serve award. Stella Artois’s very own beer sommelier has meticulously trained bar staff at some of the top venues, teaching them how to perform the perfect four-step pour of the Belgian beer brand. Congratulations to this year’s winners Kickers Sports Bar. This popular watering hole at Dubai Sports City, is the ultimate sports bar with a relaxed atmosphere, fantastic pub grub, of course, it serves an excellent pint.
PRE AWARDED: RESTAURANTS UNDER DHS400
Favourite Brunch: Supernatural At Zero Gravity
Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant: Majlis Al Sultan Café
Favourite Indian Restaurant: Zafran Indian Bistro, Mirdif City Centre
Favourite Italian Restaurant: Da Vinci’s Restaurant at Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai
Favourite Japanese Restaurant: Miyako at Hyatt Regency Dubai
Favourite Asian Restaurant: Streetery Food Hall By Zen
Favourite Seafood Restaurant: Aprons & Hammers at The Beach by Meraas
Favourite Modern American Restaurant: Burger & Lobster
Favourite Steakhouse: Turkish Steak Restaurant & Café
Favourite Greek Restaurant: Mythos Kouzina & Grill
Favourite British Restaurant: Retro Feasts At The Beach by Meraas
Favourite European Restaurant: Riva Restorante At Riva Beach Club
Favourite Latin American: Mama Zonia Dubai
SPAS AND SALONS
Favourite Fitness Facility: GymNation at Al Quoz
Favourite Spa: Sofitel SPA at Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa
Favourite Nail Bar: N.Bar at Shoreline, The Palm Jumeirah
Favourite Hair Salon: Marquee at Dubai Marina Gate
Favourite Barbers: The Art of Shaving, City Walk
Images: What’s On