Winner – Best Bar Food Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Buddha Bar This behemoth of a brand is to high-end pan-Asian cuisine what McDonalds is to the humble burger. And, like the golden-arched fast food conqueror, the reason Buddha Bar has prospered is because it’s actually rather competent at what it does. Rivals may have caught up in terms of boundary-crossing Asian fusion dishes, but not all of them measure up. It’s an unquestionably expensive place yet this doesn’t seem to deter the throngs of people from heading here to enjoy some of the finest sashimi in the city as well as the breathtaking views of the marina through the 20-metre-high glass windows. The other positive attribute is the feel of the place – it’s genuinely cool and as the evening progresses the atmosphere starts steering towards party territory, with a live DJ, in case you fancying sticking around after dinner. Open Sat-Wed 8pm-2am (last food orders midnight), Thu-Fri 8pm-3am (last food orders 1am). Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina, www.buddhabar.com (04 317 6000).
Highly Commended – Best Bar Food Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Calabar With a sprawling terrace offering uninterrupted views of the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain, Calabar offers a chic and trendy option for downtown post-work revellers, with a hip young crowd descending on the venue with loyal regularity. The menu reflects the sociable nature of the patrons, with sharing platters and tapas featuring heavily. Food falls into the fusion category, with calamari and Spanish-style dishes sitting alongside Asian options such as samosas. Each dish is priced over Dhs50 and you’ll need several if you’re looking for a meal, so it’s not particularly cheap, but the standard is decent, with the calamari arrive fresh and the sliders well cooked with a lively salsa. Our only qualm is with the service, which can be disorganised and a little inattentive. If time isn’t a priority, though, then Calabar is a good option among the higher-end bars in the city. Open Sat-Thu 6pm-3am, Fri 4pm-3am. The Address Downtown Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 436 8888).
Highly Commended – Best Bar Food Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Caramel Restaurant & Lounge Sitting spot in the middle of banker-friendly DIFC, Caramel is a good reflection of its surroundings. It’s posh (in a clean and modern way), expensive and ruthlessly competitive. We’d recommend going for the tapas, which is a delicious mixture of Spanish standards and pan-Asian morsels. If you’re looking at Caramel in the context of a bar, it’s a notch above your standard pub grub. Admittedly you do pay a premium, but dishes are reasonably portioned and you get the impression that there haven’t been any shortcuts in terms of ingredients or cooking. You can opt to sit in the understated, chic interior, or you can hang out with the business folk on the massive terrace, watching them strut past in their power suits. Lower the prices and we’d be here more often. Open Sun-Thu 11am-2am, Fri-Sat 7pm-2am. Building 3, DIFC, caramelgroup.com (04 425 6677).
Après A quintessential watering hole for mall visitors looking to escape the shops, Après is the sort of place where you’ll encounter some jaded-looking folk seeking sanctuary from the uncompromising consumerism outside. Yet to merely view it as a bolthole would be doing Après a disservice. With its own non-smoking area away from the nightspot lighting levels, there’s a restaurant space that overlooks the white slopes and penguins of Ski Dubai. Consequently it’s a pretty decent place to head for a bite to eat. And the food isn’t half bad – the pizzas are authentic and the other items on the European-inspired menu are affordable and hearty. Service can be somewhat haphazard, but, importantly, it arrives with a smile and goodwill. Open Sat-Wed 11.30am-1am, Thu 11.30am-2am (last food orders Sun-Thu 11.45pm, Fri-Sat 1.30am). Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 2575).
Belgian Beer Café The Madinat outlet of this popular Belgian-themed bar has a large, sprawling terrace and attracts lots of satisfied punters. Yet look beyond the large selection of premium hops and the traditional pub vibe, and you’ll discover that the food here is also pretty decent. Order a pot of mussels and while you’re unlikely to fall off your stool in awe, you’re also unlikely to find too much to criticise. The same can be said for the other items on the eclectic, essentially high-end pub grub menu. The ingredients are up to scratch, dishes are prepared competently and with items like steak tartar and duck á l’orange sitting alongside more traditional pub dishes like burgers, it’s easy to see why this popular brand goes from strength to strength. And if you close your eyes, you could almost be in Belgium, or even France. Open daily noon-2am (last food orders Sat-Wed 11.30pm, Thu-Fri 12.30am). Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 447 0227).
Cabana This restaurant and bar is tucked away on the pool terrace of the Address Dubai Mall. It’s an oasis of tranquillity, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of downtown and, if you pick your seat astutely, you’ll be able to enjoy a drink and some decent nosh with the imperious Burj Khalifa twinkling away in the background. In keeping with its five-star address, the international menu is well executed, with the burgers, salads and steaks all ticking the required standard box. Service is also excellent, with staff occupying the happy medium of appearing when you need them without hassling or interrupting you. Attracting a handful of hotel guests and well-heeled locals, we’re a bit reluctant to share this gem with you, but it truly deserves a solid pat on the back. Open daily 9am-11.30pm. The Address Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
Embassy Dubai This high-end British nightspot’s bar menu offers a decent selection of traditional, European and Asian fusion snacks to keep you going while you’re socialising – and we’re not talking about peanuts and beef jerky. In keeping with its swanky environment, you’re likely find seafood tartare, sashimi and more traditional bites like mini burgers, as well as some eye-wateringly priced Beluga caviar. Prices are generally a bit on the high side, but we can’t argue with the posh environment, complete with the requisite 360-degree views out over Dubai Marina, and the food is overall a notch up from normal pub grub. Stick around past 9.30pm and there’s also a live DJ. Open Tue-Sat 8pm-4am (last food orders 2am). Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).
Left Bank More bar than restaurant, Left Bank is a popular spot. Expect to find a menu of pub grub classics, with fish and chips, burgers and similar fare. Standards are decent and while the food won’t blow you away, it’s competently executed. Dine inside and it’s difficult to forget you’re sitting in what is primarily a nightspot. Head out onto the terrace, though, and you’ll get to enjoy the venue’s prime Madinat location with views of the Burj Al Arab. With its decent ladies’ night and a reputation for great mixers, Left Bank is best known for drinks, but if you do fancy some grub while you’re socialising, it’s not half bad and quite reasonably priced. Open Sat-Tue 9am-2am, Wed-Fri 9am-3am (last food orders 1am). Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 368 6171).
Loca Teaming with atmosphere, this lively Mexican restaurant and nightspot is ideal for chatty groups and anyone looking to continue the party after their meal. Tortilla chips land on the table as swiftly as you sit down and the staff seem rather keen to get the food under your nose as quickly as possible. The starters seem to be the standouts here: try the ceviche de pescado, bite-size chunks of raw kingfish marinated in fresh lime juice and tossed with papaya, tomatoes, coriander and red onion. The massive crumbed jalapenos oozing with melted cheese, meanwhile, will enliven your arteries. When we visited, the beef short ribs arrived disappointingly overcooked and the fajitas main on a rather weathered skillet, which seemed to overpower and flavour the meat. Traditional Mexican desserts are also on offer, including a take on the popular dulche de leche – the version here being a three-milk cake served with chocolate ice cream. Open noon-midnight. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah (04 346 1111).
The Terrace The Park Hyatt’s al fresco spot is perfect for a romantic drink. Sitting behind a marina in the Creek, there are pleasant views towards Downtown Dubai and the atmosphere is one of relaxed serenity. Obviously, being located in a posh hotel, drinks aren’t as cheap as other alternatives, yet considering the quality of the food, prices are surprisingly reasonable. It’s the small touches that most impress us – bread arrives warm with delicious French butter, for instance, the cutlery gives a sense of posh occasion and the staff are quietly efficient and attentive. Admittedly some dishes do work better than others (the burger is only okay), yet try the mussels, washed down with a cold drink, and you’ll find little to fault. Open daily noon-2am. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).