Cake, sandwiches, tea and lashings of cream at Dubai afternoon teas
The cream of English eating traditions is carried out in style across the emirate. Find out which are worthy of your bucket list.
The Lobby Lounge The setting is ideal for afternoon tea – the spacious Lobby Lounge is bright and airy, relaxing yet elegant, while there’s also a live harpist and a terrace overlooking the gardens and pool. The classic afternoon tea includes everything from perfectly sized scones with clotted cream and a choice of jams and preserves to beef and salmon sandwiches which look like mini-burgers. We particularly enjoyed the chocolate-covered strawberries and goat’s cheese mini tarts. We can’t fault the service as staff are very helpful and friendly. However, the only downside is that we are only able to order one pot of tea and refills are charged at an additional cost, as are soft drinks and water. Overall, it is a delightful afternoon, but a little pricey for one pot of tea.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Love Actually – quintessentially British. 4/5 Dhs160 per person (classic afternoon tea), Dhs270 (with a glass of bubbly). Daily 2pm-6pm. Lobby Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, The Walk, JBR (04 399 4000).
Al Bayt The venue is situated in the lobby of Arabian-style The Palace Downtown. It’s a calming setting – a petal-filled fountain ripples in the background and a stunning flower arrangement stands in the centre of the room. Service is relaxed, some might want things to happen a little quicker, but for us afternoon tea is all about taking your time. Traditional and Arabic options are available. We decided on Arabic, in keeping with the setting. As well as a selection of teas, sandwiches included delicate shawarma and kofta concoctions, while scones were flavoured with saffron and cardamom and sweet treats included a camel milk crème brûlée. This is a classy affair, but without showing off.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: The Thomas Crown Affair. Much like Steve McQueen in the original ’60s version of the movie, Al Bayt is cool, calm and classy. 4/5 High tea buffet: Dhs145 per person. Wed and Sat 2pm-6pm. Traditional afternoon tea and timeless Arabic afternoon tea: Dhs130 per person. Daily (except Wed and Sat) 2pm-6pm. Lobby level, The Palace Downtown Dubai (04 4428 7888).
Peacock Alley Every detail of this afternoon tea is high class, from the tableware to the food and even the personal glass teapots. A selection of TWG tea arrives on a trolley before the magnificent spread sidles up next to us. Diners can choose from either the London or Parisian package, the difference being the sandwich fillings. We tuck into the Parisian package of open sandwiches served on slices of baguette-style bread, topped with everything from roast beef and basil to goat’s cheese, crab salad with dill and foie gras terrine. The food is impressively fresh, tempting and tasty. The scones are buttery and accompanied with generous servings of lemon curd, cream and jam and the salted caramel mini éclairs are memorable.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: My Fair Lady, for a lesson in Englishness 5/5 Dhs165 (Parisian package), Dhs150 (London package). Daily 2pm-6pm. Waldorf Astoria Dubai, East Crescent, Palm Jumeirah (04 818 2222).
Al Fayrooz Lounge We’ve rarely seen a hotel lobby look as elegant and inviting as this area at the entrance to Al Qasr. With high ceilings, vintage-style wooden fans and a glorious view out to the shimmering sea, the Burj Al Arab and the walkway of Pierchic; this spot feels like a luxurious holiday destination, but also sparks feelings of ‘last days of the Raj’ colonial glamour. First to arrive are a few Arabic sweets, followed by a refreshing bowl of fresh fruit salad. Next to appear are sandwich and patisserie items, roulade of smoked salmon (topped with fish roe), and a pretty little layered creation of sliced cucumber with a caraway kick. Patisserie items here are all utterly different, skilful, pretty, and full of surprises, and variations in technique, such as a pastry tart filled with cream, topped with a firm mousse cube and fresh fruit. It’s just as patisserie should be. Scones are very small, and a little overly crumbly, but that is really all forgiven when a private chocolate fountain appears at your table. Staff are attentive and polite, leaving you alone once they feel you are all set for the afternoon. This makes the ambience perfect for a long and undisturbed afternoon of indulgence. If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Casablanca. Deliciously, elegantly classic with plenty of colonial-meets-Al Hambra charm. 5/5 Dhs165 per person, Dhs250 (bubbly). Daily 2pm-6pm. Al Qasr, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 3666730).
Choix Patisserie and Restaurant par Pierre Gagnaire The fresh, crisp white venue is inviting, as is the enticing selection of sweets on display at the entrance. The French bakery also has a beautiful outdoor terrace. Our high tea selection comes on a classic three-tiered stand. Sandwiches – in particular the mozzarella and pesto croque monsieur and the egg mayonnaise with quail’s egg and caviar – are standouts. Savouries are nicely balanced with sweets and there’s just enough to satisfy you for the afternoon. Service is professional and efficient with waiters happy to point out their menu favourites and are apt at making recommendations. Sipping the Choix Blend (green tea with mango, guava and rose petals) iced, on the terrace overlooking the creek, made our afternoon.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Coco Before Chanel. It’s sophisticated, classic and chic. 5/5 Dh155 per person. Daily 1pm-6pm. InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Festival City (04 701 1136).
Fortnum & Mason Afternoon tea is served in the ocean-hued first floor lounge of Fortnum & Mason with minimalistic white and cream table settings and Burj Khalifa views. Presented on Tiffany-blue china, Traditional Afternoon Tea includes a selection of small finger sandwiches, including egg and watercress, cucumber and mint and coronation chicken, tea cakes, scones and a slice of cake from the lounge cake stand. The sandwiches are light but satisfying and pair nicely with the vast selection of Fortnum’s Famous Tea, particularly green tea with apple – a taste revelation. No afternoon tea would be complete without scones and this is where Fortnum really excels – these buttery, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth creations are served with clotted cream and a choice of Fortnum & Mason homemade preserve, which you can take home with you afterwards.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: It’s a Wonderful Life, because it’s heartwarming and whimsical 5/5 From Dhs245 per person (High Tea), from Dhs295 (Traditional Afternoon Tea), from Dhs215 (Savoury Afternoon Tea). Daily, 12pm-11.30pm. Downtown Dubai (04 388 2627).
At.Mosphere On the 122nd floor of the world’s tallest building is the world’s highest restaurant. In At.mosphere’s lounge you can marvel at the view of Dubai while sipping on unlimited teas, coffees and mocktails, and dining on a stunning selection of treats. Service is impeccable and the stylish lounge is formal without being stuffy. For the traditional option, a tasty square of quiche is followed by sandwiches including rich smoked salmon and cream cheese, and turkey breast with peppers on rye bread. Perfectly pretty cakes and dainty scones follow. This afternoon tea, much like the restaurant itself, reaches dizzying heights.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Inception. In a building that defies logic, At.mosphere retains a sleek sense of style. 5/5 From Dhs320 per person. Traditional, premium and luxurious options available. Daily, 2.30pm-5pm. At.mosphere, Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
Mashrabiya Lounge Positioned at the back of Fairmont The Palm’s lobby, with wide, soft armchairs and a spacious outdoor terrace overlooking the hotel’s beautiful gardens and beach area, the scene is set for a relaxed afternoon nibble. While service is halting and forgetful (in comparison to our previous experiences here) when the tiers of treats do arrive you can expect to feast your eyes on a whole range of delicately assembled, beautifully flavoured pastries, cakes and cookies – everything tastes commendably fresh. The only downside on the food front is the fact there are only four sandwiches (albeit tasty ones) – particularly as most people are likely to skip lunch to fit in this extra meal.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Chocolat. Pleasant, appetising, but not bucket list material. 3/5 Dhs125 per person. Daily noon-6pm. Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).
La Farine The lime green seats that punctuate the dark décor give the area a playful yet smart feel. We’re brought a cup of zingy berries to start, followed by our three-tiered selection of sandwiches and cakes. Classics such as cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches are given a modern twist – the bread being fully wrapped in a thin slice of cucumber. Service is efficient and tea is unlimited, so waiters come around when you’re running low to ask if you’d like another. Considering the amount you get at this afternoon tea, it’s certainly value for money, but it’s one for the sweet-toothed.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. It retains the classics of a traditional afternoon tea but adds a great modern twist. 4/5 Dh140 per person, Dhs250 for two people. Daily 3pm-6pm. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 414 0000).
Sahn Eddar With a beautiful setting on the bright first floor lounge of the iconic Burj Al Arab’s Sahn Eddar has a backdrop of the hotel’s multicoloured balconies. Diners have a postcard-worthy view of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and strains of piano music waft over the restaurant, adding to the luxurious atmosphere. Despite the ornate design of the hotel, the tea service is elegant and relaxed without being too fussy and stuffy. Tea here is a seven-course sitting, which begins with a delightful slim slice of light shortbread topped with mixed berries, followed a by a two-tiered tray of petite crustless sandwiches. The fourth course is a slice of tender roast beef with a herb crust and mashed potato from the carvery – quite unique for an afternoon tea. The hot drinks menu offers a great selection of black, white, green and fresh floral teas that can be replenished on request. Coffee is also included. The warm scones come accompanied by a variety of homemade jams including passion fruit and a sweet date jam, adding an Arabian twist to the quintessentially English dining tradition. It’s pricey, but being in the Burj Al Arab, expectations are immediately raised. And this tea delivers, offering classic scones and sandwiches as well as some novel items in a striking setting. It’s everything you’d expect from a top afternoon tea, and more.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Breakfast at Tiffany’s for its classic style 5/5 Dhs510 per person. Daily 1pm, 3pm, 5pm. Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 301 7600).
Rhodes in Residence This classic afternoon tea offers an unlimited variety of hot beverages and soft drinks with fresh juices, which is one of its plus points. Our seats were slightly disappointing – located in a quiet lobby area of the hotel, which lacked any sort of atmosphere. While staff were friendly, they failed to inform us that the menu they presented us with was outdated – the roast beef advertised was not on offer. However, after much deliberation, staff managed to locate the beef sandwiches from ‘another kitchen’ but they were lacking in any real flavour and overloaded with butter. The classic tea includes other traditional British choices such as cucumber and chive crème fraiche and smoked salmon and light lemon chicken sandwiches, and a must-try croque monsieur, which was so delicious we had to ask for more. The sweet treats included an array of cakes and pastries, which were tempting, but the homemade scones were minute and undercooked. Overall, portion sizes are worth the price paid, however the standard of food and service needs some work to live up to the Gary Rhodes name.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Pride and Prejudice – without Colin Firth. 3/5 Dhs150 per person (classic afternoon tea), Dhs275 (with a glass of bubbly). Daily 3pm-6pm. Lobby area, Tower Two, Grosvenor House Dubai, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).
Samovar Lounge Afternoon tea at Samovar Lounge in the sprawling and opulent One&Only Royal Mirage is a suitably refined affair. This dimly-lit, Arabesque setting requires hushed tones, but still feels warm and inviting. During the cooler months, there’s also an outdoor terrace with views over the pool. Samovar Lounge’s range of tea is very impressive, with multiple pages of the menu devoted to it. If you’re not sure what to go for, the vanilla rooibos is a refreshing choice. The staff are pleasant throughout, and promptly bring the tiered-tray of sandwiches and cakes, which is a limited yet moreish collection.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Sense and Sensibility. It looks the part, but lacks excitement. 3/5 Dhs99 per person. Daily 3pm-6pm. One&Only Royal Mirage, Al Sufouh Road (04 399 9999).
Armani/Lounge If it weren’t for the fact that popular afternoon tea spot At.Mosphere lies 122 floors above this offering in the Burj Khalifa, it probably wouldn’t seem so overpriced and unexciting. An overly sweet lemongrass, ginger and pineapple mocktail is served on arrival before we’re presented with a warm welcome dish of cheese gratin. The tea stand contains an assortment of sandwiches including lobster and curry, and scallop and tomato, as well as brunch-style sweet treats. Scones arrive soon after and we have to fight over the cream. The service is attentive, but it’s a shame the afternoon tea doesn’t quite live up to the location.
If this afternoon tea were a film, it would be: Much Ado About Nothing 2.5/5 Dhs280 per person (mocktails), Dhs360 (bubbly), Dhs990 (premium beverages). Daily 3pm-5.30pm. Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3888).