With new restaurants popping up all the time in Dubai, it would literally take you forever to try each and every one. From celebrity chef tie-ups to the Dosa shop around the corner, you can pretty much satisfy every craving. While Poss & I are by no means foodies, we do enjoy good food and like to try new places every now and then on date night and weekends. But with so many to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones will be a hit or a miss. So for all the times we’re undecided, we just fall back on one of our regular haunts. As I often get asked for dining recommendations, I thought I’d share our long and ever expanding Grub List with you – I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.
Sharing is caring in Dubai, something you’ll discover at many upscale restaurants which base their dining experience around the concept of sharing plates that are served to the middle of the table as and when they’re ready. It works well for me who has a small appetite but perhaps not so much for people, like our son, who eats like a horse.
Reservations are recommended about a week ahead or you might end up having dinner at 11pm. There’s usually a 2 hour turnaround time at which point you’ll be asked to vacate your table for the next seating. Service is generally good but some staff can come across as rather aloof. Also be prepared to drop some serious Dirhams, especially if you enjoy a good tipple.
La Petite Maison • French
LPM, as it’s affectionately called, was the first restaurant I went to when I arrived in Dubai and is also where I first met my squad, so it holds a special place in my heart. Sentiments aside, we love it for its vibe and consistently good food, which is why it still remains our favourite till this day.
Home of Cuisine Niçoise, the delectable French Mediterranean dishes use olive oil to generously celebrate produce with seafood, meat and pasta in a style that is fresh & light. The portions are reasonably sized and while you’ll be spoilt for choice by the menu, we always end up sticking to our usual no matter how many times we promise to try something different. As the saying goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Their Burrata (Burrata et Tomates) is the best I’ve ever had and their whisper thin Sliced Octopus in lemon oil (Poulpe Finement Tranché) just melts in your mouth. The grilled Lamb Cutlets with smoked aubergine (Côtelettes d’Agneau Vivienne) are tender and bursting with flavour while the Vanilla Créme Brûlée (Créme Brûlée à la Vanille ) and French Toast with spice ice cream (Pain Perdu Façon « Cyrus ») are like little bites of heaven.
The long, narrow smoking bar is where all the action happens and is often standing room only, but the cocktails and rather dishy bartenders are worth the sore feet. For a full review, check out my original post Tonight we Mingled
Zuma • Japanese
Having placed in the top 10 Best Restaurant Bars in the world at the 11th Annual Spirited Awards and making the 100 list of the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2017, the accolades just keep on coming for this much hyped Dubai institution. A massive space spread over 3 levels with its own private elevator, Zuma follows the Izakaya style dining experience, but with a much heftier price tag.
We love it for its renowned Friday Brunch. You may get a little teary eyed at the price, but the gastronomic journey of unlimited hot & cold starters, sashimi, sushi, salads, desserts and 1 cooked to order main course delivers real bang for your taste buds and your buck.
Our favourites are the Crispy Fried Squid with green chilli and lime (Ika No Kari Kari Age), Softshell Crab with chilli mayonnaise, cucumber and wasabi tobiko sauce (Dynamite Spider Roll), the ever popular miso marinated Black Cod wrapped in hoba leaf (Gindara No Saikyo Miso Yaki), Roasted Boston Lobster with shiso-ponzu butter (Lobster No Oven Yaki) and last but not least the Spicy Beef Tenderloin with sesame, red chilli and sweet soy (Gyuhire Sumibiyaki Karami Sauce Zuke) … I could actually go on.
The Sake bar and lounge located on the podium level comes into its own once the sun sets. Trendy and upbeat, the resident DJ spins some pretty good tunes for the eclectic mix of party goers who flock here to mingle in the informal atmosphere and indulge in Zuma’s award winning, instaworthy cocktails. It gets pretty packed, especially on weekends, so best to get there earlier rather than later.
Coya • Peruvian
The first thing that strikes you about Coya is its fabulous decor that’s swathed in rich Incan hues. Even the wall colour in the Ladies’ Room is stunning! The venue emanates a vibrant Latin American spirit that’s inviting with bags of personality. The restaurant, complete with a Ceviche and Brassa counter serves contemporary Peruvian dishes that’s in keeping with traditional Peruvian elements, resulting in a symphony of flavours.
Before Coya, we weren’t at all familiar with Peruvian cuisine, which made knowing what to order a bit of a challenge, but the staff are readily on hand to guide you and make recommendations. Far from being any kind of expert, the food is like a fusion of influences from all over that I find rather curious, which is why we still experiment with different dishes whenever we go. Portions can be a little on the small side, so keep that in mind when ordering.
A few that have gotten our nod so far are the Red Snapper Ceviche with truffle and ponzu (Pargo a la Trufa), Quinoa with coriander, mint and pomegranate (Quinua al Tamarindo), Josper & Crispy Corn with sweet onions and red chillies (Trio de Maíz) and the spicy Beef Fillet with crispy shallots and garlic (Lomo de Res).
Be sure to pop into the bustling Pisco Lounge pre or post meal. The rhythms of Latin America make for a lively atmosphere as you kick back and sample a taste of their Pisco Library that’s filled with jars of infused concoctions dreamt up by the bar team. While the lounge is fab, the real gem lies in the Member’s Bar that’s hidden behind a discreet wooden door. We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing it once and it’s Coya personified, with a little more glamour and exclusivity. So if you can wrangle an invite, it would be well worth your effort.
Nusr-Et • Steakhouse
Home to #SaltBae himself, Nusr-Et is every carnivore’s food dream destination. By sheer coincidence, we had the honour of meeting the ex(s)alted one the first time we went to Nusr-Et last year for my birthday dinner and he’s every bit the wonderful spectacle of his social media persona, albeit a little smaller than I imagined.
There’s a real buzz of excitement when he appears and starts roaming the room, pausing at tables along the way – everyone tries to keep their cool but are really just itching to meet him (me included). While we didn’t get a personal show, he happily posed for wefies before pulling me out for a birthday hug which had me blushing like a giddy starstruck schoolgirl.
To be honest however, the venue was not at all what I expected. As one of Dubai’s most expensive restaurants, I thought it would be more a fine dining experience, but the restaurant was bursting at the seams on our weekend visit – we even had to wait about 20 mins for our reservation. The long wooden tables are jam-packed with eager meat lovers, despite the steep prices and the restaurant itself has a somewhat ‘market’ atmosphere. While the noise level and chaos was startling at first, it’s all part and parcel of the experience – not the kinda place you want to be going for a romantic evening though.
It is however the place you want to go to for succulent, perfectly seasoned, melt in your mouth generous portions of meat. I’m not much of a meat eater myself but even I thoroughly enjoyed the food. And the Pistacio Baklava served right from the baking dish is simply out of this world. Crunchy, velvety and not overpoweringly sweet, it’s a surprisingly light way to round off you meal. Weekend reservations are sometimes hard to come by, so I would suggest booking well in advance.
On date nights when we’re looking for a more relaxed and chilled-out vibe, we head to The Maine Oyster Bar and Grill. The New England style brasserie is unpretentious and all about just enjoying a good meal and night out. Prices are reasonable by Dubai standards, even for their house grapes, so you don’t have to worry about being able to afford eating for the next week.
The venue is light and airy with oyster shell chandeliers and a large terrace for cooler winter days. Poss loves it for the cigar smoking bar – a bit of a rarity in Dubai. I love it for its laid back, casual atmosphere that attracts many young urbanites. The playlist is good, staff are friendly and the food is simple, honest with no-fuss. Poss always orders the Steak Frites and me the mussels or lobster, but if you’re a true seafood lover, you’ll delight in their seafood towers, raw bar and fresh shucked oysters in too many varieties to mention.
A must is their charred Brussels Sprouts which is insanely good as is the popular Halibut & Béarnaise. The restaurant is a little hard to find, its entrance almost hidden in the Double Tree car park, but it’s well worth seeking out. Reservations recommended.
Miss Lily’s • Jamaican
Are you Jamaican? Coz Jamaican me crazy! I know, I know – it’s lame! Miss Lily’s however is not and is by far the funkiest establishment we’ve been to in Dubai. I almost felt a little geeky on arrival when we were met by the hostess who was the epitome of cool with her ripped jeans and wildly exotic hair.
As you enter the small dimly lit space, you’re greeted by a bar area which has a beach shack like feel with colourful bench style seating, a disco ball and Jamaican beats thumping out of a custom made speaker stack that lines one of the walls. Past the bar is the equally small and colourful, non-smoking dining room with circular banquette seats wrapped around record shaped tables and walls covered with vinyl record sleeves.
Music of course plays a big part in the overall ambience of Miss Lily’s but the Caribbean fare is a plus point too. The hearty flavours of Jerk Corn, Crispy Fish Tacos, Oxtail and Curry Goat Stew, not to mention the whole gamut of Miss Lily’s Jerk Grill which includes their World Famous Chicken will happily dance on your palate.
But it’s the pulsating Jamaican vibe that is the soul of Miss Lily’s, from its rum bar and hip staff, to its ska and reggae tunes that will have you wanting to dutty wine your way into the bar area to work off the enormous meal you’ve just devoured. Unless of course you’re averse to small, crowded, loud and smoky spaces – because once the music is cranked up, the bar gets crammed with a crowd out to party. In which case, I would suggest you go for lunch or an early dinner so you can at least enjoy a Lily Mule post meal and leave before the madness. While the place might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s great fun if you’re looking for something a little different. Reservations essential.
This much loved Irish Pub is our friendly neighbourhood local where we like to hang out over a pint or two when Poss has had a long day or we’re looking to fill in a few hours. Truth be told, we both love a good Pub, perhaps due to the Irish & Australian Pub culture that has been ingrained into our DNA.
Having been crowned Irish Pub of the Year at the Irish Pubs Global Awards in 2017, the original McGettigan’s JLT epitomizes everything you’d expect from a genuine Irish Pub packaged into a modern Irish experience. Whether you’re into live sports, live music, events or are just popping in for some pub grub and a cold one, you’re sure to have a good, if not, entertaining time. Family friendly during the day with a big outdoor terrace, it’s a home-away-from-home for the large expat population that resides in Dubai.
It’s our go to place for Fish & Chips which is delish – crunchy battered fish, really fat chips that are equally crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle and creamy mushy peas. While some may argue there are better places for Fish & Chips in Dubai, like The Irish Village, McGettigan’s still gets our vote – just make sure you go to the original one in JLT.
More restaurant than Pub, Black Tap hit Dubai’s shores last year with a big bang and have recently opened their 2nd outlet. It’s filed under this category due to the impressive selection of Craft Hops available on tap or by bottle that is a refreshing welcome change to the standard labels offered in many other Dubai establishments. But it really is all about the Craft Burgers and Crazy Shakes – after just one visit, it became without doubt our favourite Burger joint.
By their own definition, the famed New York based hotspot is a “Classic luncheonette, modernised for the Instagram age.” And boy, will you have trouble tucking into your meal until at least one person at your table has snapped a picture for all the world to see. The creative combinations will have any Burger and Freakshake obsessed aficionado drooling with envy.
With over a dozen Burger options ranging from The Bison with pesto mayo and shaved parmesan to The Greg Norman wagyu with blue cheese and The Falafel with tahini and humus, the Burgers are juicy and are all cooked to medium temperature, so if you like it any other way, best mention that when ordering. My favourite is the classic, no-nonsense All-American Burger while the boys gravitate towards the Pizza Burger. Poss is a huge fan of their Pear Bacon Jam Burger which he says is most likely the best Burger he’s had .. EVER! And if by chance you’re watching that waistline, don’t despair, they also have Craft Burger Salads available.
You can’t be worrying about your waistline when it comes to their epic shakes however – you’ll feel the pounds piling on just by looking at them. The over-the-top, diabetes inducing, towers of insanity are real works of art. Their creations are like Disneyland in a glass, bringing out your wide-eyed and deliriously happy inner child as you tuck into flavours of Cotton Candy, Oreo Cookies and Cream and Peanut Butter. Needless to say, they’re scrumptious, but after a generously sized burger meal, you’ll be hard pressed to finish one yourself.
Appealing to both foodies and families alike, Black Tap is a good fun day out, even if you end up in a food coma. Waiting time for a table can take ages, so I’d try to go outside of peak hours if possible.
When we’re craving a taste of home and a Brahim’s instant packet just won’t do, we head to Noodle Bowl (not to be confused with Noodle House). This hidden gem not only serves up a plethora of Chinese dishes but also has a dedicated Malaysian menu with delicious favourites like Nasi Lemak, Mee Rebus, Asam Laksa and Fish Head Curry. While some dishes can be a little on the sweet rather than spicy side, others have a real kick to them like the Nasi Goreng with Salted Fish, which is da’bomb!
Located in the buzzing Satwa neighbourhood that’s filled with roadside restaurants, including the ever popular Ravi’s, Noodle Bowl may be a little hard to find and parking can be a pain but the food is well worth it. It’s by far the best taste of Malaysia we’ve come across in Dubai – if only they delivered to our area.
If Indonesian fare is more up your alley and you’re a fan of really spicy food, then head to Betawi to get an authentic taste of Nasi Padang, Pecel Ayam, Soto, Sup Buntut and Gado Gado. The flavours and spices really pack a punch and some dishes will have you constantly reaching out for your Sirap Bandung to help put out the flames.
The restaurant itself is very small and basic – we went in summer once and nearly melted into our food due to the poor air conditioning, but thankfully they offer home delivery, which we use quite a bit. Delivery times can sometimes be a little slow though, so be sure to put your order in well ahead – the food however, is worth the wait.
For mornings when we need a little more oomph than eggs on toast or need something a little heavier to absorb the good time we had the night before, nothing beats a Dosa or Puri, except a Roti Canai of course, but we haven’t found one worth mentioning yet. While we used to frequent a different place for our morning fix, we recently tried Saaranggaa’s Marina branch which is just down the road from us, and now we’re hooked.
The Indian Vegetarian restaurant has 3 locations in Dubai and with a menu that has a section called the Dosa Center, you can’t help but expect good things – I’m happy to say it doesn’t disappoint. The Dosa is light, paper thin, crispy and depending on which one you order, massive! And the accompanying refillable dipping sauces are the perfect complement, although we always order the Chana Masala as well because it’s simply amazing. Tasty and hugely satisfying, it’s our version of the breakfast of champions.
Last but not least, we can’t have a list without including a local favourite. Traditional food in a semi traditional setting complete with floor seating in alcoves along one wall, Cabritoz takes great pride in their dishes that have been lovingly perfected through the generations. Served with a side of warm hospitality, the food is delivered to your table in big platters and is easily enough for 2 people to share.
Coming from Malaysia where meals involving rice are often drenched in sauce from various dishes, I sometimes find Middle Eastern food a little dry. Cabritoz’s signature lamb however is not. Succulent and infused with rich flavours, it falls off the bone onto a bed of Mandi rice that is fragrant, fluffy and tasty in itself. The Chicken is also moist and tender and the Fattoush Salad is fresh and crunchy with just the right amount of bite.
Good food, good value for money and they deliver to boot – what’s not to love?
And that about it I think. While the list is kinda long, it is by no means exhaustive and I’m sure we’ll be adding many other places to it in due time. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy checking a few of them out the next time you’re in Dubai.