Let your tastebuds travel the globe with Time Out's top 10
Time Out Dubai staff
Bateaux Dubai: Amid the multitude of brightly-lit dhow dinner cruise ventures that line the creek in Bur Dubai, touting for tourist business, Bateaux Dubai stands out. For a start, the boat itself is a sleek beast. Built in Paris, it boasts glass walls and ceiling (for the ultimate city-viewing experience), and the interior is more akin to a five-star hotel than a dodgy tourist dhow. The restaurant offers daily dinner cruises that depart at 8.30pm, giving diners the opportunity to ogle the creek while they chow down on a four-course menu. First impressions are good: the staff are professional and welcoming, explaining the concept and timetable for the night. The European menu offers posh-sounding seafood, chicken, duck and lamb options with unusual sides (from polenta to fennel), which you order before the boat sets sail. Of course, the main attraction here is being able to gawp at the creekside buildings as the boat glides silently through the water; you can glimpse Sheikh Mohammed’s private residence en route to Maktoum Bridge, albeit with a few stern notices warning against photography. But don’t let the view distract you from the food. The cuisine here has borne the brunt of criticism in the past (not least from Time Out), but recent visits indicate that the kitchen has upped its game. The dishes are thoughtfully prepared, with complementary flavours and interesting accompaniments and, while it’s not cheap, the experience can’t be beaten.
Al Seef Road (opposite British Embassy), Bur Dubai. Call 04 399 4994 for more information.
Beach Bar & Grill: Relaxed yet stylish, stepping in to the beach-side Beach Bar & Grill has an ‘Out of Africa’ vibe – only with the added bonus of the blinking lights of the Palm Jumeirah in the distance. Visit in the cooler months (the interior is pleasant enough but not half as inspiring as the dark wood veranda) and settle yourself down with a cocktail and a complimentary nibble while you peruse the menu. The lighting is subdued to the extreme, and those in need of spectacles will be extremely grateful for the ever-obliging waiters' offer of a torch, but this, in our opinion, only serves to add to the ambience. Being right on the Arabian Gulf – and being a grill – it should come as no surprise that grilled seafood features prominently, and tender morsels of fried calamari, dipped in a deliciously subtle garlic aioli, are an excellent choice for starters. For mains, we can heartily recommend the grilled sea bass with lentils, although carnivorous types will be impressed by all manner and cuts of steaks. Unfortunately, we’ve tasted better beef. In general the food is of a relatively high standard (as one would expect from the One&Only) and there’s no doubt that this is one of the most romantic spots to dine in Dubai, but you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’re paying a premium for the view.
One & Only Royal Mirage. Call 04 399 9999 for more information.
Celebrities:With a name reminiscent of a slightly down-at-heel suburban nightclub, it’s hard to know what to expect from Celebrities. The decor (part Laura Ashley, part French Renaissance) seems a little old-fashioned amid Dubai’s glut of high-end retaurants, and the soundtrack – romantic soft-rock tunes and classic ballads from the resident pianist and singers (yup, in the plural: there are three of them) – gives few clues as to the contents of the menu. Yet rather than trying to please everyone, it’s nice to discover that Celebrities offers just a handful of dishes, from unusual fish and meat options (we spied pigeon on the menu on our last visit) to some eye-wateringly pricey caviar. Many of the entries are a little seafood-heavy – the addition of shellfish sides and sauces means most of the menu would be off-limits for pescephobes – but for fish fans there will be more than enough to please, and the food’s presentation and preparation is exemplary. The downside? Service, while friendly enough, feels rather forced, as though staff are following a preprepared script, which only adds to the venue’s slightly stuffy ambience. If they loosened up a little, Celebrities could offer a very pleasant, romantic night out. After all, the food knocks the spots off the bland cuisine you’ll find at most ‘international’ restaurants nearby.
One&Only Royal Mirage, Al Sufouh Road. Call 04 399 9999 for more information.
Epicure:Despite falling into the International category, Epicure goes against the grain of many of Dubai’s huge buffet venues. Rather than offering every type of cuisine under the sun, this café-style restaurant serves a mix of favourites. The menu covers the spectrum from pizzas and burgers to sandwiches, quiche and fish and chips, alongside some daily specials and Arabic favourites. It’s hard to categorise the Epicure experience, and that’s why we like it – you’ll feel equally at home enjoying a leisurely early-morning snack from the large breakfast menu as you will popping by for an evening get-together. The decor is tasteful and modern without being self-conscious or clinical, and we love the quirky touches (huge FatBoy beanbags, pebble-shaped stools, magazines in the corner if you're waiting for your dining partner). It’s also nice to find staff with personality, who are happy to chat and recommend menu items. Prices are reasonable and surroundings sublime, with the outdoor tables beside the pool affording views of the Desert Palm polo fields. The icing on the cake is the venue’s small shop, which sells fresh, homemade bread, cakes and more. Our only disappointment is that it’s located quite far away from the chef’s deep-fried cheesecake rolls are more than enough to entice us back.
Desert Palm Resort, Al Awir Road, near International City. Call 04 323 8888 for more information.
Glasshouse Brasserie:We’ve have to admit we've never had a bad meal at The Glasshouse – famous for their shockingly cheap drinks deal on a Monday and Wednesday night, this is also one of the best spots for a laid-back but delicious bistro meal anywhere in Dubai. The service is always slick and friendly and the vibe classy, however the somewhat dated decor could do with an overhaul. Food-wise you can’t go wrong with the salmon, seabass and pork belly mains, all of which are consistently delicious and expertly cooked, and for starters we love the perfectly seasoned carpaccio. The best bit about the experience however is the bill – free flowing grape and two courses on Mondays and Wednesdays will always come in at under the Dhs400 mark.
Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira. Call 04 212 7551 for more information.
Karma Kafe:The service here is as slick as their mood lighting and crimson-laden interiors: waiters look after guests impeccably. The menu is impossible to pin down to one genre (Mongolian beef sits alongside filet mignon). fusion is often a dirty word in this town, associated with below-par restaurants, but Karma’s food pulls off the whole global thing in style. Starters include slightly underwhelming crab cakes but a delicious assortment of dumplings, (which got our vote) are wonderful as you can actually discern the flavours they contained. For mains the famous cherry salmon, which comes highly recommended is a wonder, its marinade (you can taste the cherry), but watch they don't overcook it. The Kobe beef sliders will go down easily as the soft buns and perfectly medium-rare patties make for juicy and delicious mini-burgers. Diners will leave this bustling spot satisfied: go here for a good meal and a great atmosphere (and don’t miss the gorgeous terrace that boasts fountain views).
Souk al Bahar, Downtown Burj Khalifa. Call 04 423 0909 for more information.
Latitude:If you can’t decide what you want to eat, all bases are covered at Latitude. It has pretty much everything, with Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian and Arabic cuisine occupying different areas, allowing you to wander around, lifting the lids of the metal pans and investigating the contents, or seeing what the chefs can rustle up for you at live cooking stations. At first the choice can seem a little overwhelming, especially considering the area it is spread across, but wander around and you’ll soon narrow it down. On choice alone, Latitude gets the thumbs up, and the pressure is on to sample as much as you can, which may leave you pretty full before you rock up at the dessert counter, complete with chocolate fountain. Our only niggles happen to be with the layout – food on one side and seating on the other of a major hotel walkway with shops and so on does make you feel a little like you are crossing a road, looking both ways after piling your plate, and service for drinks need constant reminders, so maybe it is handy that you are at least getting the food yourself.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Call 04 341 0222 for more information.
Spectrum on One:Spectrum has had its ups and lows over the last few years, it's always been fine dining but there have been a few hiccups along the way. Its brunch however has always attracted a worthy reputation. Arrive early and pleasant staff will take you on a tour of the behemoth eatery, which is split into separate cooking stations from around the world: everything from Arabic, Indian and Japanese to European food is on offer. Make sure you try the recommended homemade dim sum assortment, which was deliciously al dente, the pastry's super fresh and accompanied by an interesting sauce composed of crushed shrimp and chilli. For mains indulge in the pricey wagyu teppanyaki – the meat is perfectly soft and buttery, however the presentation and seasoning can be slap dash and didn’t warrant its high price tag. Their Thai green curry is aromatic and just spicy enough. The best part however is when you get the bill. Vacate by 8.30pm and receive a whopping 41 per cent discount – what a bonus.
Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road. Call 04 311 8101 for more information.
Teatro:The most striking thing about this restaurant is that it doesn’t put the view to good use. Instead of looking out over the Sheikh Zayed Road, long
rows of tables have chairs backed up against the window, with most of the seating arrangements lost within the premise’s disjointed (albeit charmingly so) decor and layout. On the upside, service is swift – even during weekends – and barely two minutes pass between ordering and the arrival of drinks. As it’s an international eatery, the menu was pleasantly varied, though not so extensive as to be intimidating. An order of vegetable spring rolls arrives slender and crunchy, while the Peking duck spring rolls are plump and generously stuffed with tender flesh, and served, of course, with plum sauce. While the Asian mains were slightly disappointing – the sauce in which the ‘Miss Saigon’ noodles were coated in tastes much more like it’s come from a bottle than a kitchen in Ho Chi Minh. On the other hand, a more European choice of herb grilled chicken and vegetables was lean and full of flavour. Overall, dining here can be a bit of a gamble.
Towers Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8000).
Vista:It’s not really a child friendly restaurant, but this is the only box Vista doesn’t tick. On the sixth floor of the Holiday Inn Express this atmospheric, funky chic restaurant has loungy private tables (egg chairs no less) in the bar area. At the bar, there are high chairs too for those who want to have mixed drinks first. The restaurant is set apart from the lounge area and includes a balcony overlooking the Dubai skyline. It’s a very pleasant environment, and not necessarily a place you’d expect to find decent international cuisine, but their extensive menu blows us away. Dishes included everything from a mouth-watering trio of salmon – one piece cooked to perfection, a delicate piece of smoked salmon and a lump of salmon terrine on crisp bread. The mains include paella, butternut squash risotto, a goat’s cheese parcel salad, rack of lamb and other tempting dishes. You might expect the food to be below average, but you couldn’t be more wrong; Vista's dishes are skillfully presented, and thoughtfully accompanied with their own standout details ( we especially like the slab of hard cheese laid out on top of the butternut squash risotto). The service is great and prices are very reasonable. This place could be one of the best kept secrets in this area of Dubai that we're sharing with you. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Holiday Inn Express Knowledge Village, Al Sufouh Road (04 427 5500).