Time Out pulls up a chair and kicks back at Dubai’s best café’s
Time Out Dubai staff
Circle Café: Just because it has a captive audience, you would be forgiven for thinking that Circle Café might be a venue that rests upon its laurels. Happily for the residents of Building Two at Media City, this really isn’t the case. While it’s very much a café-style venue, the food is all about fresh, tasty quality. Think soft warm bagels with a wide variety of fillings, and lots of salady dishes to go with them, as well as a tempting array of cakes and pastries. The service is quick and friendly, which is just as well considering the lunchtime rush hour. The interior is calm and chic, with lots of white surfaces and light pine furniture.
Location: Beach Park Plaza Centre, Jumeirah, Dubai. Call 04 342 8177 for more information.
More Café: More is one of the few restaurants in town where the staff look cheery and actually happy to be working there, they’re also great with kids, which is a bonus for stressed-out parents. You know the place must be doing something right, because it’s also one of the few places where you’re likely to have the same waiter every time you visit. And while the service and warm decor stand out, it’s the food that has made More a local favourite. The menu is hugely diverse, incorporating everything from Thai curry and Dutch pancakes, there’s a great kids’ menu too. This year, the café has expanded, adding a location overlooking the Dubai Fountain at The Dubai Mall, and another in Festival City.
Location: Garhoud, Dubai. Call 04 283 0224 for more information.
XVA Café: A trip to the XVA is a Dubai necessity. It might not have the ‘gastrocaf’ credentials of more celebrated rivals but its setting at the heart of Bastakiya’s unofficial art quarter gives it the edge over most rivals. We’re not saying the food is substandard – on the contrary – more than a dozen salads and vegetarian dishes make this a healthy eater’s paradise. We especially recommend the fragrant mojardara to first timers. Housed in the XVA Hotel (one of Dubai’s genuinely untainted gems) it ticks every box for a cool weekend hangout right down to the friendly staff, resident cat and sleepy backstreet vibe.
Location: XVA Art Hotel, Bur Dubai, Dubai. Call 04 353 5383 for more information.
Lime Tree Café: A well-known haunt of Dubai’s buggy brigade, there’s a reason why The Lime Tree Café is always heaving with mums and tots. The excellent à la carte menu and the offerings on the self-service counter are as tasty as they’ve always been. Think chunky pasta salads with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic, slightly spicy fishcakes that bulge with veggies and burst with flavour, while the carrot cake and ginger fudge slices are the very best in town. A great place for families – there’s even a play corner full of books, colouring sheets and crayons for kids, while the atmosphere seems to benefit from the additional nuttiness generally associated with taking children out for lunch.
Location: Jumeirah, Dubai. Call 04 366 9320 for more information.
Organic Foods & Café: The Greens branch of this café is renowned for its great-value brunch and sunny staff. The wholesome, organic food makes it a great healthier option for a café stop over other fast-food affairs. This is especially a selling point if you have little ones who need their vitamins. Another commendable element is that all the decor – from the tables and chairs to the light fittings – are cleverly crafted from recycled materials. The menu is varied, including appealing breakfasts and pizzas and every other year we’ve given this place the double thumbs up.
Location: The Greens, Dubai. Call 04 434 0577 for more information.
Piccolo Mondo Café & Restaurant: An arty enclave in the heart of Dubai’s ‘council estate’, this quirky café in the Italian cluster of International City is as charming as it is incongruous. It’s worth a visit just to check out the decor of one of the city’s few – perhaps only – genuine bohemian oases. We can heartily recommend sinking into a comfy couch, indoors or out, to admire the paintings, sculptures and lanterns which jockey for position with football on the telly and the often eclectic clientele. We’ll definitely return to slob out with a fresh fruit juice and nibble on the extremely more-ish cheese spring rolls and a spicy, sizzling plate of fried chicken and cashew nuts.
Location: International City, Dubai. Call 04 420 0788 for more information.
Shakespeare & Co: Chintzy and cheerful, Shakespeare & Co is perfectly adequate for a quick cup of tea and a slice of cake. The cosy ambience, play area and kid-friendly vibe – as well as a reasonable kids’ menu – make it a huge hit with the mummy brigade. A Dubai institution, the couches are comfy enough to kick back and peruse the extensive menu while the service limbers up (be warned, this may take some time) and while the food is far from top-class dining, you won’t go wrong if you stick to the basics. We recommend the hearty breakfasts and a varied egg selection, including delicious poached egg and salmon muffins.
Location: The Village, Jumeirah, Dubai. Call 04 344 6228 for more information.
The Crêpes Bar: It’s difficult not to love the The Crêpes Bar, a small, cheery eatery dedicated to fondue and crepes. In addition to serving a range of pancakes both savoury and sweet, the diminutive International City café has several board games and lets patrons write on the walls with marker pens. While the crêpes themselves are a bit mixed (we’ve encountered the odd overcooked pancake, and the chocolate sauce tastes a bit like Hershey’s), the place as a whole makes for a delightful spot to while away a lazy Saturday afternoon. Furthermore, you’d find yourself hard pressed to spend over Dhs100, making it one of our favourite hangouts.
Location: International City, Dubai. Call 04 422 6545 for more information.
The Lounge, Marks & Spencer: Any Brit will know what we’re talking about when we say, ‘This isn’t just a café, this is a Marks and Spencer café’. Rarely would we expect much from an eatery sat in a department store, especially one that’s well-known for supplying sensible underwear to the more mature lady. However, Marks and Spencer also sells an array of luxury food goods and, if it uses its own produce in its café (which, really, it should), then that’s as good an advert as any. The fish and chips is some of the best we’ve had, and the quintessential Englishness of it all (such as the sweet old-fashioned gesture of the waiter rolling up with a dessert cart), makes British expats shed a tear for home – even if we only ever really ate at McDonald’s.
Location: Festival Centre, Festival City, Dubai. Call 04 206 6466 for more information.
The One Café: Furniture stores are generally not renowned for their culinary prowess, but don’t let that put you off The One Café, which offers some surprisingly tasty fare and, given its odd location on the first floor of a shop, a reasonable atmosphere to boot. With a definite health kick, The One puts its own stamp on ordinary favourites. You won’t get plain old waffles for breakfast here, oh no. Here it’s wholewheat macadamia nut and flaxseed waffles with citrus yogurt and wild flower honey. Lunch and dinner options feature the old standards – soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta and light tapas-style dishes – but all with just enough imaginative twist to make them a bit special.
Location: Jumeirah, Dubai. Call 04 345 6687 for more information.