Winner – Best Café Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013 Baker & Spice The deep orange and brown decor is welcoming and warm, and combines nicely with the back to basics, natural wood furniture at this London export. Fresh, organic salads entice you at the entrance – you can pick five as a starter if you’re dining in (however, the portion is tiny and barely enough for two) or pay by the weight if you’re taking away. The freshly baked bread is wholesome and flavour combinations are exciting. The pan roasted fillet of wild bass served with rocket mashed potato and parsley lime pesto awakens the taste buds – but is a touch too salty. Refreshingly, the linguine with wild prawns, mushrooms and a cream and nutmeg sauce isn’t too rich, instead the flavours are subtle and light. Staff are swift when it comes to taking your order and presenting your bill, but not so efficient with recommendations. But be warned, for a cafe, prices are on the high side, but with sustainable ingredients sourced locally, from farms and markets each day, with only seasonal produce used, this has got to be expected. Open daily, 8am-11.30pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, bakerandspiceme.com (04 425 2240).
Highly Recommended – Best Café Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
Klayya Bakery & Sweets Klayya café’s whitewashed walls make the space feel light and airy, while the brightly coloured and imaginative use of Arabic patterns and accessories give it a young, eclectic and breezy beach vibe worthy of Barcelona. Service is impeccably friendly and polite, while the menu – as small and neat as the venue itself – offers a selection of Emirati breakfast dishes (each teamed with a complimentary cup of ‘karak’, a traditional tea with milk and spices). Try the ryoog yerena plate: a combination of date omelette, three types of the café’s daily baked traditional breads and a cup of karak – all hugely enjoyable. The khameer bread mixes sweet and aniseed flavours, while the muhala is delicately crisp like a cobweb, with the chebab a soft, buttery pancake with a gentle saffron warmth. The decent list of local hot drinks is also well worth delving into – we particularly recommend the thick and sweet haleeb kastar, with the diverting bite of chia seeds floating at the top. It all makes for a great start to the day. Open daily 8.30am-10pm. Cash only. Al Barsha Mall, www.diodes.it/al_barsha_mall (04 325 5335).
Highly Recommended – Best Café Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
The Farm Finding the restaurant – through a vast thicket of trees and lush green plants – is a bit like finding paradise. A lake flows through the landscaped garden, where you’ll hear cicadas singing, and there are individual swinging hammocks to relax in. Tables are made from large slabs of tree trunk, roughly cut away and polished to create a luxurious rusticity. Clientele is almost exclusively Emirati. Food is cooked with seasonal produce and the menu is presented on a future-proof iPad. It features a selection of Thai and French cuisine, which is cooked and served expertly, with the finest, freshest, ethically sourced ingredients. Fans of big flavours should try the Thai selection. The Goong Phad Naam Prik Phow – lightly battered and deep fried black tiger prawns with onions, herbs, chilli oil and tamarind juice – is a true delight. The selection of teas, coffees and juices is vast, comprehensive and the best we’ve tried in the city. It’s not cheap, but for the quality and experience alone, it’s worth every penny. Open daily 8am-10.30pm. Al Barari Villas, Emirates Road, www.thefarmdubai.com (04 392 5660 / 056 174 1208).
Arabian Tea House Formerly Basta Art Café, this quaint, courtyard spot in the city’s historic quarter of Bastakiya, was highly commended in last year’s awards and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s a lush green hideaway from the dusty streets and sand-coloured walls of the buildings that surround it. The decor is a little like grandmother’s conservatory with white wicker tables and chairs accentuated by baby blue benches. Decorative net curtains draped over head act as the only shade from the sun, meanwhile greenery hangs in baskets from the walls. It’s also a creative hub, attracting artsy types who come to peruse the trinkets and paintings, as well as feast on the delightful menu. Salads are particularly tasty and fresh and the portion sizes generous. And we’d also recommend the date and walnut cake, which is accompanied by plain yoghurt – a refreshing alternative to cream or the sweetness of ice cream. Open daily 8am-10pm. Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, (04 353 5071).
Balance Café The café prides itself on the principle of Ayurveda, the notion that the body is made up of five elements and that food containing the right proportion of these elements gives us balance. It’s unclear from the menu which of the elements each dish contains and in what proportion, but the nutritional benefits are clear. You’ll find calories, fat, protein, carbohydrate, dietary fibre, cholesterol and sodium content listed, meaning you can at least make a healthy choice if not a specific Ayruvedic one. Overall, food is well prepared and tastes delicious, but there are a few oddities when it comes to service. When we ordered an iced latte on our last visit, it came with so much sugar (despite not requesting any) that it was rendered undrinkable. When we asked for another without, staff seemed affronted by the request. You also have to attract their attention for service, which takes some time. Open Sat-Wed 7.30am-10pm; Thu-Fri 10am-11pm, Oasis Centre, Al Quoz, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 515 4051).
Circle Café Its minimalist white interior and quirky memorabilia on the shelves above the cakes at the entrance are intriguing and inviting at the Media City outpost of this pleasant eatery. The circle theme runs throughout, with circular tables, cushioned white ornate chairs with circular backs and its broadsheet-style menu, ‘The Circle Times’ (a nod to the media types who dine here from their offices nearby, that details the main ingredients used). Combined with views of the Media City lake, it’s perfectly located for a picturesque lunchtime stop. It gets busy though, probably because service is swift and portion sizes are generous, offering great value for your dirham whilst delighting the taste buds. We’d recommend the beef burger bagel accompanied by sweet potato fries, which come sprinkled with zaatar – a blend of dried basil, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds and salt – complimenting the sweetness of the perfectly crisped chips. The Italian chicken almond salad is also a popular dish and well worth a try. Open daily 8am-11.30pm. Dubai Media City, www.circle-cafe.com (04 391 5170).
Jones the Grocer This futuristic restaurant/cafe/grocery store, with a distinct industrial look and feel and open-plan kitchen, offers readymade sandwiches, pastries and tempting cakes, displayed at the counters dotted around the space. The impressive gourmet coffee station offers the cafe’s unique blend as well as other favourites from around the world. Grocery items that the cafe is famed for are of top quality, adventurous and unusual – like fruit flavoured balsamic. However, the food itself could do with a little sprucing up, perhaps with some of the adventurous flavours in the condiments for sale. The pumpkin, ricotta and spinach lasagne tastes earthy and would do well if cooked with a sprinkle of herbs and a dash of seasoning. Drinks and desserts are much better – the passion fruit cheesecake is particularly pleasing. But guests are served promptly by well informed staff, and with such comfortable surroundings, a visit to Jones the Grocer is well worth it. Sun-Thu 8am-11pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm. Sheikh Zayad Road (opposite Times Square Center), www.jonesthegrocer.com (04 346 6886).
Make Business Hub Head to Make with your MacBook or you may feel out of place. If you haven't got one, they’re available to borrow (along with iPads) at this futuristic, industrial, hipster hangout. The front half of the space resembles a retro diner, with a huge metallic sign made of light bulbs above the bar. The rest is like a library with clover-shaped desks, perfect for the entrepreneurial business meetings that take place. People leave quirky messages in bottles (and on the wall at the entrance) advertising their creative freelance skills and the café also hosts talks and workshops. Staff are friendly, attentive and forthcoming with menu recommendations and are knowledgeable of what’s on offer. Food is pricey considering portion sizes, but salads are well prepared with the freshest ingredients – the smoked trout salad with Asian greens, blood orange and almonds is an unusual combination that’s zingy and crisp. And when it's all over and you've packed your MacBook away, ready to pay your bill, it’s presented to you on an iPad. Open Sun-Thu 8am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm. Level One, Al Fattan House, JBR, Dubai Marina, www.makebusinesshub.com (04 392 9216).
The Lime Tree Café & Kitchen It scores top points for ambience and quality of food – the beef shipped in from the chain’s native New Zealand is succulent and perfectly cooked. The concept here works expertly. You choose what you want from the freshly prepared and incredibly tempting selection of meals at the counter, order and pay at the tills. Take a number and head to your seat and wait for staff to bring it over. Service is impressively swift, even at weekends when the café gets particularly busy. Don't be put off by the long queues at the counter though, because staff fly through the orders. And you won't have to wait very long for your food to arrive either. Waiters are attentive polite and efficient, and able to recommend food quickly and successfully. We particularly like the beef salad with roasted vegetables, carrot cake and triple berry smoothie. Also not to be missed is the flat white, which is as authentic as it gets in this city. Open daily 8am-6pm. Beach Road, Jumeirah www.thelimetreecafe.com (04 349 8498).
XVA Café Set within the XVA boutique hotel’s serene, sheltered courtyard, tucked away down one of the narrow alleys of old-style Bastakiya, the café feels a world away from the nearby textile souk, let alone the skyscrapers of Downtown and beyond. And that’s why we like it, because although it’s mostly tourists who come here rather than residents, XVA makes for a welcome change. And the entirely meat-free menu is just as refreshing, going for a less-is-more approach in terms of the selection and number of dishes. Among the sandwiches, salads and Arabic dishes, the eggplant burger is a true standout dish, served without a bun and instead relying on thick cuts of delicious bread-crumbed aubergine to keep the feta cheese, cucumber and tomato centre in place. XVA also does simple yet tasty breakfasts, served with freshly squeezed juices, and prices are very reasonable, averaging around Dhs25-30 per item. All this, plus friendly service, makes XVA a winning choice for dining out – and not just for when you’re entertaining guests from out of town. Open daily 9am-7pm. XVA Art Hotel, Bastakiya, Bur Dubai, www.xvahotel.com (04 353 5383).