Get out to lunch before eateries close for Ramadan
Lunch often takes a back seat to brunch in Dubai – a shame considering the plentiful places there are to enjoy a midday meal in this fair city. You only need to look at the great lunchtime deals on offer (see our Eating Out events, page 49) to realise that Dubai’s lunching scene has gone from strength to strength over the past year. We’ve taken time to escape the office come midday to dine at some of the city’s classiest, cheapest and most obscure lunch spots, giving you 17 great places to try before the holy month of Ramadan begins early next month. Enjoy!
Aryaas Best for: budget eats Branches of this great-value Indian eatery have popped up all across Dubai, fuelled by the chain’s unfailing ability to serve divine thali platters that cost next to nothing. Our favourite location has to be Karama – it’s more intimate than other branches and feels more homely as a result. It’s also pretty empty come lunch, meaning service is swift and attentive. The south Indian breakfast thali (Dhs14) is a filling favourite, best washed down with one of the restaurant’s signature lassis. Al Nakheel Building, Karama (04 335 5776).
Baker & Spice Best for: an environmentally conscious meal Ask for a Coke at Baker & Spice and they’ll tell you where to stick it – well, they’ll politely explain that the brand stands firm on serving local, mostly organic food, and doesn’t offer fizzy drinks or mass-produced brands. This strength of conviction is admirable and evident in the food – the selection of salads is like no other (Dhs54 for a selection of four on one plate), and hot deli dishes such as the lasagne (Dhs58 for a portion) are made with home-cooking care and quality ingredients. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.bakerandspiceme.com (04 425 2240).
Bert’s Best for: lunch à la Paris This French brand has just one store in Dubai, but is dotted all over Paris – it leaves us with a less gimmicky and more authentic impression than most French chains in the UAE. Head there for waffles (Dhs25) and delicious RAW coffee in the morning, or visit in the afternoon for one of the finest Greek salads we’ve ever sampled (Dhs30) and a range of very good sandwiches. The best thing, however, is the vibe: friendly, contemporary and homely, thanks to comfy couches, WiFi and regular open mic nights. The Greens (04 361 9292).
Crumbs Elysée Best for: a long lunch full of pleasant surprises The decor is frilly, chintzy and totally over the top, but the eccentric aesthetic only adds to the experience. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, French chefs busy themselves over fresh salads, piping-hot soups – leek and potato being our favourite (Dhs20) – and surprisingly sophisticated fish dishes: try the sole alla griglia (Dhs58). There’s also a treasure trove of pastry-based desserts. Prices are reasonable, service is thorough and the WiFi is free. Sheikh Zayed Road, next to Reem Al Bawadi, www.crumbselysee.com (04 346 8899).
Dubai Marina Mall food court Best for: quick eats and panoramic views Located at the top of the always-empty Marina Mall is a hidden gem: the deserted food court. Here you’ll find a heartwarming array of quick food options, from KFC to McDonalds, plus the ever-empty TGI Fridays, rivalled only by its Magic Planet location for pure tumbleweed atmosphere. Sounds rubbish? Wrong. It’s brilliant, mainly because of the panoramic view of the entire marina. No queues, no noise, just a bargain bucket and the sight of a yacht bobbing in the sea. Perfect. Dubai Marina Mall, www.dubaimarinamall.com (04 399 7893).
Epicure Best for: escaping the city Yes, it’s located out of town, but get over it: this lunching option is more than worth the 20-minute drive. The light, airy interiors are punctuated with quirky design elements – think giant turquoise ‘pebbles’ as seats – and the view over the hotel’s pool and polo field is serene and calming. The menu is extensive and features Asian options as well as pizzas, burgers, salads and pastas. We love the spicy tikka prawn fusion pizza (Dhs95). Desert Palm, near International City, www.desertpalm.peraquum.com (04 602 9333).
Dubai Garden Centre Café Best for: Simple food in an alternative environment Al-fresco lunching is presently not an option, but you can eat amid the extensive foliage of Dubai Garden Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road. The food is by no means gourmet, but it’s honest and hearty – dishes include pies, ploughman’s sandwiches, egg mayonnaise, spinach orzo salad, muffins and cookies. What’s more, most dishes cost less than Dhs15 and the RAW Coffee stand is a few aisles down for your après-lunch caffeine kick. Dubai Garden Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 340 0006).
Jamie’s Italian Best for: a summer-sale pit stop Jamie’s doesn’t boast a special lunch menu, but options such as the wild truffle tagliatelle (Dhs48 for a small portion) or one of the roquette salads (Dhs34) make it a great option for a midday meal. The warm, welcoming venue is a great escape from the oppressive heat and the discount mania in the nearby mall. Marina Pavilion, Festival City, email@example.com (04 232 9969).
Kino’s Café Best for: a light lunch, long read and great view The Kinokuniya café in The Dubai Mall is a small, light-filled space with cosy couches, an endearing Japanese menu and magnificent views of the Dubai Fountain. The service is at times baffling, but the space is so kawaii you won’t mind too much – you can spend hours here reading your latest buys (note that you’ll have to show your receipt to bring books in – they won’t let you try before you buy). There’s a selection of sushi on offer, as well as teriyaki chicken in a wrap (Dhs32), although the must-try item is the Moshi ice-cream (Dhs32 for three flavours). The Dubai Mall (04 434 0111).
Margaux Best for: preparing yourself for a mall trawl At present, the Margaux lunch menu is an undiscovered gem – starters include delicate wagyu beef wrapped round young asparagus, while sea bream and yet more wicked wagyu are conjured up for mains. There are three lunch options – Dhs75 for one course, Dhs99 for two and Dhs125 for three: the one you try depends entirely on how productive you need to be in the afternoon. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 439 7555).
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire Best for: affordable Michelin-starred food While the winner of our 2011 Restaurant Awards isn’t the most convenient place for many people to have lunch, it’s worth making the effort for three reasons. First, Reflets is closed throughout Ramadan (slated to fall on August 1-29); second, you can sample some of the best food to be had in this city for Dhs180 (three courses from an ever-changing menu); and third, you can use your Time Out City Card (www.timeoutdubai.com/citycard) to get a further 20 per cent discount. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1111).
Saravana Bhavan Best for: an upscale Karama curry Sitting pretty just around the corner from the American Hospital, Indian restaurant Saravana Bhavan serves up vegetarian thalis worth travelling the length of Dubai for – and, at less than Dhs20, lunch will probably be cheaper than your cab fare. It’s worth noting that even at this price, you won’t be dining hunched over an upturned bucket – the restaurant is clean, air-conditioned and equipped with real-life furniture. Shop 2, Main Road, Oud Metha, www.saravanabhavan.com (04 337 4647).
Sun Tour Chinese Restaurant Best for: DragonMart shoppers craving Chinese fast food It’s not easy to find authentic Chinese food in Dubai, but as the main dining spot in DragonMart – a wonderland of unusual merchandise, where genuine Chinese people sell Chinese things – Sun Tour makes a pretty good stab at it. Sure, you’ll find some distinctly un-Chinese dishes on the menu (French fries, check) but opt for stir-fried Cantonese greens or a stir-fried beef combo meal and you’re on to a winner. Dragon Mart, Al Awir (04 368 7070).
Zuma Best for: living it up with the city slickers Zuma is the definitive business lunch location (winning Best Business Lunch at the 2011 Time Out Restaurant Awards, no less). The floor-to-ceiling windows ensure the space is light, airy and accessible, while the new Ebisu lunch menu is proving a winner with DIFC denizens. You needn’t be a number cruncher to enjoy dishes such as soy-glazed sirloin with steamed rice, or sliced duck with somen noodles, spring onions and sancho – two courses cost Dhs62, while four will set you back Dhs120. DIFC (04 425 5660).
Lunching around the world (in Dubai) Lunchtime traditions vary wildly in multicultural Dubai. The city’s Bengali population, for example, will tuck into seven courses come lunchtime – if you fancy joining them for a flavourful curry, check out Zaika at the Al Murooj Rotana (04 321 1111).
Many Indians are used to buying lunch from a dabbawala (literally meaning ‘man with a box’). Though Dubai doesn’t have the same dabbawala culture as, say, Mumbai, the tiffin lunch (served in small metal pots – effectively the Indian lunchbox) has been recreated at Tiffinbites on The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence (04 440 4952), although the food served is decidedly Anglicised.
For the Filipino community, lunch often takes place before midday and consists of kanin (rice), kamatis (tomatoes) and tuyo (dried fish), as well as some kind of meat served with sinangág and itlog (egg). Try a traditional Filipino-style lunch at Grill Corner in Satwa (04 358 1445), which offers hearty, filling food.