Places you can dine like a sheikh on a pauper’s budget
According to the Mercer Cost of Living survey, which takes place every March, Dubai ranks as the 81st most expensive city in the world to live for expatriates (down 21 places from 2010). Yes, we all know our fair city can be an expensive place to eat out, especially in the light of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s predictions that global food prices are set to rise by 20 per cent in the next year. But fear not, Time Out’s spendthrifts have scoured the city to gorge themselves for as little money as possible. We’ve categorised our budget feasts in Dhs50 price brackets, so you needn’t leave home with more than Dhs150 in your pocket to comfortably feed two. Without further ado, it’s time to smash open the change jar and tuck in. To start the gallery, click here.
Atmosphere: This no-nonsense, no-frills eatery features little in the way of decor, but is always packed thanks to the quality of its tasty Keralan fare.
The food: Choose from fragrant vegetable curries (that can be topped up on request) and hearty biryanis, big enough to sate the combined appetites of two people.
Who to take: Anyone looking for a ‘genuine Dubai dining experience’ that isn’t a brunch.
The bill (for two): 1x Fish curry meal (Dhs10) 1x Chicken biryani (Dhs12) 1x Watermelon juice (Dhs10) 1x Pineapple juice (Dhs10) Total: Dhs42 Open Sat-Thu 11.30am-1.30am; Fri 1pm-1.30am. Opposite Lulu Centre, Karama (04 335 8700).
Atmosphere: This is not the sort of joint you visit to soak up the vibe – the cold, harsh overhead lighting, in the manner of an ’80s furniture showroom, is only made all the more cheerless by the arctic gale emitting from an industrial air-conditioning unit at the front of the restaurant. Yet the customers don’t seem too bothered as they hunker down to scoff steaming plates of hearty food from the buffet.
Food: Pay Dhs18 upon entry and you’ll be handed a plate, which you’re invited to fill up as many times as you like. This buffet is not for fussy eaters, but if you’re looking to feast on basic Indian dishes and Chinese-style fodder for a pittance, look no further. If you’re happy to eat your own body weight in tadka dahl and vegetable samosas, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Who to take: The man (or woman!) who will eat anything and everything.
The bill (for two): 2x Buffet plates (Dhs18 each) 2x Coca-Cola (Dhs3 each) Total: Dhs42 Open daily 11am-4.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm. Sheikh Zayed Road, near Wolfi’s Bike Shop (04 338 4500).
Atmosphere: While the Lulu Hypermarket location lacks atmosphere (we recommend heading to the Karama branch if you’re after a more happening vibe), this Indian restaurant is a great place for people watching.
Food: A decent range of tandoor grills are on offer, as are curries, exotic specialities and plenty of vegetarian options.
Who to take: Those who like to spend more on clothes than food. The no-frills ambiance won't impress anyone, but the surprisingly authentic food might, especially when you sneak a look at the final bill.
The bill (for two) 1x Chicken tikka combo (Dhs24) 1x Mango milkshake (Dhs10) 1x South Indian idli (Dhs6) 1x Pani puri (Dhs6) 1x Garlic naan (Dhs4) Total: Dhs50 Open daily 9am-11pm. Lulu Hypermarket, Al Barsha (04 323 4119). Other locations include Karama (04 396 4937) and Dubai Media City (04 396 4937).
Feast for Dhs50-100 Metro Falcon Restaurant and Cafè Cuisine: Arabic, Chinese and Indian
Atmosphere: Very basic, but a clean and friendly place to stop for cheap yet satisfying food.
Food: A wide selection of Indian, Chinese and Arabic classics (diners are given a choice of spiciness). We recommend the charcoal chicken, which comes with biryani aplenty. The fresh fruit juices are also a must.
Who to take: Anyone who wants a solid satisfying meal for little money (and doesn’t want to dress up).
The bill (for two) 2x Green salad (Dhs20) 2x Pineapple cashew nut (Dhs40) 2x Charcoal chicken with rice (Dhs36) 2x Water (Dhs2) Total: Dhs98 Open daily 6am-1am. Behind Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 2020).
Atmosphere: A great (and cheap!) place to have dinner and watch the world go by. There’s outdoor seating on the edge of Beach Road where a mix of locals and expats chat over a mixed grill or a milkshake.
Food: The menu features everything from chicken tikka masala to crispy fried noodles and lamb kebabs, as well as some very fruity cocktails (perhaps not the most masculine of beverages, but delicious nonetheless). Our recommendation is the hearty biryani. It’s also worth noting that Chalet offers affordable lunch deals for Dhs18 to Dhs20, which include a main, soup and a soft drink.
Who to take: Those wanting to head out for an evening meal without having to change out of their shorts and flip-flops.
The bill (for two) 1x Chicken tikka (Dhs25) 1x Grilled chicken (Dhs22) 1x Chicken biryani (Dhs18) 1x Fruit juice (Dhs12) Total: Dhs77 Open daily 11am-1am. Just past Al Manara Road, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 348 7557).
Atmosphere: Decor includes an illustrated ‘Know Your Sushi’ wall chart, plus plenty of real-life Japanese diners – Bento-Ya is about as close as you’ll get to an authentic, no-frills sushi joint in Dubai.
Food: The sashimi is fresh and servings are generous. If you’re just ordering for two, you’ll be happy with the size of the sushi rolls.
Who to take: Your broke friend who’s been eating cheese on toast for the past week.
The bill (for two) 1x Sashimi (Dhs50) 1x Vegetable tempura (Dhs39) 1x Crunchy shrimp rolls (Dhs30) Total: Dhs119 Open daily noon-4pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm. Al Kawakeb, D Block 1F, Sheikh Zayed Road, behind Skechers shoe store (04 343 0222).
Atmosphere: Da Shi Dai does most of its business by delivery, so the restaurant is relatively empty at the best of times. Still, the modern decor is welcoming and staff are on the ball and child-friendly.
Food: The menu offers dim sum dishes, soups, congee and fried dishes such as mapo tofu, chicken and cashew nuts, as well as rice and noodles – all are fresh and tasty, and portion sizes are particularly reasonable considering the price. There’s also an all-you-can-eat brunch for Dhs88 on Fridays.
Who to take: The date you’re unsure about – the place is pretty enough not to offend, and you won’t have to worry about forking out too much if your dining partner turns out to be a dullard.
Atmosphere: Sit outside and watch the bustling Oud Metha traffic. You could almost – almost – be on a Thai street.
Food: Mainly traditional Thai options: we particularly like the tom yam soup, fragrant salads and flavoursome sweet-and-sour stir-fries.
Who to take: Anyone living in New Dubai who needs proof that life still exists past the World Trade Centre.
The bill (for two) 1x Tom yam soup (Dhs37) 1x Chicken satay (Dhs33) 1x Thai green curry (Dhs42) 1x Plain rice (Dhs8) Total: Dhs120 Open daily noon-11.30pm. Opposite Lamcy Plaza, next to the German Fashion store, Oud Metha (04 334 2325).
Atmosphere: You’d feel comfortable coming here straight from work (most of its business is via delivery, so the restaurant is usually quiet).
Food: The huge portions can feed two. Everything is tasty, and the Bang-Bang chicken is like nothing we’ve ever tasted before. However, it’s rather salty and left us extremely thirsty the next day – although this is something we don’t normally experience with the traditional pad Thai.
Who to take: Your partner or flatmates for a quiet meal.
The bill (for two) 1x Bang-Bang chicken (Dhs32) 1x Black beef with pumpkin sauce (Dhs48) 1x Steamed jasmine rice (Dhs12) 1x Char kway teow prawns (Dhs34) Total: Dhs126 Open daily noon-12.30am. Murjan, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Marina (04 427 0442).
Cook your own budget feast Table 9’s Nick Alvis shares his favourite, financially friendly curry recipe: it’ll cost you just Dhs85 to feed four people.
Ingredients 800g basmati rice (pre soaked) 2 litres water 8 chicken legs 100ml veg oil 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic 1 thumb-size piece of ginger 1 tablespoon garam masala 1 tablespoon turmeric 1 tablespoon curry powder 2 tins coconut milk 200g crème fraiche 1 bunch mint 1 bunch coriander Salt to season
Method 1 Place the chicken in a pan and cover with the water. Add a little salt then bring up to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, skimming off any foam that comes to the surface.
2 Remove one leg. If you can twist the bone so it comes out easily, the chicken is cooked. Remove from water and strain into another pan: this now becomes the stock for the rice.
3 When the legs have cooled a little, remove all the meat, getting rid of the skin and bones. Place meat in a container and seal with a lid or film so the chicken stays moist.
4 Finely dice the onions, ginger and garlic, then fry them slowly in the vegetable oil. Add the spices and a pinch of salt, then cook for five minutes. Add the coconut milk, bring to the boil and reduce for about five minutes until it’s a little thicker.
5 When you have the required consistency, whisk in the crème fraiche and set aside.
6 Bring the lightly seasoned chicken stock to the boil, add the rice and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
7 Bring the curry sauce back up to the boil, add the chicken and bring to the boil again (don’t cook it for too long). By this time the rice should be cooked, so strain it and let it sit for a few minutes. Finely chop the mint and coriander, add to the chicken and serve immediately with the rice.
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Walsi Mar 23, 2013 10:55 am
I am working near to this restaurant.
Tried a couple of times for breakfast.
No cleanliness, full of flies.
Cheap compared to other restaurants around the area.
Offered me a foul food once.
Morning- no enough staff to cater the crowd.
Bron Nov 23, 2011 05:00 pm
The Calicut Paragon and Metro Falcon are good cheap restaurants. Any number of restaurants in Satwa (eg Ravis) and Karama (eg Little Hut) could be mentioned in the same sentence. The Highway Inn is just plain nasty. The rest are a compromise between chic and cheap.
Attavee Nov 21, 2011 01:00 pm
Thank u, good selections...............
Wael Nov 19, 2011 09:49 am
You could have called the gallery the Indian Budget Feasts, or the Indian and Chinese Budget Feasts or the Asian Budget Feasts.. :)
Gul Nov 18, 2011 07:01 am
Wonder why you don't have Ravi in the list there, Its one of the best on budget