We’ve tried the city’s top teas – here’s our verdict
Time Out Dubai staff
Al Bayt, Palace Downtown A previous award-winner in this category we go in with high hopes for this afternoon feast. Set in the lobby lounge looking out over the lush gardens, the setting is as palatial as you’d expect for a hotel with such a name. The offering is different depending on when you visit, with a buffet version of the tea on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We’d recommend you opt for that one, as you’ll have far wider choice. Mid-week, there’s a table-service tea-stand version. We plump for one of each of the traditional and Arabian teas (to mix things up). Both are tasty, but the sandwiches of the Arabian option just win out, as the lamb kofta and cucumber-mint labneh ones are deliciously different. Scones are fluffy, though smaller than some (steer clear of the cardamom ones, they’re rather overpowering). The cake prize goes to the traditional tea stand’s range of simple, sweet macarons, cupcakes and an excellent fruit tartlet. While the experienc e is delightful, it’s not as showstopping as the buffet. Dhs160. Daily 2pm-6pm. Palace Downtown, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (04 888 3444).
Al Fayrooz, Al Qasr Afternoon tea is all about the occasion, and you will get it by the tray-load at Al Fayrooz. The lounge is situated in the lobby of Al Qasr, and if the statuesque gold horses lining the driveway don’t impress you, the ballgown-clad pianist inside certainly will. We choose to sit out on the large terrace with stunning views of the Arabian Gulf and the Burj Al Arab, while enjoying refreshing peach iced tea. The ceremony kicks off with some hot crispy chicken rolls and mushroom quiche, followed by tasty mini sandwiches (the beef and pickle is amazing) and a selection of mini cakes that look (almost) too good to eat. We are then presented with soufflé and a basket of warm scones with jam, cream and honey that go down a treat. The icing on the bun is a selection of fruit on a stick with a bowl of warm chocolate dipping sauce – a perfect end to a delectable afternoon treat. Dhs225. Daily 2pm-6pm. Jumeirah Al Qasr, Umm Suqeim (04 432 3232).
At.mosphere Lounge For a truly elegant afternoon tea experience, this is the one to book. The setting, 122 floors up in the Burj Khalifa, is mesmerising. Opt for a window seat and on days when the sky is clear, the views across the city are simply breathtaking. A live violinist provides the soundtrack and sets the mood for a relaxed and refined afternoon. The finger sandwiches are dainty, colourful and creative – one comes wrapped in thin slices of cucumber – and the cakes and scones are perfectly formed. You also get a choice of a hot dish, of which the tender scallops and green peas topped with a whimsical bit of foam should not be passed up. Teas are also inventive and span the world, and include fruit-infused blends such as the tropical smile (passion fruit, mango and coconut-flavoured cream). This afternoon tea might be costly, but it’s worth booking for a special treat and really should be experienced at least once. Dhs420 (sparkling grape, non-window seat), Dhs490 (sparkling grape, window seat), Dhs650 (bubbly). Daily noon-4.30pm. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3828).
Boardwalk BBQ Donut A BBQ donut (in essence a ring-shaped boat on the Creek) doesn’t scream “traditional afternoon tea”, and that’s mainly because it isn’t. While many of the teas found in Dubai will offer up tiered cake stands against a backdrop of classical music – heading to the BBQ Donut for afternoon tea at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club is an entirely different experience. In short, it’s a motorised, circular, private vessel, upon which you consume your tea at your own rate. Everything is provided at the start, and you’re then given control of the boat, and the freedom to cruise wherever you so wish upon the waters. The food isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s not about the cheese sandwiches or miniature chocolate cakes here. The food comes second to the novelty-slash-joyfully serene experience of drifting away on the creek for an hour. At Dhs100 per person, it’s worth going at least once. Dhs100. Daily 3pm-9pm. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).
Choix Patisserie and Restaurant Par Pierre Gagnaire This afternoon tea, from a Michelin-starred chef, comes in a remarkably low-key setting. Based in the lobby of the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, it’s understated, bright and almost clinical. However, don’t let this put you off. In winter there’s an outdoor terrace, and the food is worth the visit alone. We love the petite cheese and truffle toasties (indulgent and delightfully crisp), while the colourful macarons are a light and sweet treat. Dhs160 (single), Dhs255 (per couple). Daily. 2.30pm-6pm. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1136).
Crystal Lounge, Rixos Premium Dubai, JBR Situated at the far end of the huge, high-ceilinged lobby in Rixos Premium Dubai, with views out across the Arabian Gulf, Crystal Lounge offers a casual and elegant afternoon tea experience. The décor is contemporary and the room is flooded with natural light from the panoramic views of Jumeirah Beach. Live, unobtrusive music plays. Choose from a range of specialised teas, milkshakes or coffees. Teas are unlimited, the others are not, sadly, as we wouldn’t have turned down another toffee popcorn milkshake. The savoury canapé stand offers up hot and cold bite-sized portions, but the hot ones fall more on the luke-warm side. A veggie quesadilla with tomato salsa is very tasty, though. The meal is saved by the artistic pastries that do the rounds via a tea trolley. Nine varieties of treats include crème brûlée, Turkish coffee chocolate swans and bananas coated with chocolate and nuts. Those with a sweet tooth will be extremely satisfied. Dhs190. Sat 2pm-6pm. Rixos Premium Dubai, JBR (04 520 0000).
DUKES Champagne & Tea Lounge For what is billed as a quintessentially British afternoon tea, the one at DUKES Dubai doesn’t quite live up to this. Tucked away on the third floor it’s hard to find, but this means you’re saved from tourists tromping through the lobby as you sip a cuppa. On the other hand this makes it quiet, and there’s barely any vibe at all on our visit. The décor, all neon pinks and greens, is girly and fun, but hardly typically London (as the tea claims to be). And the food sadly isn’t up to scratch either. Finger sandwiches all come on rows of different coloured breads (which inexplicably all taste remarkably similar and weirdly sweet). Scones are buttery, crumbly and well-proportioned, and there’s a good range of desserts. Everything is beautifully presented, so it’s a shame that the food doesn’t match up. It’s a fun afternoon out with the gals in vibrant setting (and there’s a free-flowing option on a Saturday), but for a traditional afternoon tea you’re best off looking elsewhere on this list. Afternoon tea: Dhs170 (tea), Dhs320 (one glass of premium bubbly). Sun-Fri noon-5pm. Partea: Dhs195 (soft drinks), Dhs240 (one glass of sparkling grape), Dhs340 (unlimited sparkling grape) Dhs520 (bubbly). Sat 2pm-6pm. DUKES Dubai, Palm Jumeirah (04 455 1101).
Jolie Floral Boutique Stepping into Jolie is like flouncing into a blooming French garden. The ceiling is adorned with floral shrubbery and our teas are presented with fresh roses. We half expect beret-clad cyclists with basketfuls of baguettes to sail past the windows at the City Walk eatery as we settle down to a fancy Parisian twist on the old British tradition. The waiter advises that we share one order between us, and we almost spit out our English breakfast tea. Two orders of the “designer” canapés and finger sandwiches arrive and on presentation of our food we silently thank ourselves for submitting to our greed. The mini quiches and sandwiches are delicious, but tiny, and to have to share them would have caused much déstresse. The salmon and cream cheese canapé, in particular, has a certain je ne sais quois, and the egg mayonnaise with cress in a pink bun is a nice, novel touch. The cakes, as we’ve said before, are top notch, too. It’s all delightfully quaint. Dhs119 per person. Open daily 9am-midnight. Jolie Boutique Floral Cafe, City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 345 6822).
Karat, Address Dubai Mall Located in the lobby of the Address Dubai Mall this open-plan lounge has a relaxed and calm feel to it, something reflected in our service. The range of tea is excellent, we opt for Moroccan, which is perfect – strong, fresh and minty. The open sandwiches are small but delicious, with Mediterranean veg being a stand-out. And if you’re a gluten-free vegan with a hankering for afternoon tea then you’re in luck, Karat will cater for your needs, too. From the gluten-free cakes the peanut and chocolate is a highlight. There’s also a buy one, get one free offer running until December 24. This is certainly a tea worth visiting, but be warned, the flavours are there but the portion sizes aren’t, so you might leave hungry. Dhs180. Daily 3pm-6pm. Address Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).
La Farine, JW Marriott Marquis The great British afternoon tea has been given a fancy French feel here. La Farine, nestled away on the ground floor of the world’s tallest hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, brings a delicate touch to a culinary classic. Three hours may feel like a long time to devour finger sandwiches, but the spread is so extensive you will happily use every minute. Friendly staff supply unlimited hot beverages – from traditional breakfast tea to more intriguing varieties. The cucumber sandwiches, peppered beef pastrami and truffled egg vol au vents all hit the mark, with only the smoked salmon pumpernickel failing to deliver. While the slightly underwhelming cakes may disappoint those with a sweet tooth, the delicious scones and tasty macarons that follow more than save the day. For a pocket-friendly Dhs250 per couple, this is an afternoon well spent. Dhs250 per couple. Daily 3pm-6pm. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Business Bay (04 414 3000).
Lobby Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai One of the best things about the Lobby Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, is that it’s not actually the lobby. Tucked to the side, it’s more like a gallery, with high rafted ceilings and glittering chandeliers, away from the hustle of the reception desks. It’s not the prettiest or most intimate tea you’ll find in the city (there’s no need to dress up particularly for this one) but it’s more relaxed, and there’s live music, too, which adds to the atmosphere. Two pretty tea-stands arrive before us, bearing the usual offerings. Sandwiches are the highlight – inventive and not a stale piece of white sliced loaf in sight. We love the salmon on rye and open tuna versions, and the petite quiche Lorraine is quite the treat too. Pastries are also light and tasty, especially a praline éclair and a light raspberry macaron. The less said the about the scones the better, however, being more like rock cakes than the light, crumbly buns they should be. Nice enough, but there are better teas in the city, especially for the price. Dhs190. Daily 2pm-6pm. The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, JBR (04 318 6150).
Reform Social & Grill Another entry in the convention-defying afternoon tea category, the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea is a sight to behold. Serving up sausage rolls, mini steak and gravy pies and salmon croquettes, this is a full-on meal. Instead of regular scones, you’ll get cheese and bacon versions. Expect brownies, date cake and a trifle made using a classic English summertime beverage for afters, if you’ve somehow still got room. It’s unlikely you will though, since each portion is enough for at least two people (even gents with larger appetites). It’s unequivocally blokeish. But, despite its name, we’re not entirely sure who this afternoon tea targets. It’s only available between 3pm and 5pm in the middle of the week, so there’s little-to-no chance of heading in to catch the footie with your mini pie. Nor is it at an appropriate time for a working lunch. And, to makes it all the more awkward, 50 percent payment is required 48-hours in advance… in person. So you’ve got to go to the pub two days before you want to actually go to the pub. The food is great, but we’re not sure its complexities will let the concept catch on. Dhs95. Sun-Thu 3pm-5pm. The Lakes, Emirates Living (04 454 2638).
Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria The best thing about this tea is the scones. The worst is the actual tea. But the cherry on top? Definitely the deep-fried rice balls. As far as high teas go, Peacock Alley is the crème de la crème. Situated in the rear of the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, the floor-to-ceiling windows give you a splendid view of the Palm to ponder over as you nurse a dainty teacup of (admittedly average) English breakfast tea – pinky extended. The arrangement is served with formality on a golden three-tier cake stand. A live band play some tinkly music, and we lather our fruit scones with strawberry jam to the rhythm. The finger sandwiches are nice enough and the mini cakes look fancy – but the best is yet to come. Out of nowhere brazen staff appear with platters of deep fried rice balls stacked like gleaming Fererro Rocher pyramids, gloriously shattering afternoon tea etiquette with a swish of their silver serving tongs. The challenge is getting half a dozen down you while still appearing civilised. We try – and fail – with sophisticated gusto. Dhs185 (soft drinks) Dhs295 (bubbly and mixed drinks). Sun-Sat 2.20pm-6pm. Waldorf Astoria, Palm Jumeriah (04 818 2222).
Rhodes W1 Promising European gastronomy from well-known British TV chef Gary Rhodes, W1 certainly looks the part. With a colour scheme that seems inspired by the continent’s spring daffodils, the restaurant has hints of the kind of a grand 1900s conservatory you might find attached to the likes of Downton Abbey. Except Downton’s afternoon tea is probably less likely to leave guests feeling quite so disappointed. We’ll start with the bad news – the sandwiches are poor. Between slices of actually rather good bread sit the likes of, separately, tasteless, too-thick wedges of salmon, and finely chopped tomato with (inexplicably) sweet chilli. And the less said about the shepherd’s pie fritters, the better. Still, the sweet pastries are fittingly dainty, while the scones are light, fluffy, buttery and served warm, alongside real clotted cream. And at least the china’s Wedgewood – even Maggie Smith’s fearsome Dowager Countess of Grantham can’t sniff at that. Dhs175 (tea only). Dhs340 (including a glass of premium bubbly). Fri-Sat 2.30pm-5pm. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).
Sahn Eddar, Burj Al Arab At Dhs520 a head, this one is going to set you back a bit, so you’ll want book for a special occasion. But that’s expected if you’re dining at the Burj Al Arab. In better news, it’s entirely worth saving up for. As soon as you set foot in the world-famous building, with its towering blue and white décor, you’ll be amazed. Make your way up the escalator (past the serene fish tanks) and into the large, open lobby that’s flooded with natural light, to take your seat at Sahn Eddar. Traditional musicians play throughout the tea, lending a surprisingly relaxed vibe. Although there’s a sense of occasion, this is far more relaxed than expected. There are seven courses – pace yourselves – all of which are unlimited, and there’s no embarassment in asking for top-ups, seconds are actively encouraged. And we’d recommend you do when it comes to the sandwiches. Expertly presented, we love the twists on classics (egg and cress on tomato bread, coronation chicken et al). The petite rolls of Alaskan king crab are a treat, too. The scones are as scones should be, but even better – breaking easily, buttery and a joy to eat. By the time we get to the cakes we’re struggling, but we manage to find space for a light and tangy key lime pie and a rich chocolate brownie. Fun, decadent and well worth splashing out on. Dhs520 (tea), Dhs560 (one glass of bubbly). Daily 1pm-6pm. Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600).
Shai Salon, Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach The setting for this experience is luxurious and refined. The tea stand comes with a dainty selection of little finger sandwiches that are colourful and well-presented. The volume of sweets far outweigh the savouries here, so if you’re not of the sweet-toothed, you may be disappointed, since those delicious little sandwich bites will be over all too quickly. Keeping things traditional, a crumbly plain scone and a sweet raisin rendition are included on the stand, coming with a serving of strawberry jam, clotted cream and lemon curd. There’s also a double decker Victoria sponge slice encased in white chocolate for a little decadence, chocolate and date offerings a fruit tart and two strawberry macarons. The portion size of a stand is just enough for one, and with some refreshing tea blends – try the honey-sweet and flavoursome Ceylon tea – you’ll end the afternoon perfectly satiated. Dhs160 per stand. Daily 3pm-11pm. Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 270 7805).
The Lounge, Address Boulevard First things first. Do not head to The Lounge that is part of The Restaurant, the hotel’s main dining outlet. No, you want The Lounge that is just past the lobby. Once you find the correct one choose your package – Dhs140 with one hot drink (bit stingy if you ask us, it’s only a small pot) or Dhs195 with a glass of bubbly. The tea selection is really good, so it’s a shame you’re limited to only one choice. A very cool welcome drink arrives with some berries and cream before the main event – an afternoon tea in a chest of drawers. On top is a selection of quirky sweet treats, including chocolate caviar. It all looks very impressive and it tastes just as good. In the top two drawers you’ll find sandwiches including burrata, salmon and cucumber and smoked chicken. The bottom drawer has raisin and plain scones. They’re tasty but a little on the small side. And we could have done with more jam and cream. It’s a lovely setting and very tastefully done. A good new addition. Dhs140 (one hot drink), Dhs195 (one glass of bubbly). Daily 2.30pm-6.30pm. Address Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 561 8555).
The Samover Lounge, One&Only Royal Mirage Gazing out across the lush gardens of the One&Only Royal Mirage, this is a peaceful place to take afternoon tea. It’s on the formal side, but the vibe is still relaxed – and it’s one of the busier teas we visit. Sit on the terrace for a real holiday feel, or enjoy the traditional Arabian décor indoors, either way it’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and coming in at Dhs110 per person is good value in our eyes, especially at this location. A huge tea stand arrives (this is one venue you won’t be looking forlornly at the empty sandwich layer), packed with carb-tastic treats. The sandwiches are confusing – half dainty, interesting concoctions (chopped egg on mini buns, mini smoked salmon bagels) the other half your average conference-style finger sandwich (dried out sliced white bread with a meagre smear of tuna or egg mayo). They’re best avoided to save room for both your crumbly scones (we only wish there was proper clotted cream) and an excellent pasty section including a delicious opera cake. Dhs110. Daily 3pm-6pm. One & Only Royal Mirage, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (04 399 9999).
The Victorian Walking into The Victorian is a little unnerving – you’re greeted by oil paintings, purple velour sofas and gold leaf as far as the eye can see. So far, so Victorian-era. Not to mention the music, a popular wedding march is playing. It’s all a tad unusual but makes for a very pleasant atmosphere, despite the restaurant being on the empty side. The selection of sandwiches is small, four each, but they are delicious. The presentation is exquisite, we get circular, parcels, open-top and the classic triangle. Our favourites are the Mediterranean veg and the smoked salmon with a small soft boiled quail’s egg on top. The scones are light, warm and fluffy, exactly as a good scone should be. The pastries are tasty, but don’t quite match up to the standards of the previous courses. We don’t expect this afternoon tea will stay quiet for long. Dhs175. Open daily 9am to midnight, City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 338 1234).
Limited-edition tea at Mashrabiya Lounge Fashion fans, listen up. Fairmont The Palm is running a limited-edition, super-chic afternoon tea in honour of international fashion illustrator Megan Hess and her new book Paris Through a Fashion Eye.The tea is available throughout November in the Mashrabiya Lounge and will be inspired by the colours of the new release (blush pink, gold and black) and the fashion world in Paris. You’ll also get a copy of the book included in the price. Designed by executive pastry chef Arnaud Souchet, the tea will include sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and an extensive selection of homemade macarons. There will also be truffles and chocolate lipsticks in jewellery boxes. Dhs210 (including a copy of the book). Daily noon-6pm. Until November 30. Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).