Winner – Best Family Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
Jones the Grocer This high-end café has proved a big hit with Dubai’s families, especially at the weekend when the wait for a table can be half an hour or more. Combining the grocery and store at the front of the venue, on-site bakery and deli, tables packed with diners and a busy open kitchen, the bustling atmosphere can be pretty noisy at peak times. With café fare such as baguettes, paninis and salads, an extended breakfast menu at weekends and larger mains like burgers and pies, prices aren’t cheap, but portions are satisfyingly hearty. Traditional fish and chips is so large it threatens to dangle off the serving board – the batter is light and very crispy, while the portion of large olive oil fries is just enough to mop up the tangy tartar sauce. The colour-in children’s menu offers healthy takes on kids’ classics – such as penne covered in a flavoursome tomato-y sauce. While service can be a little bit dozy during the restaurant’s busiest periods, on the whole, Jones is a great family choice and worth the queue. Open Sun-Thu 8am-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 9am-10.30pm. Sheikh Zayed Road (opp Times Square), www.jonesthegrocer.com, (04 346 6886).
Highly Recommended – Best Family Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
More Café, Gold and Diamond Park We like the Gold and Diamond Park setting because it’s not in a mall and there’s an outside area with fountains where the kids can run off their excitement without annoying other diners. We parents opt for the chicken Ceaser salad, as you can ask for all sorts of tasty additions. Meanwhile, the nippers choose the hotdogs, which come before our adult dishes and are piping hot. The contents of one were dropped before it made mouth contact, and was swiftly replaced by the attentive waiter. The kids’ food also comes with a beetroot salad (to make up for the fries perhaps?) which the children actually enjoy eating – another bonus. Our only gripe is that even though this restaurant is so family-friendly, there are no baby changing facilities, which we find quite strange. Hopefully this is something that will be remedied soon. Open daily, 7am-7pm. Gold and Diamond Park. www.morecafe.biz. (04 323 4350).
Highly Recommended – Best Family Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
The Rivington Grill Elegant interiors and its superior take on British cuisine belie the fact that it’s also a great (if pricy) option for families, too. With ample high chairs and ultra attentive, friendly staff, young diners are made to feel at home from the moment they sit down – from the colouring books and crayons that are doled out on arrival, to the kids’ menu that suits even the fussiest eaters, with simple baked beans on toast or tomato soup to pan-friend salmon and veg. The kids’ food arrives first, and breaded fish goujons with mayonnaise are moreish enough for adults to covet them too. Freshly-baked bread staves off grown-ups’ hunger until mains arrive – the roast beef dinner comes with a vast slab of pinkly tender meat, with crisp roast spuds and the all-important Yorkshire pudding cooked to just the right balance of chewyness and crispness. Save room for dessert – kids can try the delectable Eton mess or a serving of ice cream (try the honeycomb), while adults should not miss the malted chocolate and caramel pie. Open daily 12 noon-11pm. Souk Madinat Jumeirah, www.rivingtongrill.ae (04 366 6464).
Beachcombers Located on the sugar-white sands of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s private beach, Beachcombers, as the name suggests, combines the best in family entertainment and al-fresco dining. Serving up a delicious array of Asian-influenced cuisine (think pan-seared fresh prawns, crispy noodles, and wok delights of all descriptions) plus a healthy selection of international dishes too, there’s something to suit every palate. But the real boon here is the entertainment laid on for the kids. There’s a well-supervised kids’ area offering all sorts of arts and craft activities, plus a very busy balloon bender, face painter and juggler on hand. If that’s not enough, they can even learn to spin plates (yes – don’t try this at home kids), or there’s the hilarious game called monster feet, where kids don huge pairs of scary shoes and attempt to race each other. And if all else fails, there’s plenty of sand and buckets and spades on tap. Brilliant! Dhs295-595 (per person – depending on the package – soft drinks, house beverages or bubbly) and Dhs140 for kids aged six to 12. Five and unders go free. Open for brunch 1-4pm every Friday and Saturday. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, www.jumeirah.com (04 348 0000).
Carluccio’s This spacious and airy restaurant provides the perfect venue for a weekend lunch with the family. Not only is the Italian menu varied enough to suit all palates, but in keeping with the Carluccio’s brand, it’s fresh and delicious too. We opt for the risotto and Milanese di pollo, while the nippers happily tuck into their penne with tomato sauce. And the children are served first, which is always a bonus when dining out with them. While we wait, the kids tuck into the complimentary crispy bread sticks while colouring in their cartoon menus. The other plus is the fact that you have a great view of the Dubai Fountains, which can keep the children wonderfully entertained if you pop in for a bite at supper time. But be warned, for all the factors we’ve mentioned above, Carluccio’s is very popular and busy – especially on Fridays and Saturdays. Open daily 9am-11pm. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, www.carluccios.com (04 434 1320).
Shakespeare and Co. With its charmingly quirky decor which is an eclectic mix of doilies, chintz and chic, it’s no wonder this chain of cafés has become popular with the mum-set. However, the Al Safa branch has another weapon up its sleeve to attract families in the form of a kid’s play room complete with little seats, a well-stocked toy box and a large TV. Not only that, but they have somehow managed to position it so that unless you choose to sit down the side passage, you’ll always have a good view of your offspring. Aside from that of course, the food is great too. We favour the breakfast menu with its neat poached eggs and jenga-style chips, while the kids tuck into a tasty Barbecue pizza, big enough for both of them to share. Open daily, 7am to 10pm. Al Safa Centre. www.shakespeareandco.ae (04 329 1040).
Social House This huge space on the lower-ground floor of The Dubai Mall is an eclectic addition to its many dining options. Weather permitting, the best seats are on the terrace or the conservatory-style patio, guaranteeing a prime view over the Dubai Fountain. The ambitious menu aims to cover all corners of the globe, ordered by East and West, with everything from sushi to oven-baked pizza and curries. There’s also a large breakfast menu with extended weekend service, plus a kid-specific set menu. Laden with tomatoes, cheese and meat, the breakfast pizza goes down particularly well – while the prawn curry from the small items menu is served in a thick, spiced gravy, with plenty of buttery parathas to scoop up the entire dish. The set kids’ menu is also a hit, with crayons and colouring in sheets, and the usual favourites, including tomato-y pasta washed down with free fizzy drinks and followed by a generous scoop of ice cream. The one let-down for families is the lack of loos inside the venue (you have to venture into the mall), but otherwise, it’s a solid option if you’ve got a family of fussy eaters, thanks to the vast choice and tasty fare. Open Sun-Wed 9am-10.30pm, Thu-Sat 9am-midnight. Lower Ground Floor, Dubai Mall (04 339 8640).
The Lime Tree Café & Kitchen Never quite as crowded or hectic as the original Jumeirah venue, The Lime Tree Café at Ibn Battuta Mall is a bright and breezy, family-friendly respite from the mall. Food is displayed in large cases and service is canteen-style so you can see exactly what’s going to be on your plate. The emphasis is on healthy ingredients and big flavours, such as a chicken and beef bacon lavash (toasted flatbread), wild rice salad and pumpkin tortellini. While the price points for individual items are reasonable, the bill starts to add up if you want a salad or side with your main – Lime Tree currently doesn’t serve side or half portions, which is a shame. The weekend breakfast menu is also a must-try, with homemade baked beans or eggs benedict and giant homemade hash browns. Kids are also well looked after, with a selection of colouring books and toys galore, plus a healthy kids menu that includes mini pizzas and gluten free pasta, with one free side per meal, such as raw veggie bites. Open Sun-Wed 8am-9pm, Thu 8am-10pm, Fri 9am-10pm, Sat 9am-9pm. Ibn Battuta Mall, China Court, www.thelimetreecafe.com (04 366 9320).
The Talk This all-day dining restaurant offers an international buffet with better-than-average fare. During the day there’s an à la carte menu and sushi bar, plus large buffet selection, including a vast mix of salads, mini plates of starters and cold, fresh seafood offering a healthier alternative to the hot dishes and live stations, such as pasta, grills and tandoori. At night, the restaurant runs themed cuisines during the week. But it’s the children’s offerings that really stand out. Like other Mövenpick hotels in the region, The Talk serves the ‘power bites’ menu – a fun and nutrient-rich take on kids’ favourites, such as lamb and lentil burgers or crispy crudités. As well as being healthy, they’re all presented with touches that kids will love, with mini serving dishes, toy figurines helping to ‘build’ the food and plenty of colour throughout. Open daily 6.30am-3am. Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, JBR (04 449 8888).
Urbano The dark-wood interior and clatter from the open kitchens make Urbano a great place to dine out with little ones. Firstly, the acoustics ensure any noisy kiddie chatter is well-absorbed, and because Urbano is spacious, you can be far enough away from other more grown-up diners to relax and enjoy your meal. We enjoy the extensive adult menu, which serves up a range of enticing offerings, including gloriously fresh antipasti, while the main courses comprise of mouth-watering roasted sea bass, rack of lamb and wood-oven baked pizza. We happily tuck in while the children enjoy their traditional and tasty kids serving of spaghetti bolognaise. We like the fact that they also get to choose their own antipasti and pudding, and have a choice of fresh juices to drink, all for the princely sum of Dhs49 per nipper. Open daily from 10.30am-midnight. Souk Al Bahar, Ground Floor, www.urbanorestaurants.com (04 435 5777).