Baker & Spice: Boasting local, seasonal produce and one of the best views in Dubai, Baker & Spice certainly has the spark to rekindle a passion for fresh food. The rustic-yet-modern interior entices diners through the doors, where they will find a delicious salad selection, homemade cakes, conserves and a long, central table piled high with gloriously colourful fruit and vegetables. The menu changes regularly depending on what the B&S buyers find in the local markets and you can certainly taste the quality in the ingredients. For a fresh appetiser, dip into the salad bar, which featured (on our visit at least) rice salads, aubergine and slow-roasted tomato salad with feta, cucumber raita and a zesty beetroot, carrot and coriander combo. For mains, the pasta, and especially the homemade gnocchi, was particularly good, accompanied by ever-changing seasonal vegetable fillings or meatballs and fresh tomato ragout.
Call 04 425 2240 for more information.
Beachcombers: There is one option for dinner at this atmospheric, family-friendly beachside restaurant – and that’s seafood. We went on an all you-can-eat south east Asian buffet evening which included Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian dishes (they also offered an Asian curry evening on Thursdays and an Asian BBQ on Saturdays). The attentive staff offered an inside or outside seat, but both are atmospheric. Outside overlooks palm trees, the beach and sea, and the inside boasted a wooden decking homely feel, dim lighting and mellow vibe. Buffet stations included one for the children (or for those with a blander palate), offering pasta, salads, BBQ chicken and western dishes. There was a cold salad station with fresh and reasonably flavourful turkey ham and green bean salad, seasonal greens and tasty fresh salmon and tuna pasta. The main stations were more disappointing, though the selection was fair. Credit where it’s due, the service and atmosphere was fantastic and we doubt the neglected food will affect Beachcombers’ steady flow of unadventurous hotel guests looking for convenience in a pretty setting.
Call 04 406 8999 for more information.
Benihana: Deep in the sophisticated Al Bustan Rotana hotel, chefs bang pots and juggle knives in the Benihana restaurant. With the offer of sushi and teppanyaki, guests can choose to sit in one of two rooms: one with the grills and one for those opting for a healthier, quieter evening. The decor is fairly simple with brown panelled walls and medium lighting, but you don’t come here for the decor, you come here for the experience. The chefs are fast, friendly and humorous. Ours explained all the ingredients he cooked, but turned them into sweet versions: ‘Now we add some ice cream (actually butter) to the Japanese bananas (actually courgette) and season with some sugar (actually salt)’. The service is excellent, prices reasonable and ingredients good quality. Try the sizzling salmon and scallops with their house ginger sauce. All main dishes are accompanied by rice (either steamed or fried with veggies and egg), salad and a delicious onion soup to start. The entertaining atmosphere is an idea for birthday parties and families; groups of up to seven or eight per grill.
Call 04 282 0000 for more information.
Carluccio’s: Carluccio’s is upping the game for mall food. With branches across the city tucked between shops, it provides a truly pleasant refuge, where you can rest your shopping bags and refuel on some hearty Italian fare. With pickles, cheese, breads and cakes lining the shelves and deli counters as you enter, your mouth will be watering before you’ve even sat down. Perusing the menu, the pastas are undoubtedly the most popular dishes, with the full-on chicken and meat grills a little unappealing for a mall pit stop, and the sandwiches not appealing enough. Pizzas, a favourite for most, are noticeably absent. The pasta, though, is very good – if not astounding - but portions are generous, service is friendly and prices are reasonable. If you’re at Dubai Mall make sure you bag an alfresco table which boasts being within spitting distance of the world’s largest (and musical) fountains. Wow.
Call 04 434 1320 for more information.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen:By the time you actually find the DIFC branch, you’ll be starving, so it’s a good thing that GBK produces burgers so big you have to disassemble them to fit them into your mouth. The size of these beefy beasts also means that you’ll have to tightly grip the sourdough bread bun unless you want to tackle it with a knife and fork. The burgers are good, certainly, but the best in Dubai? The beef bacon option comes with rashers that are way too salty and slightly too tough. The guacamole smartly complements the beef, but doesn’t interact very agreeably with the mayonnaise on the bun. The quality of the black Angus beef used by GBK is unquestionably high, but prepared medium it is a little too damp and lacking in deep, meaty flavour. The Cajun burger is a better offering when prepared well done and is given a kick by a potent chilli mayo. The best on the menu is the blue cheese burger with stilton. For starters, the deep-fried portobello mushrooms benefit from a dash of pesto and a heap of crisp rocket leaves, although the natural flavour of the mushrooms is slightly overrun by oil. The fries are crisp, golden and served hot, but this being a gourmet burger destination, perhaps it’s time to dump the plastic pots the dips come in. Not that any of this really matters. It’s all about the burgers.
Call 04 399 7705 for more information.
Johnny Rockets:Enter a time warp and head back to an era of doo-wops and bobby socks at this comforting, if rather overrated, 1950s-style diner. Specialising in burgers of all sorts, its relaxed, casual vibe is warm and welcoming, but it promises more than it can deliver. The signature patties, which lure punters in, impress with their size and succulence, but are poorly seasoned and lack flavour, and even the toppings – aside from the overpowering barbecue-style sauce – are more texture than taste. With the opening of more outlets, this once-revered burger joint seems to have slipped to the standards of mall fodder, although to be fair, Johnny Rockets is worth a visit solely for the scrummy shakes and a plate of piping hot fries or onion rings – crisp morsels of sublime saltiness that your taste buds will thank you for, even if your waistline balks.
Call 04 368 2339 for more information.
More Café:Recently opened a new branch in Mall of the Emirates, offering its freshly made, filling and hearty food to hungry mall-walkers in need of a place of calm after a hard shopping spree. The brushed steel and large group tables remain the same as in the rest of More's outlets as does their knack of employing some of the friendliest waiting staff in the city. Busy during both the day and the evening, its tables are filled with young families, laidback business meetings and trendy young things bashing laptops over yummy, bottomless bowls of soup. Portions at More are famously generous and the menu covers dishes from every cuisine, but we’d recommend the burgers (with their huge stands of condiments) or the South African bobotie. Actually, everything’s good. Their Friday brunches (think more of a traditional breakfast brunch rather than the booze-laden affairs elsewhere) are worth getting up early for.
Call 04 395 0967 for more information.
The Noodle Room:JBR isn't short of restaurants and cafés, but some on The Walk can get a little manic. Find a quiet retreat with this little gem. A favourite amongst locals, its menu is extensive and delicious, covering a range of Asian fare. Edamame come as a huge bowl, big enough for a family to share whilst chicken satays are fresh and covered in sticky sauce. Mains appear on the whole to lack a huge Asian kick, kung poa chicken although advertised as spicy was remarkably non-spicy and a duck curry was a rather dry, veggie-laden affair. But for what you get, the portions are huge and we have to admit we’re fans of their prawn crackers. You’ll find this little place does a roaring trade in takeaways to local expats more than as a dine-in restaurant, although there’s nothing wrong with the décor or the alfresco area. We advise if you do eat in, don’t forget the doggie bag.
Call 04 427 0442 for more information.
The Planet Hollywood:Long a popular haunt for families; kids simply love this American diner. Have yourself a party and order the Three Amigos VIP platter, perfect sharing food with gigantic portions of buffalo wings, beef satay, shrimps and chilli skins. If sharing’s not your thing, you could try a sandwich, but these aren’t all up to scratch. The Cop Club sandwich, with turkey, beef bacon and a stack of fries is one of the let-downs. If you want to do more than just graze, pick a pasta di mafia or pizza to get your fill. Kids will love the calorific drinks; Power Rangers is a sweet mix of caramel, almond and ice-cream. On the dessert front there’s the standard cheesecake, which is neither bad nor earth-shatteringly amazing.
Call 04 324 4100 for more information.
The Sana Bonta:Sana Bonta has an idyllic location in the DIFC, catering for the hungry bankers and traders working in the iconic buildings. The restaurant offers fair and hearty Italian food that will keep you going through the afternoon. Sit back and enjoy the open-plan kitchen and rustic brick walls and order one of the crispy thin pizzas which come loaded with topping. Scared of a carbs slumber? Sana Bonta’s fresh and filling salads are an equally good option. Try the romaine goat’s cheese salad with plump juicy tomatoes. The only shame at Sana Bonta, is when it’s not busy – ie at weekends – staff seeming operate on slow mode. That said, the reasonable prices can’t be beaten for a decent lunch with clients or colleagues or if you’re scouting round the area’s many art galleries at a weekend, bring the papers, settle down and relax with some hearty fare.
Call 04 425 0326 for more information.