From budget to blow out, the best places to indulge in the afternoon
Afternoon tea was purportedly invented by England’s seventh Duchess of Bedford in the 1840s. By ordering sneaky mid-afternoon snacks up to her room, this aristocrat with an insatiable appetite unwittingly invented an entire institution.
In Dubai, this tradition of cakes, sandwiches, scones and a cuppa can be sampled at the Emirate’s most impressive luxury hotels, as well as at cafés offering a value version. We sipped our way through 17 pots of tea (and ate who knows how many scones) in the name of research, testing Dubai’s favourites, as well as a few new deals, too.
Under Dhs100 Bloomsbury’s at The Dubai Mall Though this café prides itself on its cupcakes, they’re perhaps the only item to actually let this surprisingly good value afternoon tea down. As well as a choice of one cupcake, diners are presented with a selection of fresh sandwiches, bite-sized brownies, cookies and mini bakewell tarts to name but a few. Despite being a little on the crumbly side, the scones are delightfully buttery, while the range of teas is short but varied – Marrakesh mint, Bombay chai and even gunpowder varieties.
3/5 Dhs49 per person. Daily 3pm-6pm. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 325 3166).
Samovar Lounge at the One&Only Royal Mirage In a quiet setting with a distinct whiff of luxury, traditional afternoon tea is served here on a silver platter; three tiers adorned with dainty sandwiches and pastries. There are tuna, turkey and salmon offerings of the former and delicious fruit and chocolate combinations of the latter. The service is efficient with staff happy to replenish your platter when requested. Some 20 types of tea are on offer plus coffee and an unlimited serving of it once you have made your choice.
4/5 Dhs99 per person. Daily 3pm-6pm. One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai Marina (04 399 9999).
Urban Bistro in Dubai Media City Served on bread that could reasonably be described as the softest we’ve ever devoured in Dubai, tea-takers at this lake-side Dubai Media City spot are given a trio of sandwiches, two home-made scones (one fresh raspberry and one raisin – the latter superior in texture and taste), and a selection of chocolates and mini tarts. Despite their appealingly rustic appearance, the scones proved too crumbly to hold up against our slathers of jam and cream. On the upside, on our visit, we were also presented with a surprise additional dessert – a creamy panacotta-esque dish topped with cherry compote.
4/5 Dhs65 per person. Sun-Thu 3pm-6pm. CNN Building, Dubai Media City (04 362 4330).
Dhs100-199 Al Fayrooz Lounge at Al Qasr Hotel Top-notch service, a picturesque view of the Burj Al Arab over the green gardens of the Madinat Jumeirah resort, plus the sound of rolling waves and tweeting myna birds, make the balcony terrace at Al Fayrooz a delightful spot to nibble sandwiches and scoff scones with its Al Qasr Afternoon Tea package. While warmer months may keep diners indoors, the experience is no less impressive – and if you skipped lunch to make the most of this mid-afternoon meal, you’ll be pleased to note that the sandwiches are unlimited. If you fancy something a little lighter, there is an option for a simple cream tea, simply featuring scones, jam and tea.
4/5 Dhs80 scones and tea, Dhs165 Al Qasr traditional afternoon tea, Dhs250 (with bubbly). Daily 2pm-6pm. Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
Al Bayt at The Palace An elegant afternoon tea, offering a traditional English or Arabic menu in an elegant Arabian style lounge. On our visit we spotted mainly groups of ladies and business men sipping Moroccan tea. Diners are given a zippy, refreshing mint mocktail upon arrival. Service is good but there’s no sense of occasion to the package. What’s more, there’s an additional cost if you fancy trying a different tea, but top-ups are free. The Arabic tea deal has the best range of savouries, but the English selection has a delicious range of dainty cakes.
Atrium Lounge at The Westin Visit on the wrong day and you’ll find the experience is slightly dampened by a few distractions. Housed in the foyer, the Atrium Lounge is all sofas and comfy high chairs. But if you go on a Friday, conversation may be drowned out by revellers dining below at the hotel’s Bubbalicious brunch. This aside, the tea itself is quite memorable. A silver four-tiered sandwich tray greets you, complete with four, (rather small) finger sandwiches – bizarrely containing yellow and pink bread. The highlight here though is the scones; four perfectly formed, miniature-sized, sultana-packed concoctions complete with cream and a really wonderful blueberry jam. The service here is attentive without being overbearing and as for the tea selection – it is varied, and they’ll keep filling the teapot up for you.
3/5 Dhs140 per person. Daily 2pm-7pm. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, Dubai Marina, Al Sufouh Road (04 399 4141)
La Farine Café and Bakery at JW Marriott Marquis This delightfully French afternoon tea comes with an elegant vibe. High ceilings and walls clustered with mirrors pair perfectly with lime green and dark wood furnishings. Staff are very friendly and service is efficient without being imposing. The presentation of the éclairs, profiteroles and macarons adds a touch of indulgence to proceedings, while the savoury quiches and tiny home-made sandwiches ensure that everyone departs very well fed. There’s a whole host of teas available – we recommend the Currant Dream blend. Coffee can also be ordered and freshly squeezed lemonade helps to wash everything down nicely.
3.5/5 Dhs140 per person. Daily 3pm-6pm. JW Marriott Marquis, Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay (04 140 0000).
Lobby Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton Dubai With a choice of dining indoors in the spacious lobby or on the terrace with beautiful views of the hotel grounds, afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton feels like a treat. The service is friendly and informative, with the staff giving a comprehensive rundown of the tea menu, plus three-tiered platters daintily filled with fresh scones and clotted cream, mini wraps and sandwiches. Platters are refreshed happily along with fresh servings of your tea or coffee of choice.
4/5 Dhs70 per person (Devonshire tea). Dhs135 per person (afternoon tea). Dhs245 per person (glass of bubbly). Daily 2pm-6pm. The Ritz-Carlton, The Walk, JBR, Dubai Marina (04 399 4000).
Mashrabiya Lounge at Fairmont The Palm Tea connoisseurs will immediately be impressed with the offerings here, displayed in a wooden menu with samples of tea leaves inside. After a crème brûlée starter, the tiered tray arrives, featuring a range of sweet treats that aren’t too rich, as well as a good balance of savouries. Warm scones are served with cream and jam, before you’re invited to tackle the enticing chocolate buffet. Juice is also included, making this a very generous afternoon tea in plush surroundings. And the staff will pack them up for you to take home.
4/5 Dhs110 per person. Dhs230 (glass of bubbly). Daily noon-6pm. Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).
Plato’s at Atlantis The Palm The afternoon tea served here is not traditional in the sense that it’s buffet-style on weekends, but it’s good value. The package includes food and two hot beverages – their TWG tea menu is enormous. At the buffet table you’ll find warm options including vegetarian samosas, mini quiches and shepherd’s pies, plus cucumber sandwiches and teriyaki beef and salmon rolls. The cake table is home to scones with real clotted cream, carrot cake, lemon meringue pie and many other sweet temptations. Plus, they’re happy to cater to vegetarians and the service is top notch.
4/5 Dhs125 (served at the table). Dhs135 (buffet with soft drinks). Sun-Thu 2pm-5.30pm. Fri-Sat 2pm-5.30pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Sultan’s Lounge at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Afternoon tea set on the luxurious terrace of the Ottoman-inspired hotel. Offering an Arabic or English tea to a clientele of families and couples, there’s a relaxed atmosphere here, but maybe a bit too relaxed, with requests for tea refills sometimes taking 15 minutes. The tiers contain a creative selection of pastries but there’s not significant difference between the Arabic and the English tea. The date scones were however a novel touch.
The Lounge at Park Hyatt Dubai High tea at The Lounge is a laid-back affair; take a seat on the comfy chairs inside or enjoy the experience al fresco on the sprawling outdoor terrace. The staff help to keep this relaxed atmosphere going with their discreet approach, although they can at times be hard to find. The choice of tea is concise and its presentation in glass teapots is a stylish touch. On the tiered tray you’ll find the usual fare, but the sandwiches are the stand-out dishes.
3/5 Dhs190 per couple. Dhs190 per couple (glass of bubbly). Daily 2pm-6pm. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
Dhs200-299 Armani/Lounge at Armani Hotel This is probably one of the few afternoon teas that will serve you sandwiches featuring huge chunks of fresh lobster and delicately sliced scallops. Arriving on a classic tiered tray, the sandwiches themselves are encased in a variety of different breads, sitting a level above perfectly moist, thick slices of banana and fruitcake (excellent with a cup of Earl Grey, or indeed the sharp lemongrass mocktail included) and beneath a tray of mini tarts. While scones are presented hot, the lack of clotted cream lets the tradition down.
4/5 Dhs280 (one mocktail). Dhs360 (glass of bubbly and fresh berries). Dhs900 (glass of vintage bubbly, caviar and a trio of oysters). Daily 3pm-6pm. Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3888).
Sapori di BiCE at Citywalk Promising to, ‘transport its guest to the origins of Italian family dining’ sadly has meant that the concept of afternoon tea is one that this new eatery in Citywalk is struggling to grasp. We hope that may be down to teething problems. Much was promised from the menu descriptions but the reality was somewhat different. A baguette was served, cut thinly into slices and toasted. On top of each slice came smoked salmon with, bizarrely, a raspberry on top, and a couple more slices of bread with cured meat and even more raspberries. The scones were soft and decadent, but sadly the chef seemed to not understand what clotted cream actually is – we were given ice-cream, then butter, then custard, despite our attempts to explain. It’s a lovely venue though – light, airy with white wooden furniture and exposed brick walls and a nice al fresco area.
Dhs300+ At.Mosphere at Burj Khalifa When it comes to afternoon tea, it doesn’t get much higher than this. Cake tiers stacked with finger sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries from a set menu are served 122 floors up at this spectacular venue. While the food is decent, it’s the venue itself that has the wow-factor and there are extras including a hot treat to start and cake and scones whipped round later. We particularly like the passion fruit, lemon curd and cream condiments.
4/5 Dhs320 (soft drinks). Dhs380 (glass of bubbly). Dhs1,000 (glass of premium bubbly, caviar and oysters). Daily 2.30pm-5pm. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3828).
Sahn Eddar at the Burj Al Arab This sumptuous atrium of the Burj Al Arab, with views of the beach and surrounding Dubai, is popular with tourists and locals alike and it's busy with a cheerful ambience. Four courses are served, including delicious sparkling date juice with a fruit tart, mini sandwiches, which include cucumber and too-tough beef and a platter of mini cakes. Requests for extras are happily received along with an unlimited serving of tea from the extensive menu and coffee.
3/5 Dhs375 per person. Dhs425 per person (glass of bubbly). Daily 1pm-6pm. Dhs300 per person for high tea. Daily, from 7pm. Burj Al Arab (04 301 7600).
Rhodes in Residence, Grosvenor House Dubai This experience feels a little like you have stepped into Charles Dickens' London, where afternoon tea was an affair to remember. The roaring fire and the harp player, who was curiously strumming contemporary classics from Adele to Wham (you haven’t heard ‘Careless Whisper’ until you have heard it like this) accompany the four courses of savoury sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, pastries and sweets, which arrive one after another, making it hard to finish each course. An intimate affair, this will leave you feeling full and wishful for a time where women wore pearls and men wore top hats.
4/5 Dhs150 per person. Dhs250 (glass of bubbly). Dhs275 (premium glass of bubbly) 3pm-6pm. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).