In case you haven’tread this already, Time Out Dubai is 10 years old this week. Yes, that’s right, the big one-zero – quite a grand old age in a city that sprung from the sand in just a couple of generations. A lot has changed in Dubai over the past 10 years, particularly its restaurant scene. The city is now home to a handful of Michelin-starred names and renowned high-end restaurant chains, not to mention countless hidden culinary gems, from bargain Karama curry houses to sublime street-side shawarama shacks.
Since 10 is the magic number this issue, we present 10 restaurants that are 10 years old (or older) and the secrets to their success, as well as a few anecdotes from the staff who have worked there for the past decade.
Al Khayal: Jumeirah Beach Hotel was the first hotel of the Jumeirah empire to be built in Dubai, and Al Khayal was its first restaurant. The high-end Lebanese establishment was originally unveiled by Lebanese ambassador Elias El Herawy and has long lured a large local crowd, and is reportedly a royal favourite.
Why go now? Visa card holders (ie any card sporting a Visa logo) can enjoy a 20 per cent discount on the total food and drinks bill (for a maximum of 12 people) until September 30. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999)
Al Mahara:The opening of the Burj Al Arab just over 10 years ago signified Dubai’s ambition. The hotel has become an enclave for the über-rich (and regular people wanting to treat themselves), who dine in over-the-top restaurants such as Al Mahara: it’s accessed by a faux submarine and offers sub-aquatic views of the some of the fish you’re about to eat.
Why go now? For the submarine ride and the wonderful ridiculousness of it all (‘ridiculous’ being a suitable adjective for the bill). Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah (04 301 7600)
Beach Bar & Grill: The One&Only Royal Mirage is 11 years old this year, having opened in 2000, and its beachside venue, the Beach Bar & Grill, also marks its 11th birthday in 2011. A decade is usually long enough to make or break a restaurant, and the Beach Bar & Grill has always been a favourite with Dubai residents and tourists alike thanks to its serene beachside location (it was one of Dubai’s first ‘proper’ beach bars), laid-back vibe, and simple yet satisfying sandwiches, burgers and seafood.
Why go now? The venue was highly commended in the 2011 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards thanks to dishes such as pan-fried red snapper, wagyu beef and a miscellany of vegetarian options. One&Only Royal Mirage, Jumeirah (04 399 9999)
JW’s Steakhouse: Chef Mohammad Iqbal can boast of being the first chef at Dubai’s first steakhouse. He has been perfecting steaks for 15 years and is known for his ‘magic finger’: an ability to tell the core temperature of a steak to within 1˚C by the touch of a finger. Back in its glory days, guests would have to book a table at JW’s up to 25 days in advance. Chef Iqbal and his team are still serving some fine steaks, exemplified by the 1,000-plus ‘frequent diner’ plaques on the wall.
Why go now? Get your name on the Wall of Fame by finishing a club-like 20oz filet mignon and a bottle of grape. The aptly named Wall of Fame Night takes place every Wednesday at 7.30pm (Dhs650). JW Marriott Dubai, Deira (04 607 7977)
M’S Beef Bistro: Until M’s arrived on the scene 10 years ago, there were only American-style steakhouses in Dubai. M’s, brought a little ‘French influence’. Bien sûr! It may have been eclipsed by the plethora of steakhouses that have landed in Dubai over the past 10 years, but has remained consistent thanks to Chef Ivan, who has overseen the restaurant since its launch.
Why go now? If you want a quick-fix lunch, you could do far worse than popping into M’s for a steak salad and dessert for Dhs99, or Dhs129 with a glass of grape. Available daily 12.30pm to 2.45pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 702 2700)
Spice Island: Chef Raouf, 42, has been manning this international restaurant’s Mongolian barbecue station for 10 years (he’s not even Mongolian – he’s from India). According to Chef Raouf, Spice Island’s success can largely be attributed to Emirates flight crew, who have long been frequenting the restaurant for birthdays and graduations, and making the venue a household name by recommending it to passengers on their way to what was once a little-known emirate.
Why go now? Tuck into the family brunch, which features Asian delicacies and unlimited beverages, with face-painting, clowns, balloon-making and a special buffet for kids. It’s served every Friday from noon to 4pm, with packages starting at Dhs149 for soft drinks and Dhs199 for house beverages. Crowne Plaza Deira (04 262 5555)
Teatro: Ten years ago, Towers Rotana was a landmark – now it’s almost lost amid the forest of skyscrapers that cling to the edge of Sheikh Zayed Road. However, Teatro, the Rotana’s international eatery, shares its 10th birthday year with Time Out, and is still very much on our culinary radar. The charming decor, swift service and extensive menu have kept customers coming back for more than 10 years.
Why go now? Eat for half price thanks to Teatro’s early-bird deal, valid for anyone dining between 6pm and 8.30pm (last orders at 7.15pm). Towers Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8000)
Shakespeare & Co: Shakespeare is yet another chain celebrating its 10th birthday this year. The chintzy cafés have long appealed to everyone from ladies who lunch to late-night shisha smokers, thanks to consistent café fare (which we believe is getting better and better) and ever-so-twee surroundings. Chef Harold D’Cruz from the Philippines was part of Shakespeare’s pre-opening in Janurary 2001 and refers to the chain as his extended family. Bless.
Why go now? Head to the newly refurbished Souk Al Bahar outlet for al-fresco seating and great views of the Burj Khalifa, or try the surprisingly good steak at The Village Mall outlet on Beach Road. Various locations including Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 425 7971); The Village Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 6228)
Summer Place (formerly Summer Palace):The Metropolitan Hotel has been open for a jaw-dropping 33 years, so we thought we’d give a nod to its Chinese restaurant, Summer Place (née Palace): it was opened in 1987 by Philip Lao, who was once one of Queen Elizabeth II’s personal chefs. After a renovation in 2004, the restaurant is still serving some of the city’s best Chinese food. Why it changed its name from historical Beijing landmark to something rather nonsensical, we’ll never know.
Why go now? Summer Place has one of the more decadent Peking duck ceremonies in Dubai: two waitresses mount a double-pronged assault on the dish, with one of them silently shredding the sweet duck flesh from the bone and the other stuffing and wrapping the pancakes. Metropolitan Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 0000)
Verre by Gordon Ramsay: It was Gordon Ramsay who first saw the potential of Dubai way back in 2001. Verre was the Michelin-starred chef’s first restaurant outside the UK and has been helmed by some of his most celebrated protégés, including Angela Hartnett and Jason Atherton. A decade on, it’s still in very safe hands – Scott Price and Nick Alvis have been making waves ever since they arrived in Dubai, pushing boundaries with innovative, ever-changing menus featuring sustainable ingredients, as well as catering for dietary requirements. With Dubai’s culinary centre moving downtown, it can be easy to forget about this Deira-based restaurant, but ignore it at your peril. Why go now? Nick and Scott are arguably two of the most talented chefs in town. There, we said it. Hilton Dubai Deira Creek (04 227 1111)